The Air Force announced Monday that it has begun its search for officer volunteers with no previous flying experience to enter the service’s new training program for operating MQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles. The first 10 officers selected will start training in January and a second batch of 10 will begin instruction next April. If the first two training classes of 10 prove to be successful, then the Air Force will start accepting larger classes, service officials have said. Gen. Norton Schwartz, Chief of Staff, announced the new UAV training program last month at AFA’s Air & Space Conference in Washington, D.C. The service eyes it, along with the new practice of taking about 10 percent of its new UPT graduates and training them to operate Predators and Reapers, as a means to beef up its pool of UAV operators to 1,100 by Fiscal 2012 to meet the US military’s insatiable demand for greater overhead UAV coverage to support combat and stability operations. (This Air Force release contains basic requirements, such as age and years of service limits.)
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.