Top Gun (Sans Top Gunners)

top gun.bmpThe Los Angeles Times' Julian E. Barnes reports that the Air Force "is preparing to graduate its first pilots of unmanned drones from the elite U.S. Air Force Weapons School -- a version of the Navy's Top Gun program -- in a bid to elevate the skills and status of the officers who fly Predators, one of the military's fastest growing aircraft programs."The article goes on to state that "until recently, pilots would work on the Predators and Reapers, then return to their assigned aircraft. But the Air Force would like officers to make a career out of flying unmanned craft and become experts at operating the drones."

Nothing like a new fork in the career matrix to keep a military career interesting. But what kind of self-respecting fighter jock would voluntarily take off his speed jeans and strap on a laptop for the rest of his time in uniform? No more Gs? No more sucking back the O-2?

The article also quotes a couple of future generals:
"It is safe to say most pilots will always miss getting back in the air," said Lt. Col. Daniel "D.J." Turner, who leads the Predator and Reaper training at the weapons school. "But we see where the Air Force is going. We understand we are adding to the mission in a crucial way.""I would love to go back and fly," said Maj. Geoff Fukumoto, a F-15 pilot nicknamed "Admiral" who was one of the first to go through the Air Force Weapons School for the Predator and Reaper. "But I think I have found the place the Air Force needs me. Right now, I am committed to this job."

Okay, DJ and Admiral. The Chief of Staff and SECAF thank you . . . along with your fellow Eagle drivers who will be flying those sorties (in a jet, not at a console) you opted out of. We'll be seeing you in the movies. Er, maybe not.

Read the entire LA Times article here.

-- Ward

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