Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Get Ready For The Reapers

U.S. Now Trains More Drone Operators Than Pilots
By Edward Helmore
The Observer

As part of an expanding programme of battlefield automation, the American Air Force has said it is now training more drone operators than fighter and bomber pilots.

Three years ago, the service was able to fly just 12 drones at a time; now it can fly more than 50. At a trade conference outside Washington last week, military contractors presented a future vision in which pilotless drones serve as fighters, bombers and transports, even automatic mini-drones which attack in swarms.

Five thousand robotic vehicles and drones are deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan. By 2015, the Pentagon's $230bn arms procurement programme Future Combat Systems expects 15% of America's Armed Forces to be robotic.

A recent study 'The Unmanned Aircraft System Flight Plan 2020-2047' predicted a boom in drone funding to $55bn by 2020 with the greatest changes coming in the 2040s.

"The capability provided by the unmanned aircraft is game-changing," said General Norton Schwartz, the Air Force Chief of Staff. "We can have eyes 24/7 on our adversaries."

This year, the service started training career drone operators with no airborne experience. They operate out of cubicles with eight video screens.

"It is safe to say most pilots will always miss getting back in the air," said Lieutenant Colonel Daniel Turner, who trains pilots. "But we see where the Air Force is going."

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