The Air Force should continue to seek new ways to better utilize its end strength, and this could include opening up remotely piloted aircraft pilot slots to enlisted airmen, said Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh and CMSAF James Cody at the four-star forum of AFA’s Air & Space Conference on Wednesday. Cody answered “maybe” when asked if this could happen. The ability to perform the mission is evident in the enlisted force, he said, noting that he’s seen cases where enlisted RPA sensor operators have sought officer commissions in the Air National Guard and moved on to fly MQ-1s or MQ-9s. “I wouldn’t say we’ve had any specific discussion, but we are looking at all roles,” said Cody. Welsh noted that enlisted pilots are not a new phenomenon and that there are factors making this idea attractive for consideration. The cost of a technical sergeant over a lifetime is much lower than a captain or a lieutenant colonel, he said. Although there may be “other consequences,” this is something the service should take a serious look at, said Welsh.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.