The first 10 enlisted men will start drone pilot training later this fall.  The Air Force is expected to have 100 enlisted drone pilots in the force by 2020.

The Air Force is targeting at least half of its RQ-4 pilots come from the enlisted ranks. The RQ-4 Global Hawk is a high-altitude, long-endurance, remotely piloted aircraft.  It has an integrated sensor suite that provides global all-weather, day or night intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capability.

Global Hawk’s mission is ISR collection capability to support joint combatant forces. The Global Hawk provides persistent near-real-time coverage using imagery intelligence (IMINT), signals intelligence (SIGINT) and moving target indicator (MTI) sensors.

“We’ll take this important step in a deliberate manner so that we can learn what works and what we’ll need to adjust as we integrate our highly capable enlisted force into flying this weapons system,” said Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James in the release. “The intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission continues to grow in importance and our enlisted force will be central to our success.” ISR has been a key component in helping to fight the war on terror.

Maj. Bishane, a 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron MQ-9 Reaper pilot, controls an aircraft from Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. (U.S. Air Force photo by/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)
Maj. Bishane, a 432nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron MQ-9 Reaper pilot, controls an aircraft from Creech Air Force Base, Nevada. (U.S. Air Force photo by/Staff Sgt. Vernon Young Jr.)

Trainees will spend time at Beale Air Force base learning single engine piloting skills.  They will also train on drone instrumentation qualifications and fundamentals. The Air Force wants to maintain a standard of learning how to fly a piloted aircraft first. The fundamentals that pilots learn in civil aviation also apply to flying drones. Airman drone pilots will be eligible to receive the same flight pay their officer counterparts receive.

New Air Force Chief of Staff General David Golden said, “We know our enlisted airmen are ready to take on this important mission as we determine the right operational balance of officer and enlisted in this ISR enterprise for the future.”

You can read the full Air Force Times article here

Top Photo: Global Hawk soars through the sky to record intelligence, surveillence and reconnaissance data  Courtesy: US Air Force

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