The Air Force has picked the first 10 enlisted airmen to begin training to fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk, the service announced. The airmen—the first enlisted airmen to fly since World War II—will begin training in October and is expected to graduate next year. “We’ll take this important step in a deliberate manner so that we can learn what works and what we’ll need to adjust as we integrate our highly capable enlisted force into flying this weapons system,” Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said in the news release. The airmen will begin with Initial Flight Training on a DA-20 Falcon light aircraft, and will move on to RPA Instrument Qualification and Fundamentals Courses. They will finish with Global Hawk Basic Qualification Training, after which they will be rated, instrument-qualified pilots who are certified with the Federal Aviation Administration to fly the Global Hawk in domestic and international airspace, the release states. Those interested in applying for RPA pilot duty are urged to work with their supervisor through the Air Force Personnel Center. Enlisted RPA pilot categories will be added to the AFPC flying training selection boards, which will convene Jan. 23-26, the release states. Airmen must be a career enlisted aviator, a staff sergeant through senior master sergeant, and be able to serve for at least six years, the release states. The plan will include 12 graduates in Fiscal 2017 and 30 the following year. The service wants enlisted pilots to fly about 70 percent of Global Hawk missions by 2020, according to the release. (See also: The Enlisted RPA Pilot Beta Test.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.