Washington, DC - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly
29 October 2013
In a low-profile effort to reduce unmanned aircraft training costs, US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) has established a formal training unit for air force and special operations personnel learning to fly small unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs).
More than 130 students a year are taught by the Small Unmanned Aircraft System Joint Formal Training Unit (JFTU), which is part of Detachment 1 at the 371st Special Operations Combat Training Squadron at Hurlburt Field in Florida.
Small UAVs are a growing area of interest for the US Air Force (USAF), which has historically focused on larger unmanned systems, including the MQ-1 Predator, MQ-9 Reaper, and RQ-4 Global Hawk. USAF officials are in the process of putting together a new road map for small UAVs, which are generally viewed as easier to transport, cheaper, and less vulnerable to air defence systems.
AFSOC's JFTU comprises a detachment commander and five civilian small UAV training specialists who provide initial qualification training to military members who will be flying small UAVs.
In June the US Air Force Academy sent cadets to the training course for the first time.
In Fiscal Year 2014 (FY14) the JTFU will provide training for flight operations involving the AeroVironment Wasp II and Wasp AE, as well as the company's RQ-11 Raven and RQ-20 Puma.