Helicopter Pilot Training Experiment Skips Fixed-Wing Courses

In an effort to improve helicopter pilot training and alleviate the Air Force’s overall pilot shortage, Air Education and Training Command is about to experiment with a back-to-the-future plan that would send pilots to a helicopters-only flight school, resurrecting a format discontinued in the 1990s.

A “small group experiment” starts later this week at the Army’s Fort Rucker, Ala., training base, and contracts are expected to be awarded within the next two weeks for contractor-run helicopter training to begin next month, 19th Air Force Commander Maj. Gen. Craig D. Wills told Air Force Magazine.

The experiment is the first step in Undergraduate Helicopter Training Next, a program to answer the question: “Could you not produce a world-class helicopter pilot by training them exclusively on helicopters? And we believe the answer is yes,” Wills said in a July 30 interview.


GAO: USAF Doesn’t Have Enough RPA Pilots, Sensor Operators for New Squadron

The Air Force may not have enough remotely piloted aircraft pilots and sensor operators to stand up a new wing in 2024, as it struggles to retain personnel and increase the size of its instructor pilot cadre, the Government Accountability Office says in a new report.

The service is planning to open a new RPA wing so it can have enough dwell time within the RPA community to take a squadron off combat operations to focus on training. The GAO, in the June 25 report, states “the Air Force does not have enough pilots and sensor operators to meet its staffing targets for its unmanned aircraft.” The organization bases this claim on years of staffing data, along with 14 focus group meetings at three operational bases.


WEB EXCLUSIVE: Next-Generation Ejection Seats to Include New Safety Features

The Air Force has tapped Collins Aerospace to provide more than 3,000 new ejection seats for its aircraft fleet. The equipment includes a number of safety improvements to prevent pilot injury, according to a company executive.

The Next-Generation Ejection Seat program will upgrade the existing systems on the F-15, F-16, F-22, B-1 and A-10. In October, the Air Force issued a pre-solicitation Justification and Approval notice for a sole-source contract to Collins Aerospace. Final negotiations and a contract have yet to be completed, a company spokesman told National Defense Nov. 12.

Collins Aerospace is offering its ACES 5 ejection seats to replace the legacy ACES II, a Collins Aerospace product which has been in service since the 1970s. The new equipment will be a significant step up, said Don Borchelt, the company?s director of ACES 5 business development.


Red Air: Can The Private Sector Provide Worthy Opponents To Train Military Pilots For Combat?

The US Air Force has recently announced that it intends to let a number of contracts to the private sector for the provision of ?Adversary Air? (ADAIR) capability, in which aircraft simulate foreign opponents to help prepare US aircrews for the next conflict. The value of these contracts is some $6 billion over a 10-year cycle, and initially will supplement the remaining ?in house? capability. This seems like a lot of cash for a service that, traditionally, has been handled by the military. It raises the fundamental question of why such a key capability is being outsourced. Before I attempt to tackle this matter, some background and context is necessary.


Navy, Air Force Reach Handshake Agreement to Develop Joint Battle Network

NORFOLK, Va. ? The Navy and the Air Force are taking the first tentative steps to create a joint battle network that would allow Navy ships and aircraft to share targeting information with Air Force aircraft, Navy and Air Force officials confirmed to USNI News on Wednesday.

Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein have hatched an informal agreement to develop the Joint All Domain Command and Control (JADC2) network, Air Force and Navy officials told USNI News this week.

?There was an agreement between the Chief of Naval Operations and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force regarding the Navy?s support to the Air Force on the Joint All Domain Command and Control concept,? Navy spokesperson Cmdr. Nate Christensen told USNI News on Wednesday.


Is This Space?s ?Billy Mitchell Moment?? Let?s Hope Not

Some proponents of a separate U.S. Space Force compare today?s situation to the interwar years, when Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell risked his career to promote military aviation despite an obstinate Army and Navy. But Mitchell?s divisive advocacy tactics and corrosive view of inter-service cooperation would erode the sentiments of interdependence, collaboration, and trust that today?s U.S. military must rely on as it looks to transform military spacepower.

Mitchell is rightfully lauded for his vision as an airpower theorist, but he must also be scrutinized for the divisive tactics he employed to advance his views. Thomas Wildenberg?s book Billy Mitchell?s War with the Navy demonstrates how Mitchell deliberately enflamed interservice rivalries to advance an independent air force. As Wildenberg shows, Mitchell?s willingness to use divisive tactics manifested just one year after the Great War drew to a close. Testifying before the Senate Committee on Military Affairs in 1919, Mitchell accused the Navy of refusing to embrace airpower, which he predicted would ultimately ?carry the war to such an extent in the air as to almost make navies useless on the surface of the waters.? Two months later, he returned to Congress to declare that ?I think the flying personnel of Naval Aviation are really in favor of [a separate air service] but hesitate to express their opinions because they are all junior officers and because the senior officers are against it largely, I believe, from lack of familiarity of the subject.?



According to the Air Force, the military organization has a few job openings ? over 2,000 ? in the pilot department, especially if you have experience. In his three-part series, Mike Benitez does a wonderful job illustrating how the service got to this position and how the lack of experienced pilots degrades its lethality and disrupts its ability to replenish the force through basic pipeline training. A year after War on the Rocks published Benitez?s articles, I hope to offer a ?front line? perspective as one of the pilots the Air Force is attempting to retain.


The Air Force?s new trainer jet is attracting the Navy?s and Marine Corps? interests

NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. ? The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are monitoring the development of the Air Force?s T-X training jet, but it may be years before they can launch their own competitions to replace the T-45, officials said Monday.

?We?re watching the T-X. Obviously the Air Force is going through that process,? Lt. Gen. Steven Rudder, the Marine Corps? deputy commandant for aviation, said during a panel at the Navy League?s Sea-Air-Space conference.


Ellsworth to be first operational B-21 base

The Air Force announced on Wednesday that it has chosen Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota to be the first base to house an operational B-21 bomber unit, as well as the formal training unit for the Raider. Whiteman Air Force Base in Missouri and Dyess Air Force Base in Texas will follow, and receive B-21s as they become available, the Air Force said in a release.


The Air Force is exploring AI-powered autonomous drones

The Air Force wants to see if AI-powered autonomous drones can help human pilots better perform their mission. In a press release, the Air Force said it was seeking input from the tech industry in a new AI initiative for autonomous drones it calls Skyborg. Still in its planning stages, the Air Force is looking for market research and concept of operations analysis for Skyborg to get a sense of what technologies are out there for such a fleet. It is seeking to launch protoypes of the autonomous drones as early as 2023.