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From A Distance: The Psychology Of Killing With Remotely Piloted Aircraft

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Technical Report

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Air University Maxwell Air Force Base United States

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For thousands of years people have continually moved themselves farther and farther away from the point of physical engagement during battle. This unending transformation has resulted in palpable physical and emotional distancing between attackers and their targets. At their inception, remotely piloted aircraft RPA appeared as the next evolution in this process, providing near complete physical isolation between combatants. Yet, there exists anecdotal and medical evidence indicating RPA aircrew are experiencing mental reactions to warfare as strong as Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. The confusing array of fact and opinion on this subject demands a further inquiry focused specifically on the characterization of psychological responses to killing from RPA aircrew. This study provides a characterization of the psychological responses to killing among MQ-19 pilots and sensor operators who have employed weapons and killed via remote combat. Additionally, it analyzes MQ-19 aircrews overall mental engagement with combat operations, their understanding of warfare despite the distances involved, and the relation of video games to this form of aerial warfare. This study should lead to better understanding of RPA aircrew and concepts regarding the character of modern warfare.

Subject Categories:

  • Psychology
  • Military Operations, Strategy and Tactics

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