“Burnout Forces U.S. to Curtail Drone Flights”
The New York Times, June 17 2015, p.A1
“After a decade of waging long-distance war through their video screens, America’s drone operators are burning out, and the Air Force is being forced to cut back on the flights even as military and intelligence officials are demanding more of them over intensifying combat zones in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. The Air Force plans to trim the flights by the armed surveillance drones to 60 a day by October from a recent peak of 65 as it deals with the first serious exodus of the crew members who helped usher in the era of war by remote control. Air Force officials said that this year they would lose more drone pilots, who are worn down by the unique stresses of their work, than they can train. … The cut in flights is an abrupt shift for the Air Force. Drone missions increased tenfold in the past decade, relentlessly pushing the operators in an effort to meet the insatiable demand for streaming video of insurgent activities in Iraq, Afghanistan and other war zones, including Somalia, Libya and now Syria. The reduction could also create problems for the C.I.A., which has used Air Force pilots to conduct drone missile attacks on terrorism suspects in Pakistan and Yemen, government officials said. … The biggest problem is that a significant number of the 1,200 pilots are completing their obligation to the Air Force and are opting to leave. … At the same time, a training program is producing only about half of the new pilots that the service needs because the Air Force had to reassign instructors to the flight line to expand the number of flights over the past few years. … What had seemed to be a benefit of the job, the novel way that the crews could fly Predator and Reaper drones via satellite links while living safely in the United States with their families, has created new types of stresses as they constantly shift back and forth between war and family activities and become, in effect, perpetually deployed.”
Quickie analysis: This is the result of relying so heavily on relatively few people to fight the War on Terror.