Remotely piloted aircraft development worldwide is not progressing at the same pace as the “dizzying spectacle” seen in the United States today, says Thomas Ehrhard, special assistant to the Air Force Chief of Staff. In fact, it “has been really interesting” to monitor what has—or has not—been happening globally with RPAs, he said Wednesday during his RPA presentation for AFA’s Mitchell Institute for Airpower Studies (see above). For example, while the Israelis are well-versed in operating shorter range, line-of-sight RPAs, they have encountered “a very difficult process” in maturing “much more sophisticated unmanned systems,” he noted. Ehrhard’s comment echoed those made recently by Lt. Gen. Phillip Breedlove, deputy chief of staff for operations, plans, and requirements. Speaking at an AFA-sponsored breakfast presentation June 24 in Arlington, Va., Breedlove said, “there are nations that just desperately want to fly a Predator-like product, and they think they can just go put a kid on it and let him fly it like an X-Box.” Well, it’s just not that easy.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.