In New Mexico’s Holloman Air Force Base is the Air Force’s major trainng base for drone pilot operators. They do not go up into the sky. They monitor whatever i happening beneath drones.
Pilots work in trailers. One pilot operates the drone. The other operates the camera equipment
They train by tracking American cars.
The New York Times reports: “Though the Pentagon is increasing its fleet of drones by 30 percent and military leaders estimate that, within a year or so, the number of Air Force pilots flying unmanned planes could be higher than the number who actually leave the ground. . . .”
It takes two years to train a pilot for drones. This is not long. The drones are cheap.
It is widely known that the United States has three different drone programs. The first is the publicly acknowledged program run by the Pentagon that has been operating in Iraq and Afghanistan. The other two are classified programs run separately by the C.I.A. and the military’s Joint Special Operations Command, which maintain separate lists of people targeted for killing.
The pilots are stationed in the USA.
Pilots have flown missions over Afghanistan in the morning, stopped for lunch, fought the Iraq war in the afternoon and then driven home in time for dinner. Lt. Col Matt Martin, formerly a trainer at Holloman, wrote about the disorienting experience of toggling among different war zones in a memoir, “Predator,” calling the experience “enough to make a Predator pilot schizophrenic.”
This is the new way to fight abroad: by remote control.
Pilots will have a growing market for these skills as drones spread into the civilian law enforcement systems.