Grounding the RPA Force: Why Machine Needs Man
AIR COMMAND AND STAFF COLL MAXWELL AFB AL MAXWELL AFB
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The 2015 Air Force Future Operating Concept, presents an overarching framework as to how the Air Force will provide global vigilance, reach, and power through the application of operational agility to meet and resolve challenges in the year 2035. More recently, the Air Force published its Air Superiority 2030 Flight Plan, which calls for an integrated family of systems to achieve air and space superiority in future conflicts. A significant part of the solution in both publications involves the application of Remotely Piloted Aircraft RPA in a combat role to accomplish mission objectives. While RPAs have been in use for over a decade, the demand for their employment has been drastically increasing. The amount of trained personnel required to operate attack RPAs, however, has been on the decline, generating a manning crisis in this career field. Grueling operational hours, the introduction of mental and emotional stressors, the perception of inequality amongst peers, and lower school and promotion selection rates have led to highly qualified RPA operators ejecting from the Air Force after completion of their service commitment. As a result, the current RPA pilot retention rates will prevent the Air Force from meeting the demand of 2035, even with the advancements of technology. This research paper proposes that the Air Force needs to transform the RPA pilot career field and provide the same advancement opportunities as the rest of the Air Force pilot community to improve retention and recruitment. Specifically, it should address how the RPA community is advertised to the world, how RPA candidates are trained and consider renaming the career field altogether. Failing to address the problems facing the RPA force may cause the Air Force to continue on its path of fostering a toxic relationship from within the pilot community, lose experienced Airmen, and ultimately be unable to meet the challenges it will face in 2035 .
- Pilotless Aircraft
- Military Forces and Organizations