Shep Reviews the Reaper.
The trip to Creech (arranged by CT Wang) to view drone (whoops “RPA”) operations was extremely interesting. The briefings were UNCLASS and several spouses attended. We rapidly concluded that MQ-9 Reapers with GPS, cameras, sensors, buddy-laser and radar, armed with up to four PGM 500lb bombs or 8 Hellfires, could have taken over the Misty mission from 50,000 ft. (well sorta’) with up to 20 hrs. duration and wouldn’t have to pee.
There are also new, more sophisticated, drones (RPAs) at Creech but we could not get the classified briefs. We got good briefings on the evolution of RPA operations, training, manning and schedules by aircrews who have been in real drone combat for a long time. Training for a full-up pilot takes about one year (same as UPT) and ends with special wings. It is a different kind of warfare from ours, but exceedingly lethal and complex with PGMs. Interestingly, women progress more rapidly in early training because women don’t play computer video games like guys and there is no reverse learning from controls that operate in opposite directions (no we didn’t understand it either, none of us plays video games).
The Reaper is a BIG machine with a cost (without cameras and sensors) of about $20M.
Pete Collins and I decided we would demonstrate the ability of old fighter pilots to fly drones, Pete flying the Reaper, me operating the sensors – it was determined we were pretty much dogshit and should stick with airplanes.