Why Word Choice Matters

The Air Force could become a victim of its own success in the realm of remotely piloted vehicles, according to Sen. James Webb (D-Va.). “We’ve seen some really good results” from the Air Force’s use of RPA, Webb told defense reporters in Washington, D.C., this week. That success, he said, could be “corrosive for the Air Force in terms of manpower issues.” Webb’s comment suggested that he believes the lack of an on-board pilot translates to fewer “crew.” But the Air Force has noted that it actually takes just as many people, if not more, to operate an aircraft remotely than it does with a pilot in the cockpit. In fact, that’s why the Air Force switched terminology from “unmanned aerial vehicles” to “remotely piloted aircraft” because too many people thought “unmanned” meant exactly that.