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    US Air Force Narrows Field For Enlisted Drone Pilots

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    The US Air Force may select its first enlisted drone pilots for surveillance, reconnaissance and intelligence training this month. Last week, the pilot selection board met to consider 185 airmen who passed the program’s qualifying phase.

    On Monday, Air Force Personnel Center spokesman Mike Dickerson told Military.com,"We anticipate the board will select 30 airmen with five alternates,"  adding that the board is still deliberating, but the results would be announced soon.

    US MQ-9 Reaper drone in flight
    © Photo : US Air Force / Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

    The "whole person concept" is used in the application process, which entails reviewing an applicant’s entire military record.

    According to Dickerson the Initial Flight Training should begin by April, with two pilots from that group being housed at Colorado's Pueblo Memorial Airport. After that, each class will have two airmen throughout this fiscal year and the next.

    Chief Master Sgt. Eric Rigby, head of aircrew assignments  at AFPC explained that "Integrating enlisted pilots into the RQ-4 [Global Hawk] community enables the Air Force to meet mission requirements as the intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission grows, while providing an opportunity to our highly skilled enlisted force." 

    Responding to dwindling numbers of jet and drone pilots, the service first announced that it would begin training airmen to operate the RQ-4 in 2015, soon after announcing bonuses as high as $125,000 for pilots who could fly the craft.

    AFPC received more than 800 applications when the Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) program was first announced. Rigby said in a release, "Expanding opportunities in the RPA program is one of many ways the Air Force is tapping into the talent of our skilled, diverse and innovative enlisted force."

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    Drone, pilot training, Drone Program, US Air Force, United States
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