Spreading RPA Understanding

The Air Force is still fighting a lack of understanding of remotely piloted aircraft, including safety and capabilities inside host nations across US Central Command, an issue that has impacted operations at times. The biggest issue facing the deployed remotely piloted aircraft community has been “trying to educate” host nations, Lt. Col. Crystal Powers, commander of the 46th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, which handles MQ-1 launch and recovery operations in CENTCOM, said at AWS16. “A lot of folks don’t understand the capability,” Powers said. “We end up having to potentially assure host nations and partners about the capabilities and help them understand that” to get clearances to operate. This issue arose recently during a high profile incident. After 10 US sailors were taken captive by Iran when their boats ran aground in Iranian territory, the Air Force launched remotely piloted aircraft from Kuwait to support the response. However, this move upset the Kuwaitis, so the US had to “shut down operations” and “go back and mend fences,” said Lt. Gen. Charles Brown, commander of US Air Forces Central Command. The use of RPAs in near Iranian territory made Kuwait nervous, he said.