Speaking at IQPC’s Military Flight Training conference in London today, Maj Gen Scott Vander Hamm, a bomber pilot by trade and now the USAF Assistant Deputy Chief of Staff, Operations, said that the service may need to add a new training base in the coming years to increase pilot training capacity.
He said the air force needs to increase ‘pilot production and absorbsion’, saying the air force is concerned about what he called the national pilot crisis. He said the USAF is currently producing 1,200 new pilots annually, but warning it isn’t enough to meet demand and that those already in service are looking for more stability in their lives and many are ‘walking out of the door’.
‘At the end of this fiscal year we were 723 fighter pilots short of our requirements. This is not just a USAF issue, it impacts the other services as well. It’s going to impact the mobility, bombers and special forces.’ He said the USAF is looking to respond by not just retention and incentives, but by the quality of life and make military service more palatable.
In terms of pilot production, he said the USAF is looking to increase pilot production to 1,400 new pilots annually by 2020, and then up to 1,600, but in order to do that ‘we are going to have to take a look at adding another pilot training base.’ He said the USAF needs to add capacity to address the pilot training shortage.
Referencing the ‘absorbsion’, Gen Vander Hamm said the USAF is looking at adding to its Reserve component, turning part-timers into full-timers to absorb more pilots into the combat forces, more sorties for more pilots.
Gen Vander Hamm also raised the OA-X light attack aircraft experiment, planned for this summer. ‘It’s not a fly-off. We are looking at other ways to increase capacity in combat air forces so that we can absorb.’ He added: ‘right now Air Combat Command is short 28-40,000 sorties of Red Air, or AdAir, each year.’ He said the air force would like to cover this in house, but it can’t. Therefore it’s looking to contact out – ‘for a short period of time’ – that service for contractors to provide that AdAir service.
Referencing the T-38s that provide ‘surrogate Red Air’ training for F-22s at Langley and Tyndall AFBs and the T-38A Companion Trainer model that is used at Whiteman AFB to supplement B-2 pilot flying hours, and at Beale AFB to supplement U-2 flying hours, Gen Vander Hamm said: ‘We think there’s a potential that as Global Strike looks to replace its T-38s and ACC looks to replace its T-38s that a companion trainer concept in the 5th Gen could be where we go in the future.’
How will T-X fit into this? ‘Tomorrow the RFP is due,’ he said. ‘We should have a decison by the end of this calendar year.’ He referred to the T-38 that was designed to train F-4 pilots is still being used to train 5th generation fighter pilots — ‘we couldn’t be more ready to bring T-X online’.