HomeNewsArticle Display

Air Force senior leadership addresses need to stabilize RPA enterprise

WASHINGTON (AFNS) -- During a State of the Air Force address held at the Pentagon, Jan 15, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James announced immediate preliminary steps to develop a get-well plan to improve the health of the MQ-1B Predator and MQ-9 Reaper enterprise in light of extensive combatant commander operational needs.

“(Intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance) operations have been sustained on the shoulders of Airmen responsible for the high demand weapon system, creating sustained stress on the force,” James said. “Our combatant commanders expect and demand the unique ISR capabilities that the Air Force provides.

The Air Force surged remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) operations nine times over the last eight years, flying more than 2,200 sorties in Iraq and Syria in the last four months alone. The service is looking to study the effectiveness and efficiency of the high-demand capability in order to reduce service RPA pilot training and retention issues.

Currently the Air Force is executing 65 combat air patrols, which is above the current steady-state capacity of 55, to provide the warfighter with the air support requested.

With increased operations tempo, expiring active duty service commitments, reductions to the force, the current environment has resulted in projections reflecting more RPA pilots departing the service than the Air Force is able to produce as replacements via the training pipeline. Balancing Air Force ISR capability with finite resources remains a top priority for the Secretary of the Air Force.

“Airmen have delivered time-critical data, prosecuted targets and supported combatant commanders without fail but we cannot sustain this pace indefinitely,” James said. “While threats have evolved, the demand for this capability remains constant.”

The Air Force is exploring a number of options to increase manning and incentivize career RPA pilots in an effort to stabilize the career field while meeting constant combatant commander ISR demands. Dubbed the “RPA get-well plan,” the initiatives launched by the secretary and Chief of Staff of the Air Force have a goal to provide near-term relief to stressed crews and help build a long-term future for the RPA community.

To sustain RPA pilot manning, the Air Force will temporarily retain a portion of pilots who are on-loan from other airframes. Additionally, they will increase Guard and Reserve utilization and seek recently qualified MQ-1/9 pilot volunteers to deploy for 179-days to stressed RPA units.

“The demand signal for this capability and stressors placed on the force continue to trend upward,” said Chief of Staff of the Air Force Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. “We must find a way to provide relief to the force and provide appropriate incentives to retain this critical skill set. Modern ISR has changed the face of warfare with technology requiring wide skill sets that only a combination of our active duty and air reserve component team give us.”

Compensating and incentivizing the RPA force is one of the keys to improving RPA pilot retention.

In the past, policy did not permit the Air Force to offer retention bonuses to RPA pilots who are only qualified to fly unmanned platforms, Department of Defense and Air Force leaders are exploring alternative pay authorities to compensate and incentivize career RPA pilots whose undergraduate RPA pilot training service obligation is expiring. Presently, all actively flying RPA pilots receive monthly assignment incentive pay.

“As our experienced operators near the end of their initial commitment, we are increasing monthly incentive pay to $1,500 for those RPA pilots while we explore other bonus opportunities,” James said. “We want these Airmen who are very much in demand to realize how much we value their experience and leadership.”

The measures represent only initial RPA get-well plan initiatives.

“These are short term actions to immediately reduce some of the stress on the force,” Welsh said. “We recognize long-term RPA enterprise health is critical to operational mission effectiveness. We must remain committed to retaining our cadre of RPA pilots.”

Specific program details will be announced as decisions are finalized.

Engage

Facebook Twitter
Ever heard of the rule of 0-0-1-3? No. Well it means to have zero alcohol if you're underage, zero drinks if you're… https://t.co/7bNRnhYuWS
RT @HQ_AFMC: #Readiness was on display by our @AFResearchLab teams during a live-virtual-constructive training simulation, enabling #Airmen
RT @AFWERX: We can't wait for 2020: The @USAirForce Advanced Manufacturing Olympics is slated for July 8-9 in Salt Lake City & will bring t…
RT @AirNatlGuard: “The Silver Flag training sites provide our Airmen with real-world scenarios to reinforce our Air Force Specialty Code sk…
RT @US_TRANSCOM: Watch a @usairforce KC-10A refuel, and be refueled during same mission in support of @CJTFOIR. #Togetherwdeliver #NKAWTG #…
RT @AETCommand: Transforming the way we learn with technology is one of our key priorities here in the First Command! Check out the photos…
RT @AirNatlGuard: This week, @ChiefNGB visited the @PRNationalGuard at Muñiz Air National Guard Base to meet with senior leaders and discus…
RT @GenDaveGoldfein: YOU are the most important reason for our mission success. Take care of each other & preserve the connections & commun…
RT @AirmanMagazine: When it comes to acquisitions, the @usairforce has the need for speed. Equipping Airmen with the best technology start…
RT @GenDaveGoldfein: A distinct privilege to help unveil the F-117 exhibit, establishing this remarkable aircraft in its rightful place in…
RT @AirNatlGuard: “For me personally, the CAP and Air Guard go hand in hand. When I look back at any state active duty or state support we…
RT @GenDaveGoldfein: Honored to participate on a panel with my fellow Service Chiefs at the @ReaganInstitute. May our leaders of today & th…
It was just a childhood dream but it crescendoed into this #Airman becoming the only woman in the #AirForce to both… https://t.co/vzGjPe7Vri
RT @USAFReserve: Loadmaster first Reservist to complete USAF Weapons School Advanced Instructor Course (Story by the @403rdWing) #ReserveRe
.@secafoffical will speak about America’s footprint in space going forward at 5:45 EST. Watch live at https://t.co/aSlw5ceGJj
RT @DeptofDefense: LIVE: @EsperDoD delivers keynote remarks at the Reagan National Defense Forum. #RNDF https://t.co/ZXhuaTOQTm
Today, we help Col. Charles McGee, a Tuskegee Airman, combat veteran and American legend, celebrate 💯 sorties aroun… https://t.co/bcmcDr4IYW
December 7, 1941. #PearlHarbor and six other #military bases on the Hawaiian island of Oahu were attacked, beginnin… https://t.co/4GvB8yPpGV
RT @US_TRANSCOM: Take a look at @usairforce Airmen assigned to the @109thAW using their ski-equipped C-130s to deliver supplies to the Arct…