Paramilitary: December 6, 2004


The U.S. Air Force is going to integrate its 175,000 reserves (including National Guard) into active duty (containing 350,000 troops) units. Initially, this will take the form of a number of experiments. Most of them involve assigning active duty troops to reserve bases, and vice versa. But the plan is more ambitious than that. Air Force reserve intelligence units will be working with army reserve intelligence units. This will enable the air force and reserve to constantly maintain a working knowledge, at all times,  of how each service operates. Thus when there is a war, and the reserve intelligence units are activated, they will not have to spend a lot of time and effort learning about what the other service is doing, or how they are doing it.

The reserves will also further develop a hot new concept; reachback. This is where some parts of an air force unit being sent overseas stay in the United States, and use Internet like communications capabilities to do their work from their home base. Sending fewer people overseas is a major advantage, as it means less transportation, and supply effort, is needed. In the last decade, its been noted that modern communications make it practical for some support units to stay behind, with no loss in effectiveness in the entire unit. Reservists make for better reachback troops, because they have to go through more additional training before being sent overseas. Moreover, the reservists can be taken on and off active duty, as the workload changes. 

Another interesting innovation with the reserves is using them more for operating UAVs via reachback. Its known that you can fly UAVs using operators that are half way around the world. UAVs are very labor intensive, as you need a pilot and one or more sensor operators for something like the Predator or Global Hawk. In addition, you need shifts of operators, because these air force UAVs typically stay in the air for 12-36 hours at a time. So having the operators back in the United States greatly reduces the number of people you have in the combat zone. The UAV maintenance crews get the aircraft ready for take off and on the airstrip. But after that, the crew back in the U.S. can take over. Another advantage of using reservists as UAV operators is that you use these UAVs a lot more in wartime than in peacetime. Thus the majority of operators could be kept in the reserves in peacetime. The air force is also developing combat UAVs, which will also see a lot more use in wartime than in peacetime. The air force also plans to keep a lot of the combat UAVs (UCAVs) in storage containers during peacetime. This allows the UCAVs and their reserve crews to be activated quickly and greatly increase air force combat power, without the expense of maintaining active aircraft in peacetime. 


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