If need be, the Predator's two Hellfire missiles can come into play.
The MQ-9 Reaper, an even more lethal RPA, carries more than double the number of Hellfires, in addition to so-called smart bombs.
In all, RPA carry out more than 500 strikes annually, according to the report -- a 96 percent increase since 2009.
Because each RPA stays aloft for 24 hours, crews rotate in to take control. Pilots in
By 2017, the
Consider that the
"There was more need than the active duty could provide. That's how the Guard got into this," Schnulo said.
Problems outlined in the Brookings report as barriers to producing more RPA pilots -- high washout rates and a brutal workload, in particular, that leaves officers little time for professional development requirements needed for promotion in rank -- don't exist in the Guard, according to Schnulo and Davis.
Active-duty RPA crews had been working six-day weeks, with one day off, but have gone to six days on, two days off, Davis said.
In a sense -- and as anyone with military service can attest -- they own their people.
As civilian employees, airmen in the Guard typically only work four 10-hour days.
"There's nothing keeping a pilot working for me," Davis said.
"Once you get past the original commitment," Schnulo added, "you're serving at your pleasure. We have to make sure the quality of life is such that they want to stay."
For that reason, the 178th has routinely attracted former active-duty pilots, and older pilots in particular.
"We're recruiting every day," said Davis, a former F-16 pilot. "I'm always recruiting."
Tapping an already experienced pilot or navigator saves both time and money, he said.
To date, all 40 pilots in the 178th transferred to RPA from other types of manned aircraft, Davis said, but the unit is expected to welcome its first organic Predator pilot in the spring, when he completes training.
He'll be the first Predator pilot locally whose flight experience is limited to RPA.
At the same time, the report warned, the
Davis said his pilots and sensor operators have already fielded offers to come work in the civilian drone market, which is predicted to be an
Further putting pressure on local
"Everything we do," Schnulo said, "is in demand in this area."
(c)2013 the Dayton Daily News (Dayton, Ohio)
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