HOLLOMAN AIR FORCE BASE, N.M., Oct. 8 (UPI) -- The U.S. Air Force is expanding its training program for remotely piloted aircraft at the Holloman Air Force Base, including the MQ-1 Predator and the MQ-9 Reaper, officials announced Wednesday.
The announcement comes as the U.S. Air Force reports increased demand for its remotely piloted aircraft for surveillance, reconnaissance, and intelligence gathering operations. The Holloman Air Force Base is set to increase its rate of student production from 603 pilots and sensor operators in fiscal year 2015, to 818 students in fiscal 2016.
"By the time we are done with this expansion, Holloman will be the largest aircrew training base in the Air Force," said Maj. Christopher, the assistant director of operations for programmed flying training in a statement.
It will take a bout 18 months for the Air Force to train and expand the unit, taking into account training new instructors and expanding student facilities. Christopher added it takes about six months to train a new instructor. Air Force officials say the expansion will help fix manning and maintenance issues with the remotely piloted aircraft. Christopher says the solution is not a quick fix for the challenges students have had, however the easier workload will be better for the RPA community.
"This seems like leadership is truly focused on a long-term sustainable fix that is going to keep the RPA community healthy as a whole and keep us there," Christopher said. "It is going to hurt for a little while because we have got a lot of work to do, but the demand is still there and we need to do our best to meet that."