RQ-4 Drone Piloting Open to Enlisted Soliders!

Yesterday the USAF announced a new initiative to open up flying jobs to enlisted soldiers - starting with the RQ-4 Global Hawk Remote Piloted Vehicle (RPA).

The Air Force has had problems getting and keeping pilots for its drone aircraft for a long time, and a few weeks ago announced that outside contractors would be used to fly some missions, but this is the first time since World War II that the USAF will allow enlisted soldiers to fly aircraft.

According to an Air Force press release the Secretary of the Air Force, Deborah Lee James, "directed Air Combat Command to develop an implementation plan over the next six months to address items like entry requirements, training plans, career path development, delineation of duties, compensation details and an appropriate force mix."

For now, this initiative is focused on the unarmed RQ-4, and not the MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Repaer, although that may change depending on the results of this initiative.

It is worth noting, however, that the RQ-4 is not "piloted" in the traditional sense of a manned (or most unmanned) aircraft. Instead, the pilot sets waypoints to direct the RPA where to fly, directs the employment of certain sensors, and tells the aircraft where and when to land or takeoff. The entire flight is accomplished with a mouse and keyboard, instead of the joystick/throttle used for other RPAs.

Here's a short video where you can see the piloting in action. You get a view of the control area at around 24 seconds: