The Air Force Personnel Center said 131 enlisted airmen applied for the chance to become remotely piloted aircraft pilots under the next selection board.

That is fewer applicants than the 185 who sought to become enlisted RPA pilots during the first selection board process in early 2017. But AFPC spokesman Mike Dickerson said the pool of 131 applicants is more than enough to find 30 qualified enlisted RPA trainees.

AFPC’s goal is to have at least three times as many applicants as it will select to become pilot trainees, he said.

Airmen who hope to become an RPA pilot must complete and submit an application package, including an Air Force initial flying class II physical examination and a pilot qualification test.

The selection board will likely announce who has been chosen in early March.

The application window was open from June 2 to Nov. 15. To be eligible, airmen must be a staff sergeant through senior master sergeant in any career field, with at least six years of retainability from the time they would graduate from the course, or be able to obtain six years of retainability. They also cannot be receiving a critical skills retention bonus.

Enlisted RPA pilots now only fly the unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawk reconnaissance drone. But the Air Force has not shut the door entirely on eventually allowing them to fly armed RPAs in the future.

Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.

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