Airman 1st Class Caleb Force assists 1st Lt. Jorden Smith, a MQ-1B Predator pilot, in locating simulated targets during a training mission conducted inside the simulators at Creech Air Force Base, Nev. Force is a MQ-1B Predator sensor operator. Enlisted sensor operators are now eligible for incentive pays. Senior Airman Nadine Y. Barclay / Air Force
Who Are The Real Pilots -- Strategy Page
January 17, 2013: In the U.S. the politicians (Congress) are pressuring the U.S. Air Force to give officers who operate UAVs as many promotions as those who fly manned aircraft. Until recently, only pilots of manned aircraft could, for a few years at a time, serve as UAV operators. But this limited the number of UAV operators the air force could train and saw experienced ones leaving after three years. So now the air force allows non-pilot officers to serve as UAV operators. At the same time the air force is under a lot of pressure (from better civilian job offers for pilots) to give out as many promotions as it can to its pilots of manned aircraft.
Congress limits the number of officers of each rank the air force can have at any one time. The organization chart allows for more jobs for higher ranking officers than Congress allows, which means there is always competition for promotion, even though you may be in a job that calls for someone of higher rank. The UAV operators believe they are being shortchanged and have now got Congress on their side. While the UAV operators don’t actually go into the air, they, arguably, suffer more stress because they spend more time in “contact” (even if remotely) with the enemy. Moreover, flying combat aircraft has become so safe that pilots are in more danger driving to and from the airbase than they are once aloft in a warplane. The UAV operators consider their ground based work more useful than the pilots in the air and want a fair share of the promotions. The air force leadership is dominated by pilots (of manned aircraft) so there is some friction over this issue.
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My Comment: I can foresee the day when we may have another service added to the U.S. military. Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines .... and Robots .... with the Robot service probably doing most of the combat.