USAF Short 500 Pilots

US Air Force pilots

If you want to be a fighter pilot, there's no time like the present, since the US Air Force is currently about 500 pilots short of what they need, and deficit is expected to grow to about 800 pilots short by 2022, according to a DefenseNews.com article.

Officials in the Air Force blame the reductions on budget cuts. Reductions in the number of training and fighter squadrons, as well as aircraft, have led this shortfall. It has gotten so severe now that the USAF's 2017 budget involves transferring some F-16s to two newly-created fighter training units, in order to train students fresh out of undergraduate pilot training (UPT).

The Air Force will also be offering bonuses to pilots that stay in the Air Force, or those that leave the active duty service and move into the Guard or Reserve. Pilots that sign a contract extension for active duty service can get up to $25,000 per year (up to nine years - or $225,000) in bonuses. Pilots that signed extensions last year may also be eligible.

Since the Gulf War in the early 1990's, the number of Air Force squadrons has shrunk by over 50% - down from 134 to 54 today.