Monday, March 31, 2008

UAV Predator Pilots and Extended Service, Mistakes are Bound to Happen

In a recent article on titled USAF: Extended Duty Taking Toll on UAV Pilots the increased amount of UAVs being used in the Middle East has created problems with exhaustion of the pilots who control these unmanned vehicles.

The USAF has been ordered to deploy all their Predator UAVs to Iraq, in a effort to end the conflict, as the article states. The article continues:

"While the Predator itself is immune to the effects of extended deployments and long hours, the crews guiding and servicing the aircraft aren't"

This poses a huge problem. Although most Predator missions are only used for surveillance or scouting, there are some "armed" Predator missions. This is where fatigue and exhaustion really become problematic. When a pilots mission is the strategically attack a specific house, in a specific town, within an area that contains many houses that may look similar or are closely built together, there is no room for error. This "surge" in the amount of UAVs used, and the increased number of hours pilots have to operate their vehicles promotes cause for alarm. What if a pilot becomes tired behind the command of a UAV and blows up a hospital? school? apartment building? That could be catastrophic for not only public opinion for the US presence in the Middle East, and Iraq, but also may promote retaliation attacks (Although, I do not condone the US presence in Iraq or Afghanistan in any respect).

Although UAVs may be unmanned, and safer than sending in manned fighter jets, or their equivalent, there is a greater risk of error. Like I have already stated, fatigue is the greatest enemy of the UAV pilot, who is not actually directly involved in the action, and therefore is not going to have his adrenaline pumping as much as a fighter jet pilot. This poses the problem of detachment from the actual events that are unfolding, and the possibility of attention being diverted from the goal.

I am all behind using UAVs to remove the possibility of more soldier casualties from war, but I think there is an easier solution. It involves removing ALL casualty possiblities from the war, by sending the soldiers home!