Enlisted combat pilots?


Ancora imparo
Enlisted combat pilots? The Air Force is launching a test that could lead to that.

The Air Force is launching a new pilot training program that will include enlisted airmen — and could eventually lead to them flying combat aircraft.

Maj. Gen. Timothy Leahy, commander of the Second Air Force, said in a Nov. 30 email to his commanders that 15 officers and 5 enlisted airmen will be picked for the six-month pilot training program.

“Enlisted volunteers will be pioneers in innovating Air Force aviator recruitment, selection, and training processes by demonstrating the potential of non-college graduates to succeed in a rigorous pilot training environment,” Leahy wrote. “This program will provide data to [Air Education and Training Command commander Lt. Gen. Steven Kwast] on the potential for enlisted members to train to fly modern combat aircraft.”

Candidates who succeed and become students will take solo flights in T-6 trainers, Leahy wrote.

The email was provided to Air Force Times by former airman Steven Mayne, who runs the unofficial Air Force amn/nco/snco page.

AETC spokeswoman Marilyn Holliday confirmed Leahy’s email was genuine. She said in an email to Air Force Times that the Pilot Training Next Initiative will create a training detachment in Austin, Texas. Instructors will “leverage existing and emerging technology” to train the students.

“AETC chose to focus on flying training because of the urgency involved with the enterprise,” Holliday said. “However, our focus is on how airmen learn, not necessarily what they learn, exploring technology and how that technology can produce better and faster learning.”

Holliday said that as part of the initiative, the Air Force will team up with researchers, industry representatives, advanced biometrics experts, and academics to build a training environment integrating virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence and analytics.

Leahy began his email by saying that Kwast asked Second Air Force for help modernizing “how the Air Force conducts pilot training by employing emerging technologies.”

Leahy also said that the deadline for airmen to volunteer online is Dec. 15, and that the selectees will begin training Feb. 15. Leahy said that his staff had identified 250 potential candidates for pilot training.

This could represent a major expansion of the Air Force’s fledgling experiment with enlisted aviators. After a long study, the Air Force two years ago began allowing enlisted airmen to fly the unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawk reconnaissance remotely-piloted aircraft.

Aside from that, the Air Force has until now not made any moves to allow enlisted to fly armed RPAs such as the MQ-9 Reaper, or manned aircraft of any kind.

But top officials never closed the door entirely. In a February interview, Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Kaleth Wright noted that there are many enlisted airmen who have private pilot’s licenses.

“I don’t know that [having enlisted airmen fly manned aircraft] will happen on my watch, but I think that’s the natural progression,” Wright said. “We have some brilliant young minds in our Air Force that are perfectly capable of flying manned aircraft.”

Wright said at the time the he was “a little torn” over the question, because he felt that an enlisted airman who is talented enough to fly probably deserves to be commissioned as an officer.

In August, Wright launched a study into whether reviving the warrant officer program would make the Air Force more lethal and efficient. That study is expected to be done sometime in February. Some observers have suggested making enlisted pilots warrant officers would be a good way to recognize their extra responsibilities and compensate them accordingly.

The Air Force has also been increasingly struggling to reverse an alarming shortfall of pilots — especially in the fighter pilot ranks — as commercial airliners ramp up their recruiting of military pilots. Allowing enlisted to fly could help ease the pressure the Air Force feels.


Well-Known Member
"An enlisted airman who is talented enough to fly probably deserves to be a commissioned officer".

That's the thing about the military, they hold the job of being a pilot very high. That always made me feel less than a pilot when I was enlisted, and it seemed that certain pilots wanted you to feel that way. I was always looking up to pilots and thought it must be awesome to be one of them. Then I got out, and realized very quickly that anyone can become talented enough to fly if they have some common sense and a big enough wallet. As awesome as this would be, I will feel for those enlisted guys that make it through as I'm sure the officers will have a hard time accepting them as peers.
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The Air Force considers UAV operators, pilots.


Think about that for a second.

They can save 5x E5 base salary.

Sorry guys, finish your degree and get a UPT slot.

Army aviation is weird, but we do it right. Warrant Officers have a great deal. (Normally, but the line are often blurred, depending on the unit)

As a W2, my "co-pilot" is my boss, but in the helicopter, I'm the HMFIC.

The AF is also looking at a pilot program to have box flight-school students enter the pipeline after UPT in the T-1.


Well-Known Member
The AF is also looking at a pilot program to have box flight-school students enter the pipeline after UPT in the T-1.
I saw that I if I recall the candidates are from aviation universities. Pending it's success I wonder if that would apply to higher time candidates without an aviation degree.


Dergs favorite member
The whole officer/enlisted scheme is outdated imo. Start everyone off the same and give responsibility based on merit and experience. Also, lots of enlisted members already have college degrees or are working on them. Getting your degree before joining doesn't make one any more capable or intelligent. We had an ATC trainee who washed out but he got his degree so they let him commission and now he's a WSO on an F-15E


Well-Known Member
Pilot: Major.
Pilot: Staff Sargeant.

Guess which one gets to fly the slow, low-level FAC mission over hostile territory. Guess which gets to fly the KC-10 for a transatlantic refuel op. :stir:


Well-Known Member
Just going off how way off base the last couple major AF pilot policy reports were... I’m gonna wait a few days for all the clarifications on this to come out.

With all the word about pilot shortages people have been quick to go full chicken little off anything they hear right now.

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Well-Known Member
I'm not sure how common they were in the days of yesteryear but, the RAF had enlisted pilots during WWII. Also the Marine Corps had enlisted pilots as well. I'm not sure about the other services.


Exploring the world one toilet at a time.
Frankly, I met some officers that really made you scratch your head. Saluted them anyway, as that is how it has gone for 200+ years. I could only imagine the difficulty of being a real salty Master Chief in situations like that.