The United States Air Force may recall as many as 1,000 retired military pilots to tackle an “acute shortage” in its ranks amid a national pilot crisis.
The measure amounts to an expansion of a state of national emergency declared by former President George W. Bush in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
It is meant “to mitigate the Air Force’s acute shortage of pilots,” said Pentagon spokesman Navy Commander Gary Ross in a statement on Saturday.
“We anticipate that the Secretary of Defense will delegate the authority to the Secretary of the Air Force to recall up to 1,000 retired pilots for up to three years,” Ross said.
On Friday, US President Donald Trump issued an executive order to remove a legal limit, allowing the air force recall up to 1,000 retired aviation officers to active-duty rather than just 25 in any one branch.
National pilot crisis
Trump’s order would give Defense Secretary James Mattis “additional authorities to recall retired aviation officers regardless of certain limitations on status, period of service, and numbers.”
“This is a national pilot crisis, not just a military crisis or an Air Force crisis,” Brigadier General Mike Koscheski, the Air Force’s Aircrew Crisis Task Force director, told CNBC in an interview. “The Air Force is partnering with industry to look for ways to just increase pilot production overall…because that’s going to be in the interest of the country — not just the military.”
North Korea has threatened to carry out unimaginable strike on the US amid US-South Korean military drills near the Korean Peninsula.
At the end of the 2016 fiscal year, US Secretary of Air Force Heather Wilson said the service is in need of 1,555 pilots, including 1,211 fighter pilots.
Other branches of the US military, including the US Navy, are also suffering from a shortage of military pilots.
“We need to retain our experienced pilots,” Wilson said in a statement on August 25. “We can’t afford not to compensate our talented aviators at a time when [commercial] airlines are hiring unprecedented numbers.”
Trump’s order was released not long after he threatened to launch a war against nuclear-armed North Korea, amid tensions between the resolute nation and United States’ regional allies.