News / USA

US Military Pilot Training Emphasizes Drone Warfare

Luis Ramirez
HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, New Mexico — The U.S. military is rushing to train more pilots for remotely piloted aircraft as its reliance on drones grows in places such as Afghanistan and Yemen.  
 
Holloman has long been the testing ground for cutting edge warplanes. These days, German training jets are the few manned aircraft to be seen here. 
 
The skies at Holloman are now ruled by remotely-piloted aircraft, or RPA's,  flown by crews that never leave the ground.  
 
Their controls are mainly screens and joysticks.  It is here that hundreds of young airmen and women are trained to conduct missions thousands of kilometers away in Afghanistan and Yemen.  
 
x
Jay, one of the trainers, said, “The thing that’s drilled into our mind from day one is that this is not a video game. This is real. Ultimately, we could be put into situations where we do use weapons to take lives of enemy combatants.”
It used to be that the operators of remotely piloted aircraft had flown manned aircraft.  
 
Now, the military is rushing to boost the number of RPA operators, and this teaching center takes people straight from basic training.  
 
Using remotely piloted aircraft costs a fraction of what manned flights do, and full training takes 126 days, about half the time need for manned planes.
 
For pilot trainers like Lindsay, who recently had a baby, there are other advantages. “The fact that I am not physically there. I’m sitting stateside controlling an airplane that is in a different theater. It’s hard to wrap your head around. However it’s also truly great too in that you kind of have time to go back to your family, for one thing," she said. 
 
But that does not mean the experience is without risk. 
 
Pilots do not give out their full names in part because of death threats they receive, mostly from within the U.S. 
 
For Jay, who operated drones in combat, the job is anything but stress free. “Sometimes it does wear on you. One of the disadvantages to being on an RPA is I see this stuff and then I go home.  In combat situations, it’s really kind of hard to see this stuff and then on a drive that could be four or five minutes decompress and then go home and see your family. Switching gears is sometimes kind of a hard thing," he said. 
 
Finding and destroying explosives that kill U.S. ground troops is one of the things RPAs do.  
 
For pilots here, the belief that they are saving American lives makes the job much easier.

You May Like

French Refugee Drama Wins Cannes Top Prize

Dheepan is about a group of Sri Lankan refugees who pretend to be a family in order to flee their war-torn country for a housing project in France More

Photogallery Crisis in Macedonia Requires Meaningful and Swift Measures

The international community has called on Macedonian leadership to take concrete measures in support of democracy in order to exit the crisis More

Activists: IS Executes 217 Civilians, Soldiers Near Palmyra

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights on Sunday said the victims include nurses, women, children and Syrian government fighters More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Godwin from: Nigeria
August 16, 2012 3:12 PM
RPA's, what a fine name! But Iran brought down one of them, what a mess that was! How I hated the smile on that persian midget when he claimed to have the technology to counteract the drone system. If the Iranians have an antidote to the drones, why concentrate more energy on it - it'd have become a public knowledge within the terrorist enclave - say Hezbollah and Hamas. Let's hear something new and cheering about these RPA's that can beat Russia, China and Iran, that's all that's important. After all another craft was downed in Afghanistan today and taliban is boasting it's their doing. Imagine the shame!

by: Nishni from: Canada
August 16, 2012 1:16 PM
Syria would be a good place to give these young tyros experience.

by: RIANO BAGGY from: INA
August 16, 2012 4:20 AM
now a fighter pilots not best physical it,s okay, low cost.llike used play U BOX from Sony with pop corn another hand sit in sofa to handle joy stick. But i afraid when hacker to jam this program and this frequency and used the drone for unresponsibility mission it is very high risk.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs