US Air Force announces retention bonuses of up to $600,000 in desperate bid to fix pilot shortage

  • The US Air Force is offering up to $600,000 in retention bonuses.

  • The money would be paid out over 12 years.

  • The move aims to retain skilled airmen and address a decades-long pilot shortage.

The US Air Force (USAF) has announced a new round of retention bonuses, offering up to $600,000 over 12 years, the Air Force Times reported.

Announced on November 30, the bonuses are aimed at manned aircraft and drone pilots, combat systems operators, and air battle managers, with amounts ranging from $15,000 to $50,000 per year, depending on aircraft type and when they commit.

The move aims to retain skilled airmen and address a decades-long pilot shortage that has affected policy-making and managerial jobs.

Fighter and bomber pilots, as well as mobility, search-and-rescue, and special operations pilots, could earn $30,000 to $35,000 a year on three- to four-year contracts, per the report.

Pilots who sign up for an extra five to seven years could earn another $37,500 to $42,500 per year, while those committing to eight to 12 additional years stand to earn $45,000 to $50,000 a year.

Airmen operating command-and-control and intelligence aircraft also qualify for the bonuses and could get annual payments of $30,000 to $35,000 over three to 12 years.

Some pilots opting for an additional five to 12 years may receive a lump sum payment of up to $200,000 upfront.

The new initiative, which will run until the end of 2028, will supplement non-financial incentives offered by the USAF to those in the demo, such as giving troops more of a say over where they are based and what assignments they get.

Early data indicates a positive response to the demo program, with 210 contract extensions signed in the first 10 days, service spokesperson Master Sgt. Deana Heitzman said, per the Air Force Times.

The USAF said in September that it had missed its annual target of around 1,500 new pilots for the eighth year in a row.

According to the Air Force Times, staffing issues, maintenance problems, and unexpected setbacks meant the force decided to limit its training numbers to 1,350 airmen rather than the planned 1,470.

"We're going to try to make sure we are still flying because that's what we do as an Air Force," Maj. Gen. Clark Quinn, the general in charge of pilot training told reporters, per the publication.

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