The force of 1,100 UAV pilots that the Air Force anticipates building by Fiscal 2012 will be no token group. In fact, this set of fliers will be second in size only to the service’s F-16 pilot community, Brig. Gen. Lyn Sherlock, director of air operations on the Air Staff, said Tuesday at AFA’s Air & Space Conference (see below). Sherlock said the Air Force has “a little over 450” operators of Predator and Reaper UAVs today. “In the next couple of years, we are going to double that number,” she said during a press briefing. Those pilots will be flying these UAVs “directly in support of the warfighter,” she said. Additional pilots will be added on top of that to provide expertise in UAV matters in air operations centers and on command staffs, thereby bringing the total to 1,100, she said.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.