WASHINGTON, March 17 (UPI) -- Air Force Gen. Herbert "Hawk" Carlisle on Wednesday warned that the U.S. Air Force is facing a shortage of hundreds of fighter jet pilots and drone operators.
Carlisle said the Air Force needs 511 fighter pilots and about 200 more drone pilots to meet an "insatiable demand" from combat commanders to accomplish current missions.
Drone operators work long hours due to high demand and the Air Force is looking to recruit 300 additional drone pilots. But the Air Force would still be about 500 drone pilots short of its ideal recruitment, Carlisle said in his testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, which is chaired by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., a Vietnam War veteran.
"Remote piloted aircraft enterprise is one that's in high demand, we are in high demand for fighters as well, we don't have enough of either," Carlisle said, adding that drones "are arming decision makers with intelligence, our warfighters with targets, and our enemies with fear, anxiety, and ultimately their timely end."
Carlisle said the Air Force will offer a $25,000 retention bonus to drone pilots, similar to what is offered to jet pilots. He credits the shortage of pilots due to challenges involved in retaining pilots, such as competition from commercial airlines for pilots -- particularly since lower fuel prices and increased travel demand have led airlines to recruit more pilots.