The Air Force will soon stand up interim F-16 training units in the near term in order to increase pilot output, the service announced Thursday.
"We need to increase our pilot production, and soon we will announce the stand up of new F-16 training units," Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James told reporters at a State of the Air Force briefing with Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein. "We expect to select candidate locations for up to two new training locations by the end of December 2016.
"In the meantime we intend to augment up to two of our existing training units to jump-start pilot production by the end of September 2017," she said on Wednesday.
Because the Air Force cannot permanently base formal training units, or FTUs, without first conducting an environmental impact analysis, cost benefit analysis, and other site surveys, "which takes time," an interim solution to increase fighter pilot training will temporarily move F-16 aircraft at Hill Air Force Base, Utah, to two of the existing F-16 training locations, the Air Force said in a release.
The new plan would alter the
the Air Force's original plan
to keep the F-16s at Hill until 2018. According to the service's fiscal 2017 budget documents, the original force structure plan for its fleet of aircraft called for Hill to keepits fleet of 54 F-16s until some time in fiscal year 2018.
The bases being considered to take Hill’s F-16 fighter jets are Luke Air Force Base or Tucson Air Guard Station, Arizona; Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico; or Joint Base San Antonio’s Kelly Air Guard Station, Texas.
"The Air Force is committed to a deliberate and open process to address relocating the F-16s," said Jennifer A. Miller, deputy assistant secretary of the Air Force for Installations. "As we progress through the basing process, we will share information so interested communities are aware of what to expect," she said in the release.
The F-16 Falcons at Hill have needed to exit the base for space reasons for quite some time: The pilots and crews at Hill have been putting the new, fifth-generation F-35 through its paces for a few years. Eventually, the base is looking to set up three full F-35 squadrons with a total of 72 aircraft by 2019.
It’s no secret the Air Force wants to increase pilot output as soon as possible given the shortage of fliers, which puts the service in " a crisis," both James and Goldfein said.
Site surveys will begin at the interim locations next week to gather detailed information on operational requirements, infrastructure capacity, environmental considerations, and cost, the service said.
After the Air Force identifies candidate bases for the long-term, permanent solution later this year, Air Education and Training Command will "conduct site surveys at each location as applicable," the release stated.
"Site survey teams will assess each location against operational requirements, potential impacts to existing missions, infrastructure, environmental considerations and manpower. They will also develop cost estimates to beddown the F-16s," the statement said.
Oriana Pawlyk covers deployments, cyber, Guard/Reserve, uniforms, physical training, crime and operations in the Middle East and Europe for Air Force Times. She was the Early Bird Brief editor in 2015. Email her at email@example.com.