New RPA Training Pipeline Yields Its First Global Hawk Pilots

The 1st Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale AFB, Calif., welcomed the Air Force’s first two RQ-4 Global Hawk operators specifically trained as remotely piloted aircraft pilots under the service’s new 18X specialty code. “It’s a privilege to be the first in this platform at this capacity . . . and pave the way for the rest of the pipeline students,” said one of the second lieutenants who received his wings. He and his colleague will begin flying operational missions immediately in support of combatant commanders worldwide, according to Beale officials. “With these pilots not coming from traditional training and not being experienced aviators, this is untested territory,” said the unit’s commander during the Jan. 13 wing-pinning ceremony. However, “based on the performance of these two airmen, I have high hopes for the future of the program and the 18X pilots.” The new classification 18X is for RPA pilots coming from non-rated career fields as well as newly commissioned officers. (Beale report by SrA Shawn Nickel) (For more on the new RPA operator training pipeline, read RPA Ramp Up from Air Force Magazine’s 2011 archive.)