The Air Force is taking additional steps to relieve an overtaxed cadre of remotely piloted aircraft operators, announced the service leadership. Secretary Deborah Lee James said at a “State of the Air Force” press briefing in the Pentagon on Jan. 15 she would boost incentive pay for RPA operators, many of whom are getting close to the end of their service commitment, and would delay the return of some who were “on loan” from other systems. The Air Force will also ask for volunteers from former RPA pilots on Active Duty “to deploy for six months to some of these distressed RPA units,” she said. Further, “we will maximize the use of the [Air] National Guard and [Air Force] Reserve, and indeed, we will be redirecting some resources in order to provide the money to bring additional personnel on Active Duty,” said James. RPA pilots are under extreme stress from six-day-a-week, 14-hour mission days and the demand for them continues to escalate, she said. Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said he would also be looking at ways to boost the number of RPA instructors to increase RPA operator output. The instructor cadre is shorthanded because so many have been put to work on real-world missions, he said. (James-Welsh transcript) (See also Help for the Crispy RPA Force.)
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.