Absorbing Air Force Fighter Pilots: Parameters, Problems, and Policy Options

by William W. Taylor, James H. Bigelow, Craig Moore, Leslie Wickman, Brent Thomas, Richard S. Marken


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The U.S. Air Force currently faces unprecedented problems in its efforts to provide adequate training for new and inexperienced pilots in its operational fighter units. On the one hand, there are too few fighter pilots in the active component to meet current and anticipated demands. On the other hand, the number of new fighter pilots entering operational units currently exceeds these units' absorption capacity, yielding a degraded training environment that ultimately threatens to compromise military readiness. This report assesses the Air Force's training dilemma with a view toward finding ways to remedy it in both the short and long term. Toward this goal, it defines the key parameters that influence a unit's absorption capacity, presents a best-case scenario on which to base numerical analyses, and offers several options decisionmakers can exercise. Although there is no simple resolution to the Air Force's training problem, a thorough understanding of the dynamic processes involved in aircrew management, together with a comprehensive analytic framework, promises to greatly aid decisionmakers in their efforts to address this issue.

Table of Contents

  • Preface

  • Figures

  • Tables

  • Summary

  • Acknowledgements


  • Acronyms

  • Chapter 1


  • Chapter 2

    Empirical Evidence from Operational Units

  • Chapter 3

    Managing the Pilot Inventory to Match Requirements

  • Chapter 4

    Absorption Capacity: Parameters and Relationships

  • Chapter 5

    Absorption Issues and Numerical Excursions

  • Chapter 6

    Implications and Alternatives

  • Bibliography

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The research described in this report was performed under the auspices of RAND's Project AIR FORCE.

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