Naval Air: March 21, 2003


The U.S. Navy and the U.S. Air Force have a different attitude towards UCAVs (robotic combat aircraft.) The navy is more enthusiastic, seeing the UCAVs as full time replacements for manned aircraft. The air force sees the drones as augmentation for their manned aircraft. The air force wants it's UCAVs built so they can be stored for long periods and only brought out when a lot more bombers were needed. The navy would use their UCAVs regularly, and reduce the number of pilots it has. The reason for this is pragmatic, it's hard to find people willing and able to be naval aviators. Air force pilots don't like to admit this, but will when pressed, but naval aviators are better pilots. The reason is simple, landing on a carrier, especially at night (the fearsome "night traps") require exceptional pilot skills. Anyone who can handle night traps, tends to be better at all other piloting tasks. This means that the navy has a smaller pool of talent to work from. People who would wash out of navy pilot school would do often do very well as an air force pilot. To make matter worse, the working conditions for naval aviators are worse, as carriers regularly go off on six month sea tours. No family, no nearby town or malls, no weekend passes. A few port calls, and that's it. So it's no surprise that the navy has a harder time finding, and keeping, pilots. UCAVs would take off some of this pressure. And the aviators would appreciate sending in some drones for really dangerous missions. Another benefit to all this is that we will have two different approaches to developing UCAVs, which means more new UCAV wrinkles will be discovered and overall, better UCAV aircraft and doctrine will result. 


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