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Guest Matt Daniel

Info on Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS/UAV/RPA)

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The first 2 "UAS Beta Test" classes entered training with the express knowledge that the test could be deemed a failure any second, and they would be made to report back to their original AFSCs. They took a huge risk to their careers and it paid off for the AF and the RPA community. It doesn't seem fair to me to hope they get sea lawyered out of the contract they were made to sign.

Also who knows if some AFPC guy decided to make it a 3 year committment, knowing there was a good chance the test wouldn't work out. After Beta 1 and 2 succeeded, the new beta wings were created and the 18X AFSC was formally created. Perhaps only after that point, other AFPC guys said, "well thank goodness that worked out, lets try to keep them for 6 years now."

OK drama queen. Holy crap most of you betas were jumping at the chance to be part of the "tip of the spear" (I use that term loosely) and wear a bag. I consider the 3yr contracts continued incompetence from shoe clerks who issued the contract. Had a 18x show up this yr w/ a 3 yr contract as well, so I don't think it is being reserved for just the test group betas. Bottom line is that this foul up with the contracts is going to screw up manning projections, based on the assumption all 18x'ers received 6yr contracts, when those w/ 3yr contracts start getting out for whatever the reason may be. Which will continue to strain an already stressed out manning level.

Quick Update: The 18x in question is already on the Losses on the Alpha Roster. So it still doesn't seem to be getting much kickback. And personally, I am happy for any individual that can escape.

At least those 11xrs have a nice ACP cushion to help them make up their minds.

As previously discussed, there was a quasi "beta test" before this current version (a few years ago). A guy made it all the way through FTU and was about to start CMR before he was shipped off to Space/Missiles. He was eventually accepted to the 18X pipeline and is now a fully qual'd MQ-1B pilot. But taken all together, UAS beta tests have a 50% success rate.

Either way, it being a "no fail" endeavor was never explained to the betas testers themselves. They still had to step off a ledge with their old AFSCs, just 1-2 years before their Majors boards. Forcing those 15 guys to double their signed ADSC contract won't really help hundreds of 11Xs. But the career field they helped create is already helping.

Yeah, again that is another huge fail by the officers that ran that initial beta program. If they had made adjustments instead of scrapping the program we wouldn't be having this conversation because I would be sitting fat dumb and happy in a real cockpit and no particular reason for visiting the Military Careers portion of the BO forum.

Edited by Rifleman96

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At least those 11xrs have a nice ACP cushion to help them make up their minds.

ACP is a joke compared to the prospect of becoming a pilot again. After taking out taxes it's not that much $$ anyways.

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Will URT be similar to UPT - PCS to Randolph and TDY to IFS, then come back for RIQ and Fundamentals course? My wife is a Physicians Assistant, trying to decide if its worth moving her and the kids to Randolph.

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Will URT be similar to UPT - PCS to Randolph and TDY to IFS, then come back for RIQ and Fundamentals course? My wife is a Physicians Assistant, trying to decide if its worth moving her and the kids to Randolph.

It depends. Are you on active duty or coming straight from a commissioning source. I'm

AD and will be going TDY to IFS in two months from my current duty location, then PCS to Randolph for RIQ/RFC, then PCS again to wherever. For newly commissioned guys, they PCS to Randolph, TDY to IFS, back for training, PCS to wherever...

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I am AD and at IFS right now. I will be TDY for RIQ/RFC but maybe that’s because my home station is Nellis and I will probably just end up at Creech.

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Bueller?

Some have started TDYs for training; expect PCS for them to occur summer/fall.

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Awesome, I know at least one guy who's escaping. Does anyone have anything on the fate of pilots pulled in recently? Can they expect to go back to a real airplane at their next PCS?

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The fact the the guys that competed against their peers and earned their drones are getting out sooner than anyone else is what I expect from the air force.

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The fact the the guys that competed against their peers and earned their drones are getting out sooner than anyone else is what I expect from the air force.

Fair enough, but are those other guys getting out of drones later or not at all?

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Fair enough, but are those other guys getting out of drones later or not at all?

Mixed to not at all.

Someone with exec stink can chime in with a better set of data, but it seems that for those prior MWS dudes released back to their respective porches, most go immediately toward the bill paying side of assignments and not necessarily back to a tx. What is the easiest bill to pay for someone with their credentials?...Holloman.

But a few thinking that they've won their lottery ticket to the Island end up striking so there's that to look forward to.

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Hold out long enough and you'll end up as cadre at Hickam. It's happening....

If they were smart, they'd put the UAV locations in premier locations as a "consolation" prize. So that will never happen.

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If they were smart, they'd put the UAV locations in premier locations as a "consolation" prize. So that will never happen.

Having a consolation would require the AF to recognize UAVs as a bad assignment.

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Hold out long enough and you'll end up as cadre at Hickam. It's happening....

proof?

I think the prize will be Shaw

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In case any captains were wondering.. the promotion rate to major sucks in drones

RPA pilots: In demand, but losing out

By Jeff Schogol - Staff writer

Posted : Tuesday Aug 21, 2012 8:47:42 EDT

The demand for pilots who fly the Air Force’s unmanned aircraft grows each year, but promotion rates for those aviators fall far behind their fighter, bomber and mobility counterparts.

And although the Air Force is training more pilots to fly remote-controlled Reapers, Predators and Global Hawks than traditional fighters and bombers this year, it could take two decades for the promotion opportunities to even out, Air Force officials said.

PILOT PROMOTIONS

Chart: The promotion rates by paygrade and airframe for the past five promotion cycles

Pilots in the unmanned aircraft community come from three backgrounds: “Traditional” pilots, who go from flying manned aircraft to drones; other aviators, such as combat systems officers and air battle managers; and airmen specifically trained to fly drones as part of the 18X career field, which was established in October 2009, followed by the start of undergraduate training a year later. The 18X career field has grown to 821 pilots — about 60 percent of those assigned to fly remote-controlled aircraft.

“It is not uncommon for promotion rates in new career fields [composed] of individuals from varying backgrounds and expertise) to take time to stabilize,” Air Force spokesman Maj. Joel Harper said in an email. “The first step in building a career field is creating a training pipeline followed by cross-flowing midcareer officers from related career fields to meet mission requirements. Accomplishing this in a wartime environment, with ever increasing demand, has not been without its challenges.”

Promotion data since 2007 show that pilots considered by promotion boards while assigned to flying drones were less likely to advance. In 2011, for example, 92 percent of captains assigned to fighters and bombers were selected for promotion to major, compared with 78 percent of pilots assigned to fly unmanned planes.

Through five promotion cycles, only twice have pilots of unmanned aircraft experienced higher promotion rates than other pilots: In 2008, 77.8 percent of majors were selected for promotion to lieutenant colonel, compared with 68 percent of mobility pilots; and in 2011, 35 percent of lieutenant colonels up for O-6 were selected, besting the 31 percent promotion rate for mobility pilots.

BETTER OPPORTUNITIES

To increase unmanned aircraft pilots’ chances of getting promoted, the Air Force is trying to give drone pilots more opportunities for professional military education, Harper said. Air Force Secretary Michael Donley also advises promotion boards that drone pilots have unique skills that are critical to national security.

“He further instructs board members that in assessing these records, the board members should consider the fact that these officers, because of the needs of the Air Force and combatant commanders, may not have received the same development opportunities and normal career progression as their peers,” Harper said.

But one drone pilot said the Air Force has not addressed the basic obstacles that prevent unmanned aircraft pilots from being promoted.

“With the training and security checks involved in transitioning to [remotely piloted aircraft], almost a whole year can be lost before establishing a place in the new RPA squadron and continuing again in promotion enhancing work,” said the pilot, who did not want to be identified. “While transitioning to other airframes within one’s command may also take a lot of time and training, those transitions are considered leadership preparation, whereas transition to RPAs is often seen as a demotion.”

Also, drone pilots fly so often that they don’t have many opportunities for activities that would enhance their chances of being promoted, the pilot said in an email.

“Regardless of promotion boards’ awareness of the critical skills of RPA pilots, their system is based on points and direct comparison with other pilots and other officers,” the pilot said. “The sacrifices demanded by the brutal and unending shift work, the common 6-day work week which often includes upwards of 40 flying hours alone (daily briefings, training and administrative responsibilities must be accomplished on top of this), and the minimal chances at leadership responsibilities in the large and growing squadrons are not rewarded by the boards in any way.”

The pilot suggested creating a level playing field for all pilots by lowering the promotion requirements for unmanned aircraft pilots.

The Air Force has heard similar complaints from airmen in other career fields, said retired Col. Terry Stevens, who has 35 years of experience in personnel.

“The non-selects want lower standards and higher promotion opportunities for their ‘unique’ career field to speed up promotions,” Stevens said in an email. “They complain bitterly that they are too busy, or [too] critical to the job, to worry about things like advanced degrees, decorations, professional development courses, involvement with unit and base activities, and so forth and so on.”

Many of the officers against whom drone pilots compete for advancement have not had better promotion opportunities, Stevens said.

IMPROVED CONDITIONS

Given the number of drones the Air Force plans to buy, the service is going to have to do more to make the unmanned pilot career field viable, said Peter Juul, a military expert with the Center for American Progress think tank in Washington.

“Last year’s Aircraft Procurement Plan projected 650 Global Hawk, Reaper and Predator drones in service by FY 2021, up from 340 in FY 2012,” Juul said in an email. “The disparities continue to exist so that you’re more likely to be promoted if you’re not a drone pilot than if you are, so the Air Force will have to do a better job of making drones an attractive career path for younger officers and pilots.”

At a news conference before his Aug. 10 retirement, former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said pilots of manned aircraft will always be important, but he acknowledged the ever-increasing reliance on drone pilots.

“Ultimately, it is conceivable that the majority of aviators in our Air Force will be remotely piloted aircraft operators,” Schwartz said at the conference.

But if drone pilots are achieving a higher status in the Air Force, it’s not reflected in the condition of their work and living spaces, said a second drone pilot, who also asked not to be identified.

The conditions at Creech Air Force Base, Nev., where many pilots are based, give the impression that “this mission does not really matter to anyone, anywhere,” said the pilot.

“The main facility consists of a hangar and something that looks, feels, and smells like an old high school that should be condemned,” the pilot said in an email. “Our bathrooms only function half the time (400 people, 5 toilets per gender). We have outhouses posted immediately outside our main entrance.”

The fire alarm was broken for nearly a year, with bullhorns placed in each room to compensate, and water has at times been shut off or unsafe for drinking, the pilot said.

Air Force officials said they are working on improvements at Creech, and they blamed problems there on its rapid growth as the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission became more important.

The Air Force has spent $17 million on construction at Creech in the past two years, said Air Combat Command spokesman Col. Todd Vician.

Another $2.5 million in operations and maintenance funds and $1.3 million in Army and Air Force Exchange Service projects were used to improve the fitness and recreation facilities, he said.

Still, morale is a problem in the unmanned aircraft community, the pilot said.

“I was shocked just the other day when I held a candid conversation with one of the ‘rising stars’ in the squadron” who plans to leave the Air Force, the pilot said. “He told me because this community is a dead-end. There is nothing more he could accomplish, the job itself is terrible and the possibility for him getting back to his previous airframe (F-15s) was slim to none.”

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Now read the Rand study on RPA pilot retention after that article and realize Big Blue is creating a perfect storm for itself with regards to RPA manning. God forbid we recognize some form of leadership other than PME attendance and Master's Degree completion.

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God forbid we recognize some form of leadership other than PME attendance and Master's Degree completion.

Promotion? I thought those were upgrade criteria in some places?

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AF told to study rate of UAV pilots’ promotions

The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act requires the Air Force to tell Congress why unmanned aircraft pilots get promoted less often than pilots of manned aircraft and what the Air Force can do to fix the problem.

The Air Force has 180 days from when the legislation is signed to report on the disparity.

Congress also wants the Air Force to submit a plan to increase promotion rates for unmanned aircraft pilots that includes near- and long-term actions needed.

In August, Air Force Times reported that promotion data since 2007 shows that unmanned aircraft pilots are less likely to advance than fighter, bomber and mobility pilots. Through five promotion cycles, only two officer boards promoted pilots of unmanned aircraft at a higher rate than their counterparts in manned aircraft.

One reason for the disparity is that unmanned aircraft pilots miss out on activities that enhance chances for promotion, one pilot told Air Force Times.

“The sacrifices demanded by the brutal and unending shift work, the common six-day work week which often includes upwards of 40 flying hours alone (daily briefings, training and administrative responsibilities must be accomplished on top of this), and the minimal chances at leadership responsibilities … are not rewarded by [promotion] boards,” said the unmanned aircraft pilot, who did not want to be identified.

On Sept. 27, two Senate leaders asked the Government Accountability Office to review promotion rates, mental health and working conditions for airmen in the unmanned community.

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