Feeds

USAF slammed for pranging Predators on manual

'Xbox flyer' sergeants + autopilots do better

5 things you didn’t know about cloud backup

Sergeant pilots? "You may not be surprised to hear that the Air Force is resisting this"

The Army philosophy is mostly applied on weaponless drones, but this is beginning to change as Warrior begins to reach the field. A US Army Warrior, indeed, recently delivered a deadly airstrike while under the command of a (relatively) low-ranking staff sergeant, rather than the officer or warrant-officer who would have been flying had it been a manned aircraft.

The application of massive lethal force by non-officers is routine in the ground forces, of course - sergeants routinely command tanks, direct artillery etc - but it certainly seems to ruffle a few feathers in the air arms. Pilots often seem to feel that unmanned aircraft are a bad idea, but if they are to happen anyway they'll still have an officer pilot who's been to flight school and flown normal planes, by god.

It seems that this attitude is being challenged, however. Army drones with auto-land have lost "an insignificant fraction" of their fleets, as opposed to the conventionally remote-piloted jobs, according to Mr Young.

"I have mandated in acquisition decision memorandums that the Air Force move as fast as possible to an auto-land capability ... It will not surprise you that the Air Force is resisting this,” he added, according to DoD Buzz.

That certainly isn't surprising: the USAF may be hoping that they can quietly bin that order after Mr Young is gone.

They're probably wrong, though. President Obama has confirmed Young's boss, Robert Gates, in post as Defense Secretary: and Gates is scarcely the most airforce-friendly SecDef the United States have ever had, despite having briefly been a USAF officer himself (non-aircrew, though) back in the 1960s. Gates famously sacked both the civilian and uniformed heads of the air force last year, following various clashes - including a huge row over foot-dragging by the USAF in building up its unmanned fleet.

Gates seems likely to see to it that Young's reforms are pushed through in his absence, and a little bit more of the officer-class flyboys' raison d'etre will be chipped away. ®

Bootnote

The handful of British Reapers, Blighty's only armed drones, is operated by an RAF squadron drawing personnel from all three services using pilots already qualified on manned aircraft: your correspondent isn't aware of any non-officer ever handling one.

One should note, however, that British Army manned helicopter pilots are frequently noncommissioned: some are as low as Corporal in rank on qualifying. This contrasts sharply with the US and the other British services, where almost all manned-aircraft pilots are commissioned and none are below the status of Warrant Officer (there are special direct-entry warrant ranks used by US Army pilots, fitting between sergeant-majors and commissioned officers in status).

At least in theory, a British noncommissioned pilot could wind up flying an armed British Reaper - which makes sense as he is already allowed to fly a heavily beweaponed Apache attack chopper.

The British Army also has unarmed Hermes 450 surveillance drones leased in on an hourly rate and operated by a mixture of civilian contractors and artillery noncoms. In future an enhanced version, Watchkeeper, will become part of the Royal Artillery. As one might expect, the gunners do not wish to take business away from their big guns and rocket launchers (and do not relish the prospect of a turf grab from the RAF), so Watchkeeper will also be unarmed.

Build a business case: developing custom apps

More from The Register

next story
Boffins ID freakish spine-smothered prehistoric critter: The CLAW gave it away
Bizarre-looking creature actually related to velvet worms
ANU boffins demo 'tractor beam' in water
The current state of the art, apparently
China to test recoverable moon orbiter
I'll have some rocks and a moon cheese pizza please, home delivery
NASA's rock'n'roll shock: ROLLING STONE FOUND ON MARS
No sign of Ziggy Stardust and his band
What does a flashmob of 1,024 robots look like? Just like this
Sorry, Harvard, did you say kilobots or KILLER BOTS?
Why your mum was WRONG about whiffy tattooed people
They're a future source of RENEWABLE ENERGY
Vulture 2 spaceplane autopilot brain surgery a total success
LOHAN slips into some sexy bespoke mission parameters
Another step forward for diamond-based quantum computers
Square cut or pear-shaped, these qubits don't lose their shape
LOHAN acquires aircraft arboreal avoidance algorithm acronyms
Is that an ARMADILLO in your PANTS or are you just pleased to see me?
prev story

Whitepapers

Endpoint data privacy in the cloud is easier than you think
Innovations in encryption and storage resolve issues of data privacy and key requirements for companies to look for in a solution.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Solving today's distributed Big Data backup challenges
Enable IT efficiency and allow a firm to access and reuse corporate information for competitive advantage, ultimately changing business outcomes.
Reg Reader Research: SaaS based Email and Office Productivity Tools
Read this Reg reader report which provides advice and guidance for SMBs towards the use of SaaS based email and Office productivity tools.