The U.S. Air Force now has more jobs for MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper drones than any other type of pilot position, the head of Air Education and Training Command said last week.
“I never thought I’d say that when I joined the Air Force,” Lt. Gen. Darryl Roberson told reporters during a media roundtable at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida. “So we’re really in a much better footing with RPA pilot production in addition to just getting the numbers up,” he said March 3.
For example, the MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper family of remotely piloted aircraft are slated to have more than 1,000 pilot operators, according to fiscal 2017 statistics provided to Military.com on Tuesday. By comparison, the highest numbers in any other aircraft are 889 airmen piloting the C-17 Globemaster III and 803 flying the F-16 Fighting Falcon, said Lt. Col. Tracy Bunko, spokeswoman for AETC.
The Air Force has expanded its RPA reach since it began training enlisted airmen on the RQ-4 Global Hawk. The service announced in 2015 it would begin training enlisted airmen to operate the unarmed high-altitude reconnaissance drone. It is currently training pilots through the Enlisted Pilot Initial Class, or EPIC, program as well as the Initial Flight Training program. Just Tuesday, the service announced the first 30 board-selected airmen to become RPA pilots.
The service plans to bring on even more armed drone operators, officials told Military.com in October.
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