Top brass plan incentives to fix fighter pilot shortage

In light of a major shortage of fighter pilots, the top brass of the Air Force are laying out their plans to solve the issue.

Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff General David Goldfein say the shortage of fighter pilots is expected to jump from 500 to 700 by the end of FY2016, meaning there will be a “21 percent gap” between what the USAF will have and what will be needed to meet the requirements of commanders around the globe, according to the Air Force Times.

As the US continues to ramp up responsibilities in Europe, Asia and the Middle East, the Air Force is currently trying to manage the juggling act of balancing low personnel with high demand.

“Make no mistake, this is a quiet crisis that will almost certainly get worse before it gets better,” James and Goldfein said. “We have less margin for error when it comes to filling our cockpits and addressing personnel shortages.”

The Air Force says the annual $25,000 bonus has been unchanged since 1999 and that inflation has decreased the actual value. By hiking the retention bonus, the Air Force may be able to retain pilots currently tempted to leave for the commercial airline industry.

“We know from past experience that money isn’t everything, but in those military career fields lured by private sector offers, targeted bonuses can make the difference between staying and going,” they wrote. “Right now, too few of our pilots are taking the bonus money and the ‘take rate’ is especially low for those men and women who fly fighter aircraft. We’d like the authority to raise the current bonus where it makes sense.”

In addition to retaining pilots, the USAF is also increasing production of new pilots, hoping to close the shortage of qualified fighter crews.

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