Ride to the Sound of the Guns … and Find UAVs

The Air Force will probably see a fair number of volunteers for assignments direct to unmanned aerial vehicles, Gen. Stephen Lorenz, the new commander of Air Education and Training Command, told reporters at AFA’s Air & Space Conference Tuesday. The old military maxim that you should “ride to the sound of the guns” applies, he said. UAVs such as the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper are on the front lines of the war on terror every day, and their influence will probably continue to grow as inventories expand. Lorenz said plans call for an initial cadre of straight-to-UAV pilots to finish undergraduate pilot training and report to Creech Air Force Base in Indian Springs, Nev., for several months of UAV-specific finishing. After a tour in the UAVs, the Predator and Reaper pilots will be offered a follow-on assignment in a manned aircraft. But Lorenz predicts that the UAV community will soon stabilize. As the number of unmanned aircraft and their operating locations continue to expand, operators will likely begin spending much of their careers with the Predator or Reaper, just as an F-16 or KC-135 pilot remains primarily with the same aircraft today.