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AF RPA Training: Utility and Tradition in Conflict
SCHOOL OF ADVANCED AIR AND SPACE STUDIES AIR UNIVERSITY MAXWELL AFB United States
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Demand for UAS is here to stay, and the U.S. Air Force force structure needs to adjust away from a contingency mindset to an enduring capability. AF leaders have turned their attention to this challenge, but difficulty normalizing training in such a dynamic field is elusive. The current AF training model has struggled to meet rising demand. What the AF needs is a new training strategy. This thesis examines AF and Army UAS training, why they are different, and what strategy the AF should adopt. Behind such simple questions lie different organizational structures and visions. Despite common technologies, each service approached UAS from different starting points, and created different training models. The AF built its RPA training based on its other aviation training programs, and hindered the organizations ability to deal with automation, significant personnel changes, and airspace integration. Conversely, the Armys UAS training community started with small, remote-controlled drones over 25years ago at Fort Huachuca, Arizona. It has grown and expanded into new platforms with new capabilities, and its model of universal enlisted operators trained to operate as an organic divisional asset remains. The AF and Armys training programs each create a different product and, in turn, reflect institutional disagreement over what skills should be imparted. The Air Forces conflict between utility and tradition in its UAS training will have a profound effect on the AF, whose ultimate raison detre is to fly, fight, and win in air, space and cyberspace. In the end, this study argues for a training strategy that leverages the RPA weapon systems unique modularity to produce well-trained RPA pilots more quickly.
APPROVED FOR PUBLIC RELEASE