Newly trained pilots just out of undergraduate flight training will be assigned to fly remotely piloted aircraft as a stopgap measure to relieve an RPA pilot shortage, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James announced.

“We’ll have 80 undergraduate pilot training graduates over the next 12 months and they will be assigned to RPA positions … after that tour they’ll go on to another airframe,” James said at a July 15 event in Arlington, Va. The RPA schoolhouse is currently producing a little over half of the required number of RPA pilots, due to a shortage of instructors, thanks to the high operational demand for pilots. James said RPA operators are flying four times the amount that manned pilots do, logging an average of 850 to 900 flight hours annually.

“They fly six days in a row and are away from their families about 13 hours a day,” she added. USAF also is implementing new incentive bonuses of $15,000 a year for five- or eight-year commitments, and petitioning Congress to reallocate $100 million in funding to address key RPA infrastructure and support needs, such as ground control stations, simulators, and facilities.

The funds also would allow​ USAF to hire additional civilian instructor pilots and speed technological developments, James said. Accelerating development of “automatic takeoff and landing will ultimately allow us to use fewer personnel in the launch and recovery part,” she explained. UPT graduates will begin shipping to RPA units in August and bonuses will take effect in 2016, she said.

Source: Air Force News

One comment

  1. The answer to this problem is a joint one. Rather than paying USAF RPA pilots a ton more money, yet still having a huge shortfall as the demand for more UAS increases, maybe it might be better to use the thousands of other UAS trained personnel in the Army and USMC to fill the joint ISR gap?

    The other services could provide the answer to this gap if they swapped out old equipment made for limited line of sight operations and with only single sensor capability with the newer MQ-1C or

    Sadly our inefficient use of personnel is the real problem, along with the Army and USMC adhering to old program of record paradigms that don’t fit UAS technology. Attempting to have decades long spiral upgrades for group 3 UAS has led to a bunch of soldiers and Marine UAS aircrew being stuck in garrison unable to meet the current challenges while their combat systems are ineffective in any current or future fight.

    The primary culprit is the RQ-7 Shadow. This is really old technology that is manpower intensive and is far inferior to the MQ-1C Grey Eagle in every way. Trust me… I have thousands of hours invested in attempting to “make shadow work”. It doesn’t.

    The pentagon would be better served by transitioning all those shadow units to grey eagle, instead of wasting time and money attempting to upgrade shadow, which then fills the joint ISR gap. This an easy and far more cost effective solution.

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