The Air Force and the Army must do a better job training its remotely piloted aircraft pilots, according to a Government Accountability Office report, released May 14. Only 35 percent of pilots in Air Force remotely piloted aircraft units have completed the training required for all their missions, states the report, citing a sample of training records taken from seven RPA units. In the Air Force, the deficiency of training is directly related to an overall shortage of RPA pilots. In April 2014, GAO recommended the service determine the appropriate number of pilots needed in such units and update its crew ration. In February, the Air Force completed the first of a three-phase personnel requirements study and USAF expects to update its crew ration in 2015, states the report. Another problem, states the report, is a shortage of USAF instructors for RPA pilots. As of March, the RPA training squadrons at Holloman AFB, N.M., were only staffed at 63 percent. “This shortage is a key reason that the Air Force has shortages of [RPA] pilots across the Air Force,” according to an Air Force Headquarters official,” states the report. The results of the personnel requirements study are expected to be released in the spring of 2016. (See also Pipeline Trickle and the RPA Pickle.)
The Air Force will begin its 71st annual Operation Christmas Drop on Dec. 4. The weeklong exercise is a yearly tradition that delivers supplies such as food, fishing equipment, school books, and clothes to remote islands in the Pacific. It is the longest-running Department of Defense humanitarian mission.