Fighting terror with a joystick
In a Las Vegas office so nondescript its exterior resembles a shipping container, a group of pilots spend their days in front of computers, navigating planes with joysticks.
Dr. Joel Hayward, dean of the British Royal Air Force College, spoke with Metro on the pros and cons of Predators.
How useful are Predators and other remotely piloted aircraft in the Iraq and Afghanistan wars?
One of the problems in these wars is that you can’t have enough eyes. Predators are extremely useful because they can fly endlessly and gather intelligence, while a fighter jet is gone within 30 seconds. And the military doesn’t risk having the pilots shot down. A captured U.S. fighter pilot would be a huge boon to the Taliban.
Will RPAs become more common?
Yes. Developed countries like the United States have a fascination with technology, and RPAs are cost-effective and save pilots’ lives. Is it less moral to fire a missile from a Predator than from a fighter jet? Part of being a soldier is that you’re willing to take a life because you’re risking your own, but RPAs change that equation.
In the future, will there be no such thing as a Top Gun-style fighter pilot who flies missions at the risk of being shot down?
In 25 years, the majority of aircraft being flown by developed nations will probably be RPAs. But when it comes to using weapons, I think the military will still want humans to be involved.