Newsflash: the United States Air Force is hemorrhaging talent. Okay, it’s not really news anymore, but the simple fact is this: pilots are abandoning ship at an alarming rate because they are drowning in political correctness and are under near-constant attack by an ignorant public.

Near-constant attack, you say? For why?

In this day and age of being kinder and gentler, extolling the virtue of group hugs, not calling a spade a spade, and literally talking ourselves into our graves, these men and women–who train and deploy with the goal of raining “positive influence” on our nation’s enemies–might actually be guilty of removing bad DNA from the gene pool with whatever flavor of ass-kickery the mission calls for, then have the audacity to use colorful language and drink a beer afterward.

What do they receive from their adoring public and “the management” for their efforts? I can’t say for sure, but the words rhyme with persecution and scapegoating. But I digress.

Kong, HOBS, Magnum, and Roxy prepare to step for a DCA VUL at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.
Kong, HOBS, Magnum, and Roxy prepare to step for a DCA VUL at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.

As a reminder, in case you missed our little rant yesterday evening, queep is one of the largest factors killing the morale in our community of warriors. Queep is anything related to duties not involving the performance of their assigned mission: to be aerial death-dealers to all of our nation’s enemies, both foreign and domestic.

Queep is multi-hour stand-ups. It is staff meetings. It is mountains of senseless, mindless paperwork. It’s “sensitivity” and “diversity” training, your IDE, and the much-maligned mandatory master’s degree. It is absolute domination of the battlespace, bringing to bear the full spectrum capability of cross-domain PowerPoint, Excel, Word, and all other things Microsoft.

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If you are a pilot, queep is the anti-pilot. It is what keeps you chained to an office chair and a computer, instead of honing your skills as a tactical aviator, becoming a better IP, checking the Mission Commander container, raging through spin-up rides for WIC, or–at an absolute minimum–meeting one’s ever-important RAP requirement for the month.

Some would argue the goal of all the queep is to produce a force of mindless and spineless drones, yes-men (and women) who will just blindly do what they’re told, give up thinking for themselves, bathe in political correctness, spew whatever the current party line is, and get on about their lives. Then, when the balloon goes up, those same men and women, who have barely maintained their CMR status in whatever their given combat discipline is, will cheerfully, gleefully fly straight to their untimely demise. They will die because no one actually cared about setting them up for success with the right tools, the right training, or the freedom to hone the correct mental edge you need to not just survive combat, but thrive there and perform at your best.

Inevitably, the ones who set them up to fail will ask, “Why did this happen?”

"Drago" sits in the cockpit of his Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle, waiting for the appointed time to start.
“Drago” sits in the cockpit of his Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle, waiting for the appointed time to start.

So taking all of that garbage into account, because that’s exactly what it is, ask me again why I think the tactical aviators in the Air Force and Navy are jumping ship. Ask me again why there’s an unspoken “influence” in SUPT steering student pilots away from Fighter/Bomber tracks to multi-engine platforms and heavies. Ask me again when the headlines do nothing but assassinate the character of this community of men and women. Ask me again why they’re giving “The Man” the middle finger and walking away.

So as a response, the Air Force uses substantial bonuses to keep its pilots. It is not-so-affectionately referred to as “the devil’s money.”

The Air Force offers Aviator Retention Pay payouts for eligible pilots who agree to serve for nine more years, at a rate of up to $225,000. Look at that figure again. Almost a quarter of a million dollars to stay in the seat of whatever MDS they’re flying. Just to hang on until they reach their twenty.

According to the Air Force, pilots in the 11X category, that is, any pilot of a manned aircraft, are eligible for the maximum $225,000 bonus. That means $25,000 for each year they renew their committment to the Air Force. Pilots under the 11X designator can extend their contract by five years, fragging them for $125,000, or until they reach 20 years of aviation service–up to nine years. These pilots get an annual stipend, not up-front lump sums.

11X pilots who signed up for a five-year contract extension last year also have an option of extending their contract length to 20 years of aviation service–up to nine years. Extended 2014 agreements are not eligible for up-front money.

"Scar" and "Razor" taxi out for a Red Flag mission at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
“Scar” and “Razor” taxi out for a Red Flag mission at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

The three categories of pilots eligible for the up-to-$225,000 bonus with a 50-percent lump sum paid up front: 11F fighter pilots, 11U remotely piloted aircraft pilots, and 11X pilots who agree to retrain and transition to the 11U RPA field and serve as drone pilots for the rest of their careers.

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See why they call it the devil’s money?

A lower bonus could be in store for some “uncommitted” manned aircraft pilots and those who have switched to becoming drone pilots. If their UPT active-duty service commitment expired before fiscal 2015, or if they completed 11 years of aviation service before fiscal 2015, they are eligible for up to $15,000 per year they extend their contracts. Those extensions could be for five years or up to nine years until they reach their twenty. That means those pilots could get anywhere from $75,000 to $135,000.

The Air Force states that approximately 1,500 officers will be eligible to take the bonuses under this current ARP construct. More than half will finish their ten-year commitment to aviation service this fiscal year, and the rest will finish in FY 2016.

"Rawhide," "Sheriff," and "Turbo," all Wild Weasel pilots with the 55 FS, listen as "Scary" delivers the mission briefing for a Green Flag VUL at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.
“Rawhide,” “Sheriff,” and “Turbo,” all Wild Weasel pilots with the 55 FS, listen as “Scary” delivers the mission briefing for a Green Flag VUL at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada.

Some expect fifty percent to sixty percent of aviators who are eligible in fiscal year 2015 to take the bonus.

“Having aviators take any one of the available categories at these rates provides a stable, predictable inventory of mid-career pilots and combat systems officers with the requisite knowledge, skills and experience to fill requirements,” says Air Force spokeswoman Captain Brooke Brzozowske.

It will be interesting to see if this acts as a hemostatic agent for the blood-letting, or if it will merely be a hastily-applied band-aid until a better solution can be rendered. Is money the answer? Will it retain the badly-needed, experienced fighter pilots in the Air Force?

Only time will tell.