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Air Force Offers Bonus To Keep Fighter Pilots

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Citing a shortage of qualified pilots, the U.S. Air Force has offered bonuses of up to $225,000 to active-duty aviators who re-enlist by September 30. The program requires a commitment of up to nine years. The purpose of the program is to retain highly qualified aircrew members at a fraction of the cost incurred to train new rated officers, said Lt. Col. Stuart Rubio, Air Force Rated Force Policy-Mobility Forces Chief. "In addition, we preserve a fully ready cadre of aircrew officers, eliminating years of necessary tempering and experience," he said. The Air Force hopes about 162 fighter pilots -- 65 percent of those eligible -- will take the new option, according to the Air Force Times. That would cost the Air Force about $36.7 million.

The bonuses are generous because there is a current and projected shortage of fighter pilots, Lt. Col. Kurt Konopatzke, chief of rated force policy, told the Times. Last year, the Air Force offered a bonus for fighter pilots if they extended their contracts for five years. “As we started looking at the data through FY 13 … we realized that the shortage hasn't gone away, and as a matter of fact, as we look at our projections, we think that shortage is going to continue for the next several years," Konopatzke said. Applicants must be lieutenant colonels and below with no more than 22 years of aviation service, qualified for operational flying duty, and entitled to and receiving aviator pay. Monetary incentives for those who qualify vary depending on aviator category and number of years he or she commits. Annual payments range from $15,000 to $25,000, with some categories eligible for 50 percent up front.

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