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USAF tackles manning crisis head-on

Photo: A pilot from the 493rd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron glances in the direction of his wingman prior to a Baltic Air Police sortie at Siauliai Air Base, Lithuania, Aug. 31, 2017. The U.S. presence for the current Baltic Air Policing mission comes at the request of its Baltic allies and further demonstrates its commitment to the security of fellow NATO nations. (U.S. Air Force photo/ Tech. Sgt. Matthew Plew)


The US Air Force has released a new video that directly tackles the issue of its pilot shortage.

The USAF has set up an Aircrew Crisis Task Force with eight lines of effort to try to address the problem of personnel retention. ‘There is no one single thing we can do [to address this],’ said Air Force Secretary Dr Heather Wilson. Last summer (2017) the USAF said it was 1,500 pilots short, and it expected the problem to only get worse. That prediction has come true — the latest fiscal year closed with the USAF being some 1,926 pilots short. With an overall tally of 20,000, it equates to a 10 per cent deficit. A lot of these are some of the air force’s most experienced pilots.

USAF chief Gen Dave Goldfein said the USAF is also growing the pilot training pipeline from 1,200 annually to 1,400, and that he has also been authorized to welcome retirees back into the active-duty air force. He warned that personnel shortfalls could get so bad that squadrons need to be cut — no one wants to see that happen.

The Service is making the mission happen, but on the backs of its airmen, Goldfein added. ‘We are looking for ways to reduce the tension on the force.’ Wilson and Goldfein both recognized the commitment airmen and families are making in service to the nation and advocated for Congress to provide the resources needed to sustain global operations. ‘It’s beyond pilots and aircrews, it’s also the maintainers,’ Goldfein said. ‘When I started flying as a young F-16 pilot, I used to meet the crew chief for the walk round. You’d then have a last chance crew. Nowadays pilots have to taxi slow because the same crew chief has to drive to the end of the runway to pull the pins and arm the weapons. Then that same guy has to fly in a C-17 to the destination [to meet the fighters]. We are watching this with laser focus. Pilots that don’t fly, maintainers that don’t maintain, controllers that don’t control, they will not stay with this company.’

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