U.S. Air Force faces substantial shortfall in the number of unmanned aircraft pilots it needs, GAO says

July 10, 2020
In 2016, there was a 10 percent gap between the number of sensor operators assigned and how many the Air Force was authorized.

WASHINGTON – The Air Force is facing an alarming shortage of pilots and sensor operators needed to fly its unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the Government Accountability Office says. Air Force Times reports. Continue reading original article

The Military & Aerospace Electronics take:

10 July 2020 -- This shortage in drone pilots and sensor operators also is making it harder for the Air Force to balance those airmen’s time engaging in combat operations with non-combat activities, GAO says in its report, “Unmanned Aerial Systems: Air Force Should Take Additional Steps to Improve Aircrew Staffing and Support.”

This issue increasingly has become important in the two decades since the Sept. 11 attacks, as the military relies more and more on unmanned aircraft for intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, and air strikes.

Since 2016, GAO says, the Air Force consistently has fallen short of how many UAV pilots and sensor operators it needs. In 2019, the Air Force was authorized to have 1,652 unmanned aircraft pilots, but actually had only 1,320 pilots -- a 20 percent shortfall. That’s not far from the 22 percent shortfall it had in 2015, GAO says.

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John Keller, chief editor
Military & Aerospace Electronics

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