Demand Grows for U.S. Military UAV Operators, Monetary Incentives Plentiful
April 23, 2012 7:45 AM
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UAV pilots have added bonuses to fly the unmanned drones overseas, much to the dismay of some other military members
The Department of Defense is paying closer attention to the military budget, ending some military programs, though the unmanned drone project continues to prosper.
The benefit of being a UAV pilot, including being able to work stateside while still receiving flight pay, has angered some fighter jet pilots in the military. As the need for skilled UAV pilots continues, however, the small field is expected to successfully recruit skilled pilots operating drones thousands of miles away from the battlefield.
The Air Force Personnel Center said there are fewer than 1,100 UAV pilots and roughly 800 sensor operators responsible for flying missions in Afghanistan and other parts of the world.
In the future, the Air Force is expected to continue to offer flight pay and added incentives to UAV crews, in an effort to ensure personnel levels are met.
"It's really kind of a boring job to be vigilant on the same thing for days and days and days," noted Col. Hernando Orega, Air Force Surgeon General's Office, during a speech in Washington. "It's really boring. It's kind of terrible. And maintaining relationships with their families -- these were the kinds of things that they reported as stressful for them."
UAV pilots can earn up to an $840 bonus per month and sensor operators can net a $400 per month bonus for flying missions, depending on the amount of service. After a UAV or sensor pilot has been in for a four-year stint, they are up for a $50,000 reenlistment bonus -- and that number increases towards $80,000 for the twelfth year reenlistment bonus.
Earlier in the year, a congressional report revealed that
one in three warplanes are drones
, and that number will likely increase because the military hopes to expand their UAV program more.
Besides aircraft drones, the USMC is now
testing an unmanned helicopter
and US Navy submarines are also
jumping into the drone fun.
Once out of the military, there will be plenty of demand for UAV pilots and sensor operators, with drones now becoming popular on the home front. Drones are used by the Department of Homeland Security, for example, to help pinpoint drug and human smuggling along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Air Force Times
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4/23/2012 10:20:42 AM
That's likely the flight pay they're receiving, for flying the UAV.
Regular pay would be whatever an officer makes, likely at the O-1 to O-2 level. Since the Air Force requires all their UAV pilots to be officers who have gone through their flight school, the pay is a little better. Not sure whether they're "recruiting" people who are already licensed fliers yet, but since they're required to be officers (and the Air Force doesn't have warrant officer ranks), you'd also have to have a 4 year degree (to be a commissioned officer).
Sensor operators, from what I understand, can be enlisted....but their pay isn't going to come anywhere near what a flying officer will make.
According to the military pay chart I looked at, on the Defense Finance (DFAS) site, an O-1 or O-2 base pay is just under $3000/month. An enlisted person, E-2 to E-4, will bring in ~$1500 to $1750 a month, base pay. Both are also capable of receiving housing allowance (if base housing isn't available, and they qualify), plus various allowances.
Don't expect to get rich by being in the military!
4/23/2012 3:26:46 PM
Good, detailed answer. Thanks! I guess I'll stick to my original cushy desk job :)
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