Morale: Air Force Pilots Seethe At The Injustice Of It All


August 16, 2009: In Afghanistan, the U.S. Air Force has been allowed to change its tactics. As part of a move to reduce civilian casualties, air force fighters must now, whenever possible, buzz the target (at high speed) before dropping a smart bomb. It's long been known that the A-10 ground attack aircraft, which often comes in low (except when the new version is dropping smart bombs). This scares the Afghans a great deal. It's believed that these pre-bombing buzzing of the target, will often cause the enemy to flee (as A-10s coming low often does.)

On a few occasions, fighters or bombers have made these low, frightening, passes, but the air force and navy eventually forbade their pilots, except in emergencies, from coming in low. This exposed the aircraft to enemy fire and put them at risk of flying into the ground. This has happened a few times, usually while the fighters were strafing the enemy.

Despite the risks,  now that fighters are allowed to come in low more often, pilot morale has soared. This is because fighter pilots, long the elite of the air force, have lost much of their glamour. That's because there job is no longer very dangerous. For example, the air force has been so successful in dominating the air that there are no more aces (pilots who have shot down five or more aircraft.) It's not that the U.S. Air Force pilots are not capable, it's just that no one wants to take them on. It's seen as suicidal.

It's gotten worse during the war on terror, where, the air force had to come up with a combat badge for support troops, because the only air force personnel getting shot at where the airmen who volunteered to help the army out with logistics and security jobs on the ground. Air force pilots seethe at the injustice of it all; airmen truck drivers who have seen more combat than fighter pilots, and have the combat badge, scars and war stories to prove it. It really hurts. It hurts a little less now that pilots can regularly come down to ground level, with or without guns blazing.



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