Drone-pilots to confront the country of the enemies of the Nevada desert
The drone’s capabilities are state of the art, obtain information and perform air attacks on targets all done by pilots thousands of miles away
INDIAN SPRINGS, Nev. – Within the Creech Air Force Base an hour north of Las Vegas, military pilots navigate counter-terrorism missions around the world – from a windowless room in a military installation in addition to a two-lane highway.
The base serves as the nerve center for the country’s drone program (officials umbrage take on the term drone – these aircraft are not your tech friend, hobby, toys). Pilots act as fighters in the skies over places like Syria, Iraq and locations in Africa. But they sit in a cockpit in the middle of the desert.
“We fly with the same laws of armed conflict with our human brethren. We are flying with the same rules of engagement. In many ways, I would say, because we are there and we have that persistent look, we are there for a long time on the top of the objectives, we generally have a little more situational awareness than a fighter crew or bomber crew that the controls in the airspace and there, drop our bombs and get-out-of-here type thing,” said Lt Col Ronnie, who leads the wing of the pilots at Creech and is a self. Pilots at the base are only allowed to give their first names for security reasons.
The program is no secret. Images of these pilots, and their tasks are depicted again and again in Hollywood, lending to a not fully formed picture of what these pilots endured and the training they have undergone.
But specific characteristics of the collected information and the on-going missions, of course, remain under wraps. Many details of the program are kept secret because of the sensitivity of the operations carried out by the pilots. Fox was no access to the view of a pilot in the cockpit.
Quiet, atmospheric lighting, with the constant hum of computers, the space where the cockpits have no windows to the outside to maintain focus. Intrusion and interference is very limited. No one can enter the cockpit without permission.
For the aircraft itself, the long gone by the MQ-1 Predator is recently retired and pilots now control only the MQ-9 Reaper, which offers more possibilities. That includes visual sensors with a wide range of face – laser, infrared, and full motion video to be the “eyes in the sky.” It has a range of 1150 km and a ceiling of 50,000 feet in height.
An MQ-9 Reaper drone is parked under a hangar on the tarmac at Creech Air Force Base.
“At the time, the sortie duration are increased with the mower. It carries more weapons,” said Kol. Julian Crook, commander of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Creech. “The rest of the world has taken and as we have longer loiter times, persistent attacks, and exploring options available to us and really exactly ability to focus on the enemy,” Cheater added.
Due to the opaque nature of the program, misconceptions inevitably rise. Cheater said that he is constantly dismissing the idea that these RPA’s are autonomous.
“What we do is fully staffed. There is not an unmanned system at all. It just so happens that, that man or that woman is not co-locating with the plane. The cockpit is on the ground somewhere, so it is a very hands-on operation, ” said Trickster.
Pilots will be informed before they sit in the cockpit and remain there for eight hours a day in shifts, with periodic breaks. But sometimes, mission intelligence changes in a blink of an eye. Pilots need to adapt quickly.
The MQ-9 Reaper requires a comprehensive maintenance when not in use. The drones are also dispatched from Creech Air Force Base in crates to bases all over the world.
“It can be anything his opponent interference to the game plan to the things such as the weather. We can get out there and find that the weather closes us to the mission we were planning to do, and so we have to adapt,” said Ronnie.
Asked if the pilots ever get nervous or anxious before a mission, Lt. Briana said that she relies on the trust of the crew, and there was no time for uncertainty. She added there are days on which the hunting can be a waiting game of sorts, as well.
“Usually I have a sense of why we look at what we are viewing, even if I don’t have specific details…there are some days when we look to the same place for several hours…but I don’t think we ever get bored in the cockpit,” Briana said.
Drone pilots are constantly in contact with many different groups, including the army. Reports say that an operator command 1.2 seconds to reach the drone via a satellite uplink.
The logo of the 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing is decorated on the side of the MQ-9 Reaper
Critics say that human error can lead to additional damage with death of citizens in hitting a target.
Cheater stresses that this is not random carpet of bombs is carried out haphazardly, but are pinpoint forces that can thwart an enemy to be hit by the coalition forces, saving countless lives.
In any case, Creech offers guidance and services for that pilots who need to talk through certain moral implications of the job.
But that stigma is dated, according to officials in the program. The strikes that are carried out are so coordinated that by the end of the day, pilots understand the meaning of the work that they do, and how to preserve the national security.
“I’m very proud of what I do,” Briana said, “and I try to share that with people when they ask and there is no operational security is a reason not to.”
Andrew Craft is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in Las Vegas, Nevada . Follow him on twitter: @AndrewCraft