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US Army plans robot planes operated by non-pilots

Pilots: 'This will set back robot planes for decades'

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It's also quite hard to see a natural pathway to general rank for such a specialist, of course. In the long term, it's hard to see how such a specialist - if situated in America, as is air force custom if not Army - would seriously need to be a uniformed serviceman rather than a civilian contractor.

It is no disrespect to military pilots to say that unmanned aircraft threaten their jobs: that's just a fact - setting aside pilots who carry passengers, perhaps. It is no disrespect to air forces' bravery or technical competence to say that unmanned combat aircraft in large numbers seriously threaten their status as "warriors" and therefore as uniformed, independent fighting services.

A decades-long setback in unmanned aircraft development would be a good thing for both groups, actually.

Some at least of the pilots and air force people at the conference will be fearing the Sky Warrior force not because it might fail, but because it might succeed. ®

Disclaimer: Your correspondent was in both the army and the air force as a reservist before spending a long time in the navy. He has been described by a senior Army officer as "totally unsuited to military life", by various senior naval officers as a traitor to the service, and by his old airforce CO as having "agricultural" piloting skills; though the same long-suffering man eventually gave permission for solo flying.

*Naturally. B'dum, tschh! Oh all right, coat time evidently...

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