Last year, armed UAVs circled Iraq and Afghanistan for 135,000 hours — about fifteen years of nonstop flight time. This year, they will fly 190,000 hours, double that if you include all of the military’s unmanned planes. Even as troops come home from Iraq and Afghanistan in coming years, the Air Force figures it will need more than one million UAV hours annually to be prepared for future wars. There are also drones flying antidrug missions in South America, keeping watch over ships in pirate-thick waters, and patrolling the U. S.-Mexican border. This year the Air Force will train more UAV pilots than fighter and bomber pilots combined. And the proof that warfare will never be the same again can be found in the Pentagon budget: Next year, the United States will buy more unmanned aircraft than manned, as it expands to fifty combat air patrols over Iraq and Afghanistan, flown from Creech and bases in Texas, California, Arizona, North Dakota, and New York.
Here it is, with hard numbers: Almost FIFTEEN frickin years of accumulated unmanned combat operations in just one year. And the USAF is ramping up their estimates to over a million hours of unmanned flights per year.
W.E.B. Griffin jokes that if you want to fly, you join the Army, not the Air Force. Why? Because the Army has more aircraft. This is probably going to change now, especially since the physical requirements to fly from a desk should allow more otherwise qualified candidates to go through flight school. That is unless some dumbass USAF general decides to force them all to pas the same requirements, which is costly and simply stupid.
And let’s not forget the political side of this: if you shoot down one of our UAVs, all you are doing is costing us money. There is no flag-draped casket on the news, or POW reading your manifesto on videotape with a knife to his throat. Nope, it’s just money.
Also, there’s more: we are making smaller and smaller air-to-ground rockets. Miss a drop on a 500-pound bomb and you may end up blowing up a school or hospital by accident. Newer munitions are tiny in comparison, and much more accurate. It’ll be much harder to miss, and if it does, it will be a lot less damage.
How is the anti-war establishment going to adjust to a war in which we are the ones doing the killing, our service members are safe and there is no real collateral damage? We will see about that.