While the Navy may view the F-35 as the last manned fighter—an opinion voiced by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus last week—the Air Force doesn’t agree. Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, speaking at a Defense One symposium on Wednesday in Washington, D.C., said of Mabus’s remark: “No. I don’t believe that.” In the timeframe Mabus was talking about, Welsh said the Air Force would need “a number of platforms” with human crews aboard. “Keeping a human out of the risk equation is relevant to a point, but it’s not the major point,” explained Welsh. “The human brain … as a sensor in combat is still immensely important in our view,” he said, due to its ability to rapidly assimilate conditions and develop situational awareness. “Until we have a set of sensors that can maneuver as well as a manned platform in every scenario, then you should continue that manned platform,” he said. Remotely piloted aircraft are useful for missions requiring endurance beyond that of a human being, and the Air Force will always use RPAs when “the unmanned platform does the job better,” said Welsh.
Memorial Day is a time to remember all those who died fighting for their country, just like A1C William Pitsenbarger, an Air Force pararescueman who took part in more than 250 rescue missions before he was killed at the age of 21. His selflessness and valor in the Vietnam War earned him an Air Force Cross and, eventually, a Medal of Honor.
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