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.  
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

Video Russia’s Syrian Escalation Tests Obama’s Crisis Response

Critics once again question whether president has been slow to act on Syrian conflict, thus creating opening for powers like Russia More

Ancient African DNA Shows Mass Migration Back Into Africa

First genetic analysis of ancient human remains in Africa suggests massive migration from north around time of Egyptian empire More

NASA: Pluto Has Blue Sky

New photos also reveal the presence of water ice More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
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.

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.
Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugeesi
Henry Ridgwell
October 08, 2015 8:02 PM
Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Hungary Criticized for Handling of Refugees

Amnesty International has accused Hungary of breaking multiple international and European human rights laws in its handling of the refugee crisis. As Henry Ridgwell reports, thousands of migrants and refugees continue to travel through the Balkans to Hungary every day.

Video Iraqi-Kurdish Teachers Vow to Continue Protest

Sixteen people were injured when police used tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse teachers and other public employees who took to the streets in Iraq’s Kurdish north, demanding their salaries from the Kurdish Regional Government (KRG). VOA’s Dilshad Anwar, in Sulaimaniya, caught up with protesting teachers who say they have not been paid for three months. Parke Brewer narrates his report.

Video Syrian Village Community Faces Double Displacement in Lebanon

Driven by war from their village in southwestern Syria, a group of families found shelter in Lebanon, resettling en masse in a half-built university to form one of the biggest settlements of its kind in Lebanon. Three years later, however, they now face being kicked out and dispersed in a country where finding shelter as a refugee can be especially tough. John Owens has more for VOA from the city of Saida, also known as Sidon.

Video Bat Colony: Unusual Tourist Attraction in Texas

The action hero Batman might be everyone’s favorite but real bats hardly get that kind of adoration. Put more than a million of these creatures of the night together and it only evokes images of horror. Sarah Zaman visited the largest urban bat colony in North America to see just how well bat and human get along with each other.

Video Device Shows Promise of Stopping Motion Sickness

It’s a sickening feeling — the dizziness, nausea and vomiting that comes with motion sickness. But a device now being developed could stop motion sickness by suppressing certain signals in the brain. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Making a Mint

While apples, corn, and cranberries top the list of fall produce in the US, it’s also the time to harvest gum, candy, and toothpaste—or at least the oil that makes them minty fresh. Erika Celeste reports from South Bend, Indiana on the mint harvest.

Video Activists Decry Lagos Slum Demolition

Acting on a court order, authorities in Nigeria demolished a slum last month in the commercial capital, Lagos. But human rights activists say the order was illegal, and the community was razed to make way for a government housing project. Chris Stein has more from Lagos.

Video TPP Agreed, But Faces Stiff Opposition

President Barack Obama promoted the Trans-Pacific Partnership on Tuesday, one day after 12 Pacific Rim nations reached the free trade deal in Atlanta. The controversial pact that would involve about 40 percent of global trade still needs approval by lawmakers in respective countries. Zlatica Hoke reports Obama is facing strong opposition to the deal, including from members of his own party.

Video Ukranian Artist Portrays Putin in an Unusual Way

As Russian President Vladimir Putin was addressing the United Nations in New York last month, he was also being featured in an art exhibition in Washington. It’s not a flattering exhibit. It’s done by a Ukrainian artist in a unique medium. And its creator says it’s not only a work of art - it’s a political statement. VOA’s Tetiana Kharchenko has more.

Video Nano-tech Filter Cleans Dirty Water

Access to clean water is a problem for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Now, a scientist and chemical engineer in Tanzania (in East Africa) is working to change that by creating an innovative water filter that makes dirty water safe. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.

Video Demand Rising for Organic Produce in Cambodia

In Cambodia, where rice has long been the main cash crop, farmers are being encouraged to turn to vegetables to satisfy the growing demand for locally produced organic farm products. Daniel de Carteret has more from Phnom Penh.

Video Botanists Grow Furniture, with Pruning Shears

For something a bit out of the ordinary to furnish your home, why not consider wooden chairs, crafted by nature, with a little help from some British botanists with an eye for design. VOA’s Jessica Berman reports.

VOA Blogs