Study: Fighter Pilot Shortages Worsen

NGAUS Washington Report
April 17, 2018

The Air Force is short more than 25 percent of its authorized fighter pilots, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office released last week. And the problem is worsening because the service has “not recently reevaluated squadron requirements to reflect increased fighter pilot workload,” among other problems.

The report, “DOD Needs to Reevaluate Fighter Pilot Workforce Requirements,” says the same problem exists in the Navy and the Marines.

The active-component Air Force had fighter-pilot manning levels of at least 92 percent between fiscal 2006 and 2013, and even had an excess in fiscal 2011. But it had only 73 percent of its authorization in fiscal 2017, missing 1,005 pilots out of an authorization of 3,750.

The reserve components of the Air Force had fewer fighter pilots than their authorizations from fiscal 2006 to 2017. In fiscal 2017, the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve were short 17 percent, about 270 fighter pilots.

The Navy was short 26 percent of its fighter pilot authorizations in fiscal 2017. The Marine Corps had 76 percent of its authorization of fighter pilots in fiscal 2017.

The Air Force trained 12 percent fewer fighter pilots than it targeted from 2007 through 2016.

The report states, “Air Force pilots and squadron leaders consistently told us that changing conditions in fighter squadrons, such as higher pace of change to tactics and technology, increased training requirements, and reduced administrative support, have increased fighter pilot workload.” The pilots described the increase as “unsustainable.”

The GAO recommendations, which are similar for each service, are to have the service secretary re-evaluate fighter-pilot squadron requirements, to include updating current assumptions of fighter-pilot workload.