US Air Force Selects First Enlisted Airmen to Train as Pilots Since WWII

A RQ-4A in U.S. Navy markings. Source: Wikipedia
A RQ-4A in U.S. Navy markings. Source: Wikipedia

Ten enlisted men have been selected by the US Air Force for training as pilots. It is the first time this has happened since World War II.

They will be trained to fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk. The RQ-4 is an unmanned intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance aircraft.

Those types of missions are the most requested by combatant commanders, and the Air Force expects that demand to increase. Remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) use for these missions will increase as well.

“In the future, RPAs may act as wingmen to manned aircraft,” said Captain Trisha Guillebeau.

The identities of the airmen trainees have not been released.

By 2020, the Air Force goal is to have 70% of the normal Global Hawk missions piloted by enlisted pilots. Leadership positions will be filled by officers. The program will be used to see if a similar approach can be used with other weapons systems.

“It is too soon to speculate on any expansion of enlisted aircrew beyond the RQ-4 program,” said  Captain Guillebeau.

The airmen will begin the program in October and graduate in 2017. Nominations for the next class are due in November.

First, the airmen will be trained on a standard airplane, the DA-20 Falcon in Pueblo, Colorado. They will move on to classes in remotely piloted aircraft fundamentals and Global Hawk Basic Qualification Training at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas and Beale Air Force Base, California.

Nearly 3000 enlisted men flew as pilots from 1912 to 1957. Eleven of those became general officers. Seventeen became flying aces. Over 150 were killed in action.

Those who graduate from the program will serve in the 12th Reconnaissance Squadron at Beale Air Force Base or the 348th Reconnaissance Squadron at Grand Forks Air Force Base, ND.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE