RPAs Here to Stay

Remotely piloted aircraft have “a permanent place in our Air Force,” said Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz. However, they won’t be capable of undertaking the whole of the tactical mission “in the near term” and probably not for 20 years to 30 years, said Schwartz last week following a speech at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C. He acknowledged that, for many missions, the balance of manned to unmanned aircraft “is shifting to RPAs,” but he foresees manned aircraft being essential for decades to come. “There is still a place for manned aircraft,” he asserted, especially in “contested airspace,” where RPAs simply aren’t survivable. Moreover, in an apparent reference to Pentagon leaders who have questioned the need to make the next bomber optionally manned, Schwartz said, “Could you be comfortable with a nuclear-laden RPA? I wouldn’t.” (For more from Schwartz’s Feb. 9 CSIS appearance, read F-22 Putting on Airs, Schwartz: Inspector General’s F-22 Probe is Normal, and Offboard, not Overboard.)