Congress is looking for answers regarding the education, training, and promotion rates for Air Force operators of remotely piloted aircraft, according to language included in the Fiscal 2013 defense authorization act. Lawmakers want a report from service leadership within the next six months on this topic, according to Section 527 of the legislation. The report should address “the reasons for persistently lower average education and training and promotion rates” for RPA pilots and the long-term impact of sustaining such lower rates, states the act. The report should also contain a plan to raise the rates and an analysis of the potential impacts of the plan on achieving and sustaining the Air Force’s RPA combat air patrol objectives. Senior Air Force leaders have for some time noted that the RPA field is still on a surge footing, pressing personnel into combat in Afghanistan while leaving little time for career development afforded other fields.
NASA, SpaceX, and United Launch Alliance are all preparing to launch their next-gen rockets from Florida’s Space Coast, two of them before the year is out. One is expected to liberate the U.S. launch enterprise from its reliance on Russian-made RD-180 engines, while all three rockets could eventually carry astronaut crews.