USAF is developing a new video game designed to attract young recruits to a crucial, growing career field: drone piloting.
The U.S. military is increasingly using armed combat drones to target terrorists and insurgents in Afghanistan and Pakistan. remotely piloted aircraft, or RPA -- known as drones in popular parlance -- are unmanned, but the Air Force still needs pilots to direct them from a remote base.
Indeed, the Air Force hasbeen struggling to provide enough trained drone pilots to keep up with the escalating demands in Afghanistan. To help fill those spots, the service recently created a new career field specifically for pilots of these unmanned aircraft.
But convincing young people who grew up watching movies and playing video games that glorified manned fighters to join the ranks of drone pilots may not be easy. So the Air Force is pursuing a game based on RPA to help persuade recruits that this could be a cool career path to explore.
"Air Education and Training Command is developing Predator/Reaper simulation to encourage recruits to consider the RPA career field," Col. John Thompson, the future learning adviser to the Air Education and Training Command, told AOL News in an e-mail.
The military's interest in gaming technology is nothing new. The "America's Army" series is now one of the most successful first-person shooter video games around. It's credited with boosting recruitment for the Army and enhancing the military's image among the younger generation. The Army also helped fund development of the popular "Full Spectrum Warrior" game.
"The U.S. Army developed America's Army into a great recruiting and training tool using the latest in video game technology," Thompson wrote on the Defense Department's Armed with Science blog.
Although the game may showcase a fifth-generation fighter simulator, "we don't seem to have troubles recruiting F-22 pilots," he said.
This marriage of military and entertainment is very effective, observers say.
"The Pentagon's embrace of video games is part of a much larger phenomenon -- 'militainment' -- that is reshaping how the public understands today's conflicts," Peter Singer, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, writes in Foreign Policy magazine. "The term was first coined to describe any public entertainment that celebrated the military, but today it could be redefined to mean the fascinating, but also worrisome, blurring of the line between entertainment and war."
Worrisome or not, "militainment" has proved a boon for Army, and it appears the Air Force is following suit. Whether it will follow the Army's lead with a fully downloadable video game available to the general public remains to be seen.
For now, Thompson notes the focus is on creating a simulator for Air Force recruits. He said it will be based on the Predator and Reaper, but no other details are being released.