RAF admits ‘urgent’ requirement for new pilots

The Royal Air Force is bringing in outside assistance to help with a growing shortfall of aircrew in order to ensure that it has sufficient numbers of pilots and weapons operators to meet operational demands.

The RAF has commissioned the Boston Consulting Group to suggest potential solutions to the issue, as to well as to gauge support for different options.

The situation is so dire that at one point last year Defence Secretary Ben Wallace admitted that the RAF had more F35s than pilots to crew them. By November, the situation had improved with 27 F35s and 33 pilots, but that included Australian and US pilots over on exchange and was “not a staggering amount”, Mr Wallace admitted to MPs.

The secretary of state also said in November that he had raised the “pilot pipeline” problem with the Chief of the Air Staff “some three years ago” and since then “we have gone effectively backwards”.

In the last seven years the RAF has reduced its number of aircraft but despite this still has a significant shortage of pilots to crew them. The finger of blame is being pointed at training capacity, which according to reports has fallen by 73% over the last four years. Exacerbating this is a UK commitment to train pilots from countries including Saudi Arabia and Qatar, as part of a deal to sell Typhoon fighter jets, reducing the capacity available for training UK pilots.

The number of Hawk training aircraft has also fallen from 118 (with 74 in service) in the period 2016-17; to 95 (with 42 in service) in 2022-23.

Speaking to reporters, former Defence Chief Lord West said that the situation is a “disgrace”. “The UK’s training system has been failing for at least four or five years. I’m afraid we need to aim the target at the air force – this is causing real problems. There’s been a lack of response, it’s been very risky for the nation and it’s not been impressive,” said Lord West.

Author: FTN Editor

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