- Associated Press - Saturday, June 14, 2014

ALAMOGORDO, N.M. (AP) - Holloman Air Force Base is devoting more and more time to training pilots in the use of drones, according to an Albuquerque Journal report (https://bit.ly/1oqj2yt).

The number of students learning how to operate remotely piloted aircraft, or “RPAs,” at the Alamogordo base has multiplied.

Holloman officials say more than 700 people are enrolled in the training program this fiscal year.

That is a significant increase from 136 graduates when the program first began in 2009.

Lt. Col. Calvin Powell, a training squadron commander, said the base still cannot meet the demand from the drones while maintaining enough air crew.

The use of drones in combat missions in Afghanistan and elsewhere continue to draw criticism.

Human rights groups say U.S.-operated drones led to civilians getting killed in two attacks in Yemen within the last five years. In a 2103 report, Human Rights Watch said those attacks “killed civilians indiscriminately in clear violation of the laws of war.” The report also stated other drone attacks “may have targeted people who were not legitimate military objectives or caused disproportionate civilian deaths.”

“There are humans in the chain from the start to the finish,” Powell said. “Any time you have humans involved, there is always opportunity for human error. However, we go to great lengths from the very beginning of our training to minimize that aspect of it.”

At Holloman, student pilots never leave the ground for drone training. They study by manning simulated missions, according to the base. The facility currently has four MQ-1 “Predator” drones and six MQ-9 “Reaper” drones. The Predator is about the size of a Cessna 172 and can haul two missiles and fly up to 20 hours. The Reaper, nicknamed “Warthog” for its large size, can carry up to four missiles and two 500-pound, laser-guided bombs. It can fly up to 16 hours.


Information from: Albuquerque Journal, https://www.abqjournal.com

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