Editor’s Note: Once again, this 500-person shortage comes as no great surprise. We have talked at great length in the past about how the Air Force and all of its components are hemorrhaging talent, and the reasons for that exodus. Fighter Pilot culture has become watered-down and stripped of many things which historically made it a set-apart community of warriors.

Between mandatory master’s degrees, the queep, time away from family, and the scrutiny invited by congressional investigations, many of our brothers and sisters have departed the ranks. The rate they’re doing it exceeds the rate at which the slots are being filled, creating a shortfall of 500 fighter pilots. And the problem will get worse before it gets better. “Stop Loss” looms…

The US Air Force is about 500 fighter pilots short of the total requirement, a deficit that is expected to grow to more than 800 by 2022, top service officials warned Congress.

Air Force officials blamed the shortage on recent reductions in active duty fighter and fighter training squadrons due to budget cuts, according to written testimony submitted to the Senate Armed Services subcommittee March 8.

"Chew" looks outside the cockpit of his F-15 Eagle during a Large Force Employment exercise last summer. (Photo by Scott Wolff)
“Chew” looks outside the cockpit of his F-15 Eagle during a Large Force Employment exercise last summer. (Photo by Scott Wolff)

The service was forced to rebalance its fighter force structure in 2012 due to severe fiscal constraints, slashing the force by 100 aircraft, according to the statement. There are currently 54 squadrons in the Air Force, significantly less than the 134 fighter squadrons that existed during the Gulf War in the early 1990s.

The remaining active component fighter squadrons do not produce enough experienced fighter pilots to meet all of the Air Force’s requirements, officials wrote in the statement.

“Without these fighter pilots, the Air Force will be very challenged to continue to provide the air supremacy upon which all our other forces depend,” the statement reads.

The Air Force is having trouble making up the shortfall because of competition from commercial airlines, Lt. Gen. John Raymond, deputy chief of staff, told the subcommittee during a Tuesday hearing. Airlines are hiring about 3,500 fighter pilots a year, he said.

The original article can be read in its entirety at Defense News right here.

(Featured photo by Scott Wolff)