Enlisted airmen will begin training to fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk this September, Air Combat Command chief Gen. Hawk Carlisle said Tuesday. Speaking during an enlisted all-call that was broadcast on Facebook Live, Carlisle said career enlisted aviators will make up the first two enlisted pilot initial classes (EPIC) during a beta phase before the training is opened to more enlisted airmen. Carlisle said the service expects to eventually have 100 enlisted RQ-4 pilots. “There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind, and I know this for a fact because I’ve been around the Air Force for 38 years now, … our enlisted force can do absolutely anything in our Air Force,” Carlisle said. “This is one extension of that. This is taking advantage of our talent. This is giving us more flexibility in the future as we move forward.” The service announced in December that enlisted airmen would soon be able to fly unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawks in an effort to help alleviate strain on the RPA community. “It’s a big deal,” Carlisle said, “but we’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do, and there is absolutely no doubt that our enlisted airmen—the greatest asset our Air Force has—can do this mission without any problem.” There is no plan to have enlisted airmen fly the armed MQ-1 Predator or MQ-9 Reaper, but Carlisle hinted the enlisted mission could broaden in the future. “And we’ll see where that goes,” he said, “it will probably lead to more.”
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.