Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said, the US Air Force is taking steps to retain UAV Pilots, including their double Flight- time pay when their intial commitment ends. “These are first steps. Within the next few months we’ll have a more robust plan,”
During a “State of the Air Force” briefing the Pentagon James and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said attrition of the service’s MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper Pilots in particular is acute and needs to be addressed immediately. “The biggest problem is training,” Welch said. “We can only train about 180 people a year and we need 300-a-year trained, and we’re losing about 240 from the community each year.”
James and she saw the problem firsthand and visited the Creech Air Force Base in Nevada. “Talks with the RPA Pilots and the sensor operators and their leaders certainly suggested to me that this is a force that is under significant stress from what is an unrelenting pace of operations,” she said. On an average the manned Fly Aircrafts Fly 200-300 hours a year, “RPA Pilots log four times that much, ranging from 900 to 1,100 Flight hours per year. This is very stressful operations because mistakes can cost lives.”
While retaining Pilots is service’s priority, Welch also said that unmanned Aircrafts will be address as “enterprise’. “The crisis right now is with the Pilot force. It is the most stressed part because it is the lowest manned part of the RPA fleet, percentage-wise,” he said. “They have the longest and most expensive training pipeline in that community.”
James said the Air Force will maximize its use of National Guard and Reserve RPA Pilots by redirecting resources to bring additional personnel to active-duty status.
“We’re also looking at pay,” James said. “Previously policy did not allow us to offer retention bonuses to RPA Pilots who are only qualified to Fly unmanned platforms. We think we need to get this changed and we’re working to do so. But for now, I will be utilizing my authority to compensate and incentivize career RPA-only Pilots whose service obligations are expiring. As our experienced operators reach the end of their initial active-duty service commitment we will increase the monthly incentive pay from $650 a month to $1,500 for those RPA Pilots while we also explore more permanent incentive plans.
Susweta Bose [Masters in Mass Comm ]