The US Air Force’s (USAF) 558th Flying Training Squadron (FTS) has revealed plans to double the remotely piloted aircraft pilot ranks.
The start of its first 24-person class at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph follows an initiative announced by the USAF in 2015 to increase the number of career RPA pilots across the service.
USAF 558th FTS commander lieutenant colonel John Stallworth said: "The RPA community as a whole is experiencing manpower issues and there is a need to train more pilots to help ease the overall strain on the career field.
"We have worked diligently since last April to ensure we can meet the increased demand for trained ’18X’ pilots."
The USAF plans to run 16 classes starting each fiscal year, thereby increasing the number of pilots trained annually from 192 up to 384.
The force has also hired other instructor billets put on the books, increasing the squadron grow from 62 instructors to 104 over the next few months.
Stallworth said: "Our instructor cadre will be roughly 50% military and 50% civilian.
"The (instructors) are doing a great job being flexible during this time of growth, they’ve done everything we have asked and more throughout this process."
Additionally, a major renovation project is being carried out at the 558th FTS building at the base.
The USAF plans to split the students into two halves of 12- working on academics and training on the simulators simultaneously to reduce down time to the maximum.
Image: The undergraduate remotely piloted aircraft pilot training class. Photo: US Air Force photo / Airman 1st Class Christian Clausen.