Visiting DFW, Navy aviator promotes unmanned systems

cvaughn@star-telegram.com

FORT WORTH — As budget pressures continue to shrink the number of Navy Reserve aircraft squadrons, the service’s top reserve aviator said he is making a case to senior leaders for part-time sailors and pilots to assume a greater role in operating and maintaining unmanned systems.Unmanned aircraft are revolutionizing military aviation and intelligence-gathering simply because they can stay airborne so much longer than a plane or helicopter piloted by a person.in the Navy, systems such as the ScanEagle, fire Scout and Broad Area Maritime Surveillance are gaining traction, meaning that more naval flight officers and pilots will pilot drones than any gray-haired Top Gun graduate would have ever dreamed.”We see unmanned systems as a growth industry where we can help out the active component,” said Rear Adm. Chris Sadler, commander of Naval Air Forces Reserve. “Forcewide, we’re looking at what is the right mix of active and reserve personnel.”Sadler is himself a reservist. a former F-14 Tomcat and F/A-18 Hornet pilot, he lives in Grapevine, flies for Delta Air Lines and commutes to his Navy job in San Diego.he spent three days last week in Fort Worth and Dallas meeting with public officials, corporate executives and business leaders as part of a Navy campaign to raise its profile in areas without a significant naval presence.why Fort Worth was chosen remains unclear: the city is home to Naval Air Station Fort Worth, one of three naval installations in Texas and a duty station for thousands of reservists and active sailors.Sadler said he noticed a recurring theme of support of and appreciation for the base’s contribution to North Texas. But he did not wade into talk about whether the base would be vulnerable if the Defense Department made another round of base closures.As far as aircraft go, the Navy has the fewest at the joint reserve facility, far fewer than the Air Force and Marine Corps.”That’s out of my swim lane because the base belongs to Navy Installations Command,” Sadler said. “But as a customer of the base, I’m very satisfied. When we have a joint reserve base, things are going to evolve over time with a mix of forces and aircraft.”The Navy Reserve continues to contract, losing at least three squadrons this year, including Fleet Logistics Support Squadron 46 at the naval air station, recently named squadron of the year in the reserves.Next year, the service plans to decommission an E-2 reserve squadron in New Orleans. Personnel strength will decline too, from 66,000 this year to 62,000 next year.the Navy Reserve, Sadler said, will likely make roughly one-third of its forces operational on a regular basis.Chris Vaughn, 817-390-7547Twitter: @CVaughnFW

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Visiting DFW, Navy aviator promotes unmanned systems


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