The Air Force will face a shortage of 1,000 pilots in the coming years as extended deployments and restricted training for non-deployed pilots due to budget constraints hurt morale, the service’s top leaders said during a State of the Air Force media briefing Wednesday.
Earlier announcements indicated the service would be 700 fighter pilots short by the end of the year, reported Stars and Stripes.
“It is a crisis,” said new Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein, who addressed reporters at the Pentagon along with Secretary Deborah Lee James.
The shortage stems not only from the drop in pilot morale, but also from competition from the commercial airline industry, which has increased hiring for pilots.
The Air Force also is short 4,000 maintainers, which exacerbates the problem because it reduces the number of aircraft that are available to fly, Goldfein testified in June.
“The reality is, pilots who don’t fly, maintainers who don’t maintain, controllers who don’t control are not going to stay with the company,” Goldfein said.
To address the shortfalls in both pilots and maintainers, the Air Force is setting up two new F-16 training facilities later this year; the locations have not been announced, according to the story.
Goldfein linked the service’s low readiness levels to issues with pilot morale. “Morale and readiness are absolutely linked,” he said. “Where we have low readiness we have our largest morale issues.”