A few years ago, any of the following scenarios were quite realistic:
- An aspiring fighter pilot is unable to get a pilot slot, so he becomes a navigator. A year or two later, because he has “air experience,” he is able to get a “second chance” to get a pilot slot, and his time as a navigator makes him very competitive.
- An aspiring fighter pilot is medically unqualified to be a pilot but still qualifies as a navigator. After a year or two as a navigator, he is able to get a medical waiver to obtain a pilot slot.
The opportunities for the above scenarios are increasingly rare. This is largely because there are fewer and fewer navigators, as many are being replaced by computers. In fact, the term “navigator” has essentially gone away and has been replaced by “combat systems operator,” or CSO, in most cases.
This means that in some cases the Air Force may be unwilling to let a CSO leave–unless the need for pilots is greater than the need for CSO. It is still possible to cross-train to become a pilot, but you should not view the CSO-detour as a primary path. If for some reason you can’t get a pilot slot but you can become a navigator, you do still “have a chance.”
In a word, no, it is not required. However, having flight time or even a complete private pilot’s license could improve your chances of being selected in an otherwise very competitive process. For one thing, it could be viewed as a demonstration of both your desire and ability to succeed in flight training. Private pilot training does begin to develop your “air sense,” and this can be an advantage in the early days of pilot training. However, it is very likely that by the end of training, everyone’s performance will look largely the same.
It is also worth mentioning that the FAA recognizes military pilot training. That means that after you complete your military pilot training, you can go to the local FAA office, take a test or two, and get several FAA qualifications (including commercial and instrument tickets)–free of charge.
In general, new pilots are placed on “formal release.” This means they have to show up at a specific time everyday and can’t leave until given permission by their instructors; it is unlikely they get such permission prior to the expiration of their 12 hour day. Student pilots show up for a formal brief and accomplish at least one scheduled training event like a sortie, simulator, or academics. Sorties are approximately 1 to 1.5 hours long.
A reasonably good description of this and other details surrounding UPT can be found at the military pilot section of BaseOps.net. While the website has some educational information, it also has questionable content. We neither endorse nor sanction the content of that site.
In March, the Air Force announced it had selected 87 company grade officers for Undergraduate Flying Training (UFT). UFT in Air Force parlance includes training for pilots, UAV operators, systems operators, and Air Battle Managers.
The Air Force does not release the numbers of total applicants, though it seems reasonable to conclude a few hundred applied. As the selectees were divided into a further four groups, only one of which was pilots, it seems the pilot track in the Air Force remains quite difficult to enter from active duty.
It can be done, as Read more
The Air Force announced it had selected more than 100 Captains and Lieutenants in its latest flying training board.
The UFT annual selection board convened in January to consider active-duty candidates for the program. Those selected will attend pilot, remotely-piloted aircraft, combat systems officer or air battle manager training…
These are active duty officers attempting to change career fields to aviation. Given historical precedence, about half of the selectees were probably pilots, with the other half spread among the other rated career fields.
The Air Force has generally held two Read more
As was noted here years ago, Air Force student pilots are often “tempted” to quit their training (or encouraged to continue, depending how you think about it) with the placement of truck driving school ads in conspicuous places. The ads hanging on pilot training walls are only half-joking.
Now it seems a federal grant has enabled Soldiers from Fort Bragg — many of whom were transpo drivers in the Army — to get a commercial drivers license as they transition to civilian life: Read more
While most think the US military is out of the Iraq business, a recent DoD article serves as a reminder that there are still US troops there:
Air Force Lt. Col. Chris Lachance is one of a handful of American airmen working to ensure that Iraqi Air force units at Al Sahra Airfield in Tikrit are getting the level of training they need to protect their skies.
The Iraqis are flying T-6s, the same aircraft the US Air Force and Navy use for pilot training. The article says 3 Airmen are advising “more than 800 civilian contracted instructors and fresh Iraqi airmen.”
Last November it was reported that the US Navy launched an investigation into the submarine community after a “cheating scandal” resulted in around 10% of the crew being kicked off their boat. Allegations that similar “cheating” was common were made in the press, and presumably by some of those who were kicked out.
The Navy has now concluded that cheating is not widespread, as had been asserted.
The inspector general…opened an investigation following a complaint Read more