Tag Archives: airforce

Busted, top 10 RPA myths debunked

by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay
432nd Wing/432nd Air Expeditionary Wing

Drones. The once harmless term has taken on new meaning in recent years largely due to misinformation, Hollywood dramatizations and their growing uses in non-military settings. For the men and women of the remotely piloted aircraft enterprise who provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance support to combatant commanders around the world 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, dispelling myths associated with their mission is now a top priority.

1. Myth: Drones and RPAs are the same.

Fact: In today’s mainstream media drones often refers to both small aerial capable vehicles with photo or video capabilities and, incorrectly, to U.S. Air Force RPAs. In the U.S. Air Force inventory a remotely piloted aircraft requires aircrews to operate but don’t have the capability to carry crews on board. Also in the USAF inventory, RPAs such as the Global Hawk are used to provide ISR data by recording imagery and are often incorrectly labeled as “drones.” (U.S. Air Force illustration by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)
Fact: In today’s mainstream media drones often refers to both small aerial capable vehicles with photo or video capabilities and, incorrectly, to U.S. Air Force RPAs. In the U.S. Air Force inventory a remotely piloted aircraft requires aircrews to operate but don’t have the capability to carry crews on board. Also in the USAF inventory, RPAs such as the Global Hawk are used to provide ISR data by recording imagery and are often incorrectly labeled as “drones.” (U.S. Air Force illustration by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)

2. Myth: RPAs fly themselves.

 Fact: RPAs are flown by a pilot, with the assistance of a sensor operator for the entire duration of the flight. Additionally, for every RPA combat air patrol there are nearly 200 people supporting the mission in various capacities. This includes pilot, sensor operator, mission intelligence personnel; aircraft and communications maintainers; launch and recovery element personnel; and intelligence personnel conducting production, exploitation, and dissemination operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff. Sgt. Adawn Kelsey)
Fact: RPAs are flown by a pilot, with the assistance of a sensor operator for the entire duration of the flight. Additionally, for every RPA combat air patrol there are nearly 200 people supporting the mission in various capacities. This includes pilot, sensor operator, mission intelligence personnel; aircraft and communications maintainers; launch and recovery element personnel; and intelligence personnel conducting production, exploitation, and dissemination operations. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff. Sgt. Adawn Kelsey)

3. Myth: Military RPAs are used to spy on U.S. civilians.

Fact: The Air Force only flies RPAs in the United States for training purposes. The only exception is with the appropriate level of coordination and approval RPAs can be used to support the aerial imagery needs of civil authorities in rare and urgent cases where local, state, or federal officials cannot use nonmilitary means of support. This level approval usually resides with the Secretary of Defense. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)
Fact: The Air Force only flies RPAs in the United States for training purposes. The only exception is with the appropriate level of coordination and approval RPAs can be used to support the aerial imagery needs of civil authorities in rare and urgent cases where local, state, or federal officials cannot use nonmilitary means of support. This level approval usually resides with the Secretary of Defense. (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Senior Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo)

Additionally, the following guidelines structure how training flights work:
– Training is normally conducted in airspace over and near federal installations and unpopulated training ranges that have been set aside for that purpose.
– Information gathered during training missions that is relayed to ground stations is seldom retained after training operations.
– Any information retained after training missions is deleted shortly afterwards in accordance with regulations (typically no more than 90 days).
– During training missions, pilots and sensor operators are not applying or receiving the analytical support necessary to allow them to use imagery to identify individuals beyond gender and approximate age.

4. Myth: RPAs strike randomly.

 Fact: The vast majority of the time, the Air Force’s RPA fleet is used for ISR, not for strike activity. They are governed by the same procedures as other aircraft capable of employing weapons. RPAs are not ‘unmanned,’ and do not act autonomously to drop a weapon or choose a target. Human beings are an integral part of the system and will continue to be the decision makers. RPA pilots are not bound by a set timeline to strike a target; they spend days, weeks, and sometimes months observing the patterns-of-life of a subject and provide that information to the network of tactical personnel, intelligence members, databases and decision makers before any action is pursued. They are connected to a huge network of intelligence from multiple sources – including platforms, sensors, people and databases – to national decision makers, combatant commanders, and tactical level personnel. (Courtesy photo)
Fact: The vast majority of the time, the Air Force’s RPA fleet is used for ISR, not for strike activity. They are governed by the same procedures as other aircraft capable of employing weapons. RPAs are not ‘unmanned,’ and do not act autonomously to drop a weapon or choose a target. Human beings are an integral part of the system and will continue to be the decision makers. RPA pilots are not bound by a set timeline to strike a target; they spend days, weeks, and sometimes months observing the patterns-of-life of a subject and provide that information to the network of tactical personnel, intelligence members, databases and decision makers before any action is pursued. They are connected to a huge network of intelligence from multiple sources – including platforms, sensors, people and databases – to national decision makers, combatant commanders, and tactical level personnel. (Courtesy photo)

5. Myth: RPAs are made from alien technology and are flown from area 51.

Fact: The U.S. Air Force actually has a long history of unmanned flight and we are still learning new and better ways to fly.  We will continue to improve our methods of training, conducting operations and employing new weapon systems. The development and integration of unmanned aircraft represent a continuation of this trend and has been around since the early 1900s. The primary installations where RPAs are based and flown are Beale AFB, CA; Holloman AFB, NM; Creech AFB, NV; and Grand Forks AFB, ND.  There are additional Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard installations that are part of the distributed ground stations that support RPA flights and data analysis.(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)
Fact: The U.S. Air Force actually has a long history of unmanned flight and we are still learning new and better ways to fly. We will continue to improve our methods of training, conducting operations and employing new weapon systems. The development and integration of unmanned aircraft represent a continuation of this trend and has been around since the early 1900s. The primary installations where RPAs are based and flown are Beale AFB, CA; Holloman AFB, NM; Creech AFB, NV; and Grand Forks AFB, ND. There are additional Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard installations that are part of the distributed ground stations that support RPA flights and data analysis.(U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)

6. Myth: RPAs are unmanned and require less manpower to operate.

Fact: In order to support ISR missions around the world, every RPA CAP requires the dedication of nearly 200 Airmen in various capacities to maintain 24/7, 365 day vigilance. The pilot, with the help of the sensor operator, flies the RPA for the entire duration of the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)
Fact: In order to support ISR missions around the world, every RPA CAP requires the dedication of nearly 200 Airmen in various capacities to maintain 24/7, 365 day vigilance. The pilot, with the help of the sensor operator, flies the RPA for the entire duration of the mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)

7. Myth: RPA pilots are just “gamers.”

 Fact: Our Airmen are trained to be the best pilots in the world, regardless of aircraft. Our fully qualified aircrews consistently exceed expectations for both flight safety and operational effectiveness. Like pilots in manned aircraft RPA pilots are required to meet the same qualifications. New RPA pilots undergo a very intense training program before they fly operational missions. This training curriculum lasts approximately one year, and many current Air Force RPA pilots and trainers have already completed undergraduate pilot training in manned aircraft as well. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young)
Fact: Our Airmen are trained to be the best pilots in the world, regardless of aircraft. Our fully qualified aircrews consistently exceed expectations for both flight safety and operational effectiveness. Like pilots in manned aircraft RPA pilots are required to meet the same qualifications. New RPA pilots undergo a very intense training program before they fly operational missions. This training curriculum lasts approximately one year, and many current Air Force RPA pilots and trainers have already completed undergraduate pilot training in manned aircraft as well. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Vernon Young)

8. Myth: Everyone in the RPA community suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

 Fact: According to a 2014 paper from the United Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, studies have shown that 4.3 percent of Air Force RPA operators report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. This is lower than the 4 to 18% of PTSD reported among those returning from the battlefield and lower than the projected lifetime risk of PTSD for Americans (8.7%, American Psychiatric Association, 2013). In addition, Creech Air Force Base established a Human Performance Team in 2011 comprised of an operational psychologist, an operational and aerospace physiologist, three flight surgeons and two Religious Support Teams to aid Airmen in dealing with stressors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)
Fact: According to a 2014 paper from the United Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine, studies have shown that 4.3 percent of Air Force RPA operators report symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. This is lower than the 4 to 18% of PTSD reported among those returning from the battlefield and lower than the projected lifetime risk of PTSD for Americans (8.7%, American Psychiatric Association, 2013). In addition, Creech Air Force Base established a Human Performance Team in 2011 comprised of an operational psychologist, an operational and aerospace physiologist, three flight surgeons and two Religious Support Teams to aid Airmen in dealing with stressors. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)

9. Myth: RPA aircrews are not compassionate to the missions they perform.

Fact: Airmen performing RPA operations receive moral, ethical, psychological and physiological training to build readiness that is sustainable over time. The Air Force will continue to support combatant commanders with RPA missions while also focusing on initiatives that reduce stress on personnel and remain committed to providing the best care possible for every Airman, regardless of the career field with which they are associated.(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)
Fact: Airmen performing RPA operations receive moral, ethical, psychological and physiological training to build readiness that is sustainable over time. The Air Force will continue to support combatant commanders with RPA missions while also focusing on initiatives that reduce stress on personnel and remain committed to providing the best care possible for every Airman, regardless of the career field with which they are associated.(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)

10. Myth: RPAs will replace manned aircraft

 Fact: According to Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Mark A. Welsh III, “the Air Force needs a number of platforms.” He continued by saying this includes manned and unmanned assets to accomplish sustainable air supremacy. “Air superiority is a mission. It's not a platform, it's a mission. So ideally, you'd have both tools available to you." (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)
Fact: According to Chief of Staff of the Air Force General Mark A. Welsh III, “the Air Force needs a number of platforms.” He continued by saying this includes manned and unmanned assets to accomplish sustainable air supremacy. “Air superiority is a mission. It’s not a platform, it’s a mission. So ideally, you’d have both tools available to you.” (U.S. Air Force photo illustration by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay)

Despite the misconceptions surrounding the RPA enterprise Air Force leadership remain optimistic on the future capabilities RPAs can provide.

“What our RPA professionals are doing in today’s fight and in preparing for future conflicts is simply incredible. RPAs and their operators are in the highest demand from our combatant commanders because of the situational awareness and strike capabilities that they enable. Despite being some of the newest weapon systems in the Air Force inventory, RPAs fulfill critical demands in every theater 24 hours a day, 365 days a year,” said Gen. Hawk Carlisle, Air Combat Command commander.

Air Force Week – Are you ready?, Aug.18, 2012


By Staff Sgt. Amanda Dick
Air Force Public Affairs Agency

We can’t believe it’s finally here – Air Force Week 2012! We just wanted to give you the low down on events going on in New York City Aug. 19-21, 2012. Whether you can make it or not, the Air Force Social Media team will be on foot to give you coverage of the events through the U.S. Air Force Facebook, Twitter (hashtag #AFWeek), Instagram (officialusairforce), Flicker, YouTube BlueTube and right here on the blog! More information can be found at the official Air Force Week website. Hope to see you there!

All events are free and open to the public, unless specifically noted.

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Saturday, August 18th

New York Yankees vs Boston Red Sox – Air Force Day | 4: 05 p.m.
Yankee Stadium: Bronx, NY
Tickets are required for this event.

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Sunday, August 19th

U.S. Air Force Displays | 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at Pier 86, next to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Command Center Alpha
Challenger Vapor
X1 Mustang
Drill Exhibitions at 11:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m. by The USAF Honor Guard Drill Team
Band Performances at 11:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. by Max Impact from The USAF Band — watch Max Impact’s newest music video, “Send Me”
Military Working Dog demonstrations every hour
Interactive Science, Technology, Engineering and Math events
United States Air Force Academy Falcon demonstrations
Come and Meet:
Air Force Thunderbirds Crews
Medical Professionals with Interactive Exhibits
Cyber and Space Professionals
Pilots and Missile Operators
Explosive Ordinance Disposal Teams
Security Forces Teams

SR-71 Presentation by retired Colonel Rich Graham | 11 a.m.
Followed at noon by an SR-71 Q&A session on the flight deck by the A-12
Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum Theater
Tickets are required for this event.

Air Force Thunderbirds Flyover | 1 p.m.
Over the Hudson River by Pier 86

Air Force Helicopter Water Rescue Demonstration | 2 p.m.
Hudson River next to Pier 86

Concert by the Blue Aces from the USAF Heritage of America Band | 6:30 p.m.
With special performance by The USAF Honor Guard Drill Team at 6 p.m.
Back to the Beach at Midland Beach: Staten Island

New York Red Bulls vs Portland Timbers – Air Force Night | 7 p.m.
Red Bull Arena: Harrison, New Jersey
Tickets are required for this event.

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Monday, August 20th

U.S. Air Force Displays | 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at Pier 86, next to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Command Center Alpha
Challenger Vapor
X1 Mustang
Drill Exhibition at 1 p.m. by The USAF Honor Guard Drill Team
Band Performances at 12 p.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. by Max Impact from The USAF Band — watch Max Impact’s newest music video, “Send Me”
Military Working Dog demonstrations every hour
Interactive Science, Technology, Engineering and Math events
United States Air Force Academy Falcon demonstrations
Come and Meet:
Air Force Thunderbirds Crews
Medical Professionals with Interactive Exhibits
Cyber and Space Professionals
Pilots and Missile Operators
Explosive Ordinance Disposal Teams
Security Forces Teams

Concert by the Blue Aces from the USAF Heritage of America Band | 5 p.m.
With sepcial performance by The USAF Honor Guard Drill Team at 5:50 p.m.
Brooklyn War Memorial, Cadman Plaza: Brooklyn, NY

New York Mets vs Colorado Rockies – Air Force Night | 7 p.m.
Citi Field: Flushing, NY
Tickets are required for this event.

Air Force Movie Night and Concert | 8 p.m.
“Red Tails”
7:15 p.m. Concert by the Ceremonial Brass from The USAF Band
7:45 p.m. Meet the Tuskegee Airmen
Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum

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Tuesday, August 21st

U.S. Air Force Displays | 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. at Pier 86, next to the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum
Command Center Alpha
Challenger Vapor
X1 Mustang
Band Performances at 12 p.m., 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. by the Blue Aces from the USAF Heritage of America Band
Military Working Dog demonstrations every hour
Interactive Science, Technology, Engineering and Math events
United States Air Force Academy Falcon demonstrations
Come and Meet:
Air Force Thunderbirds Crews
Medical Professionals with Interactive Exhibits
Cyber and Space Professionals
Pilots and Missile Operators
Explosive Ordinance Disposal Teams
Security Forces Teams

Concert by Max Impact from The USAF Band | 3 p.m.
With special performance by The USAF Honor Guard Drill Team at 3:50 p.m.
South Street Seaport: Manhattan, NY
Watch Max Impact’s newest music video, “Send Me”

Brooklyn Cyclones vs Tri-City Valley Cats – Air Force Night | 7 p.m.
MCU Park: Brooklyn, NY
Tickets are required for this event.

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(U.S. Air Force graphic)