Metro-East News

Roger That: Air Force boosts incentive pay for drone pilots

Mike Fitzgerald
Mike Fitzgerald

Congress has ordered the Air Force to increase aviation incentive pay for officers flying remotely piloted aircraft from $25,000 to $35,000, according to Air Force Times.

The 2016 National Defense Authorization Act, which Congress passed Nov. 10 after President Barack Obama vetoed the first version, also includes an amendment ordering the Air Force to send in a report on RPA manning and on plans to fix any undermanning problems.

Obama signed the revised 2016 NDAA on Wednesday.

These moves come as the RPA community is under strain to fly surveillance and combat missions all over the world. The Air Force is also considering the possibility of allowing enlisted airmen to fly drones and is expected to announce its decision early next year.

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The Air Force has hired civilian defense contractors to fly MQ-9 Reaper drones to help track suspected militants and other targets in global hot spots, a previously undisclosed expansion in the privatization of once-exclusively military functions, according to the Los Angeles Times.

For the first time, civilian pilots and crews now operate what the Air Force calls “combat air patrols,” daily round-the-clock flights above areas of military operations to provide video and collect other sensitive intelligence.

Contractors control two Reaper patrols a day, but the Air Force plans to expand that to 10 a day by 2019. Each patrol involves up to four drones. Civilians are not allowed to pinpoint targets with lasers or fire missiles. They operate only Reapers that provide intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, known as ISR, said Air Force Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, head of Air Combat Command.

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The Air Force has released 250 pages of mostly redacted records on its use of cadet informants at the Air Force Academy after two years of delays. This program, in cooperation with the Office of Special Investigations, used cadets to spy on their classmates who were suspected of rape and drug use, according to the blog Task and Purpose.

Because of the redactions, the documents released Monday acknowledge the informant program, but do little else. These papers were related to a misconduct case regarding former cadet Eric Thomas.

Thomas, an informant, claimed that the school kicked him out for cooperating with OSI agents. Thomas expects a report from the inspector general’s office to clear his name.

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The power struggle between Al Qaeda and ISIS took another turn on Nov. 15 when a suicide bombing in Syria took out six top level ISIS fighters, according to a story on the PopularMilitary.com website.

The bombing occurred during a top-level meeting of the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, an ISIS militia that holds parts of the Golan Heights.

The attack claimed the lives of six members of the Yarmouk Martyrs Brigade, including Muhammad “Abu Ali” al-Baridi, the leader of the group who was also known as “The Uncle.”

According to FOX News, Al Nusra Front, which is Al Qaeda’s Syrian affiliate, took credit for the attack and called it a “heroic” attack on Twitter.

Mike Fitzgerald: 618-239-2533, @MikeFitz3000

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