According to a report from BreakingDefense.com, the situation's gone from a bad deficit of 1,500 pilots this summer, to an ugly shortage of 2,000 pilots. To combat this shortage, the Air Force formed an Aircrew Crisis Task Force, upped flight pay to as much as $1,800 a month, and increased bonuses as high as $35,000 — all with no luck.
Airmen from the 180th Fighter Wing, Ohio Air National Guard, participated in Red Flag Alaska, a national exercise aimed to provide high-intensity combat training for pilots in a controlled environment at Eielson Air Force Base, Fairbanks, Alaska, in May 2015. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by 1st Lt. Jordyn Sadowski)
It should be noted that when increased flight pay was announced, the hike wasn't to take effect until Oct. 1, so we could still see the impact of this change. Still, there are other factors that have been weighing heavily on airmen.
"Surge has become the new normal," Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said. "Less than one percent of Americans serve in uniform and protect the rest of us, and they're carrying a heavy burden. We are burning out our people because we are too small for what the nation is asking of us." A lack of budget is also causing problems, Wilson said.
Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson. USAF photo by Scott M. Ash.
"The fiscal 2018 continuing resolution is actually delaying our efforts to increase the readiness of the force, and risk accumulates over time," Wilson said Nov. 9, during the State of the Air Force address. "We are stretching the force to the limit, and we need to start turning the corner on readiness."
To illustrate the situation, WATM noted in February that at the end of the Cold War, the Air Force had 134 fighter squadrons — a total that has declined to 55 today. The Air Force is not the only service affected by a lack of personnel and budget. In June of 2016, the Marine Corps had to pull a number of F/A-18 Hornets out of the boneyard to address an airframe shortage.