Today, only experienced Air Force pilots are allowed to remotely-operate the American fleet of killer drones. Tomorrow, the heavily-armed robotic planes could be flown by 19 year-olds, barely out of basic training.
It's not a question of capability. 19 year-olds have mastered video games more complicated than flying a Predator, I assure you. But the Air Force is too stuck in the fighter jock mentality of old.
the Air Force only allows rated pilots -- guys trained to operate a B-52 or an F-15 -- to fly their Predators. "You have to understand flight, know how to talk to a controller," then Air Force Colonel Tom Ehrhard told me a few years back. "It takes an aviator to do that."
Stupid, stupid, stupid.
Which is why there's a new military development program underway to "weaponize Shadow" for Special Forces, Inside Defense reports. "The goal is to pair firepower with sophisticated visual sensors, giving lower-echelon UAV operators capabilities heretofore reserved for operational-level unmanned systems."
Which means those young privates and corporals and specialists could be controlling killer drones, some day soon.
It also means that the Air Force is going to become irrelevant sometime in the not too distant future. Once the Army has air-to-air drones to protect their air-to-ground drones, assuming the drones even need cover, the Air Force might as well pack up and go home. Sure, they still have nukes, but for how much longer after that?