News story: RAF Reaper pilots gain wings

Ministry of Defence said:
In the first graduation ceremony of its kind, the 4 RAF pilots were presented with specialist pilot badges at Creech Air Force Base in Nevada.
The graduation follows the announcement in December 2012, by the RAF, of the creation of a specialised flying branch for those flying remotely-piloted air systems (RPAS).
The announcement is recognition within the RAF of the growing complexity and capability of RPAS and their increasingly pivotal role on operations.

The RAF's Deputy Commander-in-Chief Operations, Air Marshal Richard Garwood, alongside 4 newly-graduated remotely-piloted aircraft pilots at Creech Air Force Base [Picture: Senior Aircraftwoman Gemma Nagi, Crown copyright 2013]As a sub-specialisation within the RAF Flying Branch, those who qualify are known as RPAS pilots. To identify qualified RPAS pilots a dedicated RPAS pilot badge has been created, which differs only slightly from the design of the current RAF pilot badge by having blue laurel leaves to identify the specialisation.
The RAF’s Deputy Commander-in-Chief-Operations, Air Marshal Richard Garwood, awarded the first badges to the newly qualified RPAS pilots. He said:
This first graduation of RPAS pilots makes clear not only the RAF’s commitment to this pivotal technology but the associated need to produce highly qualified pilots devoted to fully exploiting RPAS capabilities now and in the future.
The RAF has 2 RPAS Squadrons; 39 Squadron currently based at Creech Air Force Base, and 13 Squadron, which is based at RAF Waddington, Lincolnshire.

Remotely-piloted air system (RPAS) pilot badges, differ only slightly from the current RAF pilot badges; blue laurel leaves identify the specialisation [Picture: Senior Aircraftwoman Gemma Nagi, Crown copyright 2013]The RAF currently flies the Reaper MQ-9 Remotely piloted aircraft, which can be armed but are used primarily for real-time Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) support and are an integral part of the RAF’s airpower capability, complementing its manned aircraft.
Like manned aircraft, the Reapers are always under the control of human crews working to the same legal rules of engagement but have the immense advantage over manned aircraft by being able to loiter or persist over a target area far longer.
The establishment of the RPAS pilot flying branch has been designed to aid the recruitment and training of qualified pilots to support current Reaper based operations but also gives the RAF the flexibility to convert and operate other future potential remotely-piloted air systems that might be considered by the Ministry of Defence.

Air Marshal Richard Garwood speaks at the graduation [Picture: Senior Aircraftwoman Gemma Nagi, Crown copyright 2013]Addressing those gathered at the graduation ceremony, Wing Commander Thomas Burke, the officer commanding 39 Squadron, said:
Today’s graduating Reaper pilots should be justifiably proud of their achievements, having paved the way for the development of a new and exciting sub-specialisation within the Royal Air Force.
To earn their wings they’ve had achieve the highest standards of airmanship and operational prowess, and I am delighted that they will soon join the RAF’s Reaper squadrons operating the aircraft in support of UK and NATO forces in Afghanistan.
RPAS are an essential part of the Royal Air Force’s force mix now and in the future; today marks the establishment of a sub-specialisation that will ensure the Royal Air Force can continue to lead the way in providing this essential and burgeoning battle-winning capability.

So someone explain to me why they still have to have officer pilots to do this?


Look at me I failed flight school, but I get to wear wings that only slightly differ from someone how can actually fly an aircraft that he is sitting in and thus be exposed to the the risks. Look on the bright side I am still an officer and get all the perks that go with it (including god awful uniforms).

Thanks RAF RSS you have made me laugh again.


They don't kill anybody though, if their 'zero casualties' advert is to be believed, so why have any in the first place?


I do wonder how the real pilots react to the only slightly different wings the fearless RPAS pilots wear, should make for good mess night entertainment.
I do wonder how the real pilots react to the only slightly different wings the fearless RPAS pilots wear, should make for good mess night entertainment.
well I think up until now they wore the same one's (standing by to be corrected) saw a tubby little schoolboy-looking one at RAF leeming and he'd sewn his wings onto his DPM Combat Jacket, bless.
Instead of punching out and ejecting, do they just go for a cup of coffee before pressing the RESET button and starting again.
1000 hrs FlightSim badges next?

They're almost, almost a total waste of rations.
What would their equivalent of Blackhawk Down be? A debagging and cucumbering in the mess?
It's not an April Fool wind up. It's gen. In theory, the Watchkeeper and Desert Hawk 'jockeys' should get parity in payscale to the lesser Sons of Valhalla. I was a nav on Bloodhounds (when I wasn't dolphin training). I wonder if I could retrospectively apply for a badge?

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