The US Air Force plans to recall up to 1000 retired pilots to active duty following the signing of a Presidential executive order Friday.
"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," Commander Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement as quoted by news agencies.
The Air Force has complained for years that it is struggling to retain pilots, who are often lured away by better-paying commercial airlines and leave the force due to the strains of extended deployments.
The Air Force was 1,555 pilots short at the end of fiscal 2016, which includes 1,211 total force fighter pilots–with the deficit expected to grow, the force had announced in August. Additionally, General Stephen Wilson, vice chief of staff of the Air Force, told lawmakers this year that the service is short of 1,555 pilots and 3,400 aircraft maintainers.
In August this year, the Air Force had announced three additional initiatives designed to keep pilots in the service and bringing retired pilots back to fill critical-rated positions.
The first is an increase in the aviation incentive pay, commonly called flight pay, for both officer and enlisted aviators for the first time since 1999, effective Oct. 1, 2017. The second is an expansion of the fiscal year 2017 Aviation Bonus Program to include non-contracted and contract-expired pilots that began Aug. 4, 2017. The third is the rated return to active duty program which brings retired pilots back into the service to fill critical-rated staff positions that began Aug. 11, 2017.
Recently, the US government had turned down a request from Turkey to send instructor-pilots to train fresh F-16 pilots for replacing those sacked on suspicion of participating in the July 2016 coup.