The Largest Security-Cleared Career Network for Defense and Intelligence Jobs - JOIN NOW

Intelligence

Iran Press TV

Air Force struggles to fill pilot slots for drones: Report

Iran Press TV

Mon Aug 26, 2013 3:50PM GMT

The US Air Force is having trouble finding volunteers to fill its unpopular drone pilot spots despite the increasing role of unmanned aircraft in US assassination and surveillance missions, a report says.

According to the Brookings Institution, there has been a significant recruitment drop this year with the Air Force Academy having so far only 12 volunteers for its 40 remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) training slots.

Last year the Air Force managed to fill 82 percent of its RPA training positions, while all manned aircraft slots were filled, Air Force Col. Bradley T. Hoagland, a command pilot, said in the report.

“The Air Force requirement in Fiscal Year 2012 was to train 1,129 traditional pilots and 150 RPA pilots,” Hoagland said. “However, the Air Force was not able to meet its RPA training requirements since there were not enough volunteers.”

Hoagland also said that the attrition rate of RPA pilots during the initial training has been three times higher than for other pilots.

There is a general sense that sitting in a Nevada base steering unmanned aircraft through video screens does not meet the characteristics of being a pilot.

“Lack of adequate or appropriate recognition is a factor for lower promotion rates, Hoagland noted. “One of the controversies surrounding their historical lack of high level recognition is the viewpoint that RPA pilots were not risking their lives while operating their aircraft 7,000 miles away in Nevada.”

The US Air Force has now 61 twenty-four-hour unmanned combat air patrols, or CAP, operating in the Middle East and North Africa and is intending to increase the number to 165 by 2014.

Air Force officials have defended their recruitment efforts, saying that before the attacks of September 11, 2001, there was only one CAP flying in the region.

The US has more than 1,300 RPA pilots comprising about 8 percent of all its pilots. That number is set to be increased to 1,650 by 2017.

Earlier this year a public outcry by veterans and pilots stopped a Pentagon plan to create a special Distinguished Warfare Medal for drone pilots and cyber operators. The medal would have outranked the Bronze Star and Purple Heart which are awarded for bravery or wounds on the actual battlefield.

AN/HJ



NEWSLETTER
Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list