Will drones make fighter pilots obsolete? That's a big question hanging over the Pentagon as it considers what the future of air power looks like. Well, in a press conference today, the chief of staff of the U.S. Air Force made it clear that humans will always have a place in the cockpit. After all, somebody's going to have to pilot America's X-wing fighters once the Air Force gets its hands on a few.
Gen. Welsh slipped in the Star Wars reference when reporters asked him what jobs would dominate the Air Force of the future. Cyber defense jobs and all gigs drone-related will be hot, of course. But Welsh also said, , "We will continue to get the kinds of people we have gotten for years who want to come in and fly the F-22, the F-35, the X-Wing fighter." Asked later if he was, in fact, referring to Luke Skywalker's starfighter, the general confirmed the news.
"Oh heck yes."
Given that nobody will tell us what the X-37B unmanned space plane is actually for, it's entirely possible that USAF is already developing some manner of starfighter. Let's face it, though: a computer can't make that shot into the Death Star's thermal exhaust port. The Air Force is going to need pilots, preferably of the jedi stripe. Now let's just hope the government doesn't go with the lowest bidder once it's time to award contracts for the X-wing.
For a more sober, less Star Wars-themed look at the future of the Air Force, check out our interview with Gen. Welsh from last April.