What's the future look like for an RPA career?

Discussion in 'Air Force Academy - USAFA' started by xray328, Sep 18, 2015.

  1. xray328

    xray328 Member

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    Saw the demand for cadets to get into RPA, what's the career outlook for those folks after the military?
     
  2. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    Well, that's a big question. And, of course, we can only speculate.

    Perhaps others with an insight into this career field can weigh in.
     
  3. AFrpaso

    AFrpaso USAFA '17

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    Of the little time I spent in the RPA community I gathered that there are very lucrative job opportunities as civilian contractors working for the government in the RPA world. I'm sure there are many other transferable skills which could be employed in the private sector.

    I might be able to get some more information for you in a few days.
     
  4. xray328

    xray328 Member

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    Guys in the career field sure don't seem happy while they're in. Overworked, undertrained, low promotion rates, looked down on by the "real" pilots...getting better I guess though.
     
  5. skismuggs

    skismuggs Member

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    Just curious about what all of that means. I keep seeing those comments on various posts with no clear explanation. Thanks.
     
  6. AROTC-dad

    AROTC-dad Just a dad

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    Last edited: Sep 18, 2015
  7. xray328

    xray328 Member

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  8. xray328

    xray328 Member

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    I agree, they should just make it an enlisted job. Require high qualifications of course, under the direct (in the same room) supervision of an OIC.
     
  9. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    I'm sure the AF Chief will take your suggestion under advisement.
     
  10. skismuggs

    skismuggs Member

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    Now those articles are pretty depressing and uninspiring for future RPA pilots I can see why people don't want to do this job.
     
  11. afmom2020

    afmom2020 Member

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    I laughed aloud in a crowded subway car. Well done!
     
  12. xray328

    xray328 Member

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  13. fencersmother

    fencersmother Founding Member

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    If that happens, the retention problem for manned and unmanned aircraft will escalate about 100000 times.
     
  14. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    I agree with fencer. Although it is a great idea to hand off to enlisted, but can you imagine how ticked these pilots would be, especially the ones coming out of UPT right now. They can't get enough of them to take on the bonus right now. Imagine the rate once they announce that they will be flown by enlisted.

    Now I can see them having a two tier system regarding the mission and size of the drones. In other words that maybe they have the combat drones, such as the MQ-9 reaper flown by officers and the MQ1 predator flown by enlisted.

    However, again, that is going to be hard to do from a morale/retention aspect. Harder even so if they do this before 2017 since they are forcing 2 pilots out of every UPT class at every base, minus ENJJPT to go RPA through 2016. Think about it...here you got a pilot that was forced into it after 14 months of UPT hell and 6 months later they say that this job can be done just as easily by enlisted member. How would you feel?
    ~ I get it this is about the mission and man power needs, but part of their problem is retention in not just the RPA, but also the pilot world. The moment that word gets out it will not be pretty.

    I remember when in the late 90s the AF started converting some heavies over and removing the navigators. There was a lot of bad morale in that world. There were guys that just said I am out of here. You can force me to take a non-volunteer PCS, but I am gone the minute my commitment is up.
     
  15. USAFretired1996

    USAFretired1996 Member

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    I could see this AFSC becoming all enlisted in the future with selective reenlistment into the AFSC at the E5 rank. It would require officer pilots until the enlisted force matured and then there would no longer be a need for them. Officer oversight could be provided at the squadron CC and DO level with rated officers brought in for a tour similar to the rated sup. It would be a great Command opportunity for CSO and ABM officers.
     
  16. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    OK, but how do you do that transition when right now the RPA program is officer only? That is the problem they are facing. TRANSITIONING.

    MPO is if Big Blue wants to transition out of the officer world for RPAs, than they should bring back Warrant Officers. Make this a WO position.

    I just do not see that in the next 5 years this will be on the table. HQ AF has stated that @100 in the next year will be pulled from UPT into the RPA world for at least 3-4 years.
    ~ That means 2020 when they can step into manned airframes. Imagine their anger in 2018 when an E5 is sitting next to them doing the exact same job from a pride aspect. Imagine the E5s anger sitting next to the O3 making 20K a year more just in base pay than them doing the same job.

    Either way you play it morale will take a huge hit.
    Yes, they can transition it, but right now, and until 2019/2020 they will have RPA pilots that went to UPT in 2015/16 and forced into this field.
     
  17. USAFretired1996

    USAFretired1996 Member

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    This problem won’t be fixed overnight. The AF has been grappling with this for the last 20 years since the RPAs first came on line. It will take a long term view to get this transitioned to the enlisted force. In the interim, the officer pilots will have to do the job and do it well like they have previously under difficult conditions. Otherwise, the low officer morale and high burnout will continue.


    I think you underestimate the enlisted force. I don’t see any distinction between an enlisted RPA pilot making a decision to employ a missile and an enlisted TACP on the ground calling in a lethal air strike. Fortunately, from the comments I’ve read from General Welsh, he holds the enlisted force in high regard and capable of this mission.


    The AF will never bring back Warrant Officers as that will require reducing the Chief and Senior Master Sergeant ranks to accomplish it. That was the trade off in 1959 when the AF did away with the Warrant ranks and brought these 2 highest enlisted ranks on-line which are limited by Public Law to the top 3% of the enlisted force (1% Chief and 2% Senior Master Sergeant.) As a retired member of the Chief’s mafia, I can assure you that is a problem that the AF does not want or need.


    My ’16 son is awaiting his rated AFSC selection now. If he doesn’t get a pilot slot, his outlook is that being an officer RPA pilot is better than being stuck in the back seat of an F-15E or the back of an E-3. I told him that in the ‘90s before I retired, support officers in charge of the chow hall had better promotion rates than WSOs. Whether that is true or not today I don’t know but I think there is a brighter future in the RPA community than CSO and ABM.
     
  18. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    I am not underestimating the enlisted force. I am looking at morale and retention.

    I don't think that they (enlisted) can't perform, I think that the pilots forced in to RPA world through 2016 (FY17) and showing up op world in 2017 (FY18) for their 1st assignment out of UPT will not be thrilled to know that the AF now believes an E5 can do the job.

    I think that the enlisted member will not be thrilled sitting next to that O3 getting the new bonuses they just released, when they are not getting one.

    I said earlier that I think they can do it, but I think it might need to be done in stages. UPT is dropping from what I read MQ9s (reaper). Reapers carry ammunition...I think drone strikes. Predators are different from what I know. They are more recon.
    ~ No flaming that is my assumption.

    Sorry, but we will agree to disagree here.
    My DH flew the 15E as a WSO (GIB), started off in the 111. He not only attended O4 PME in residence, but at Leavenworth as an exchange student.He was the only 1, rated, be it pilot or WSO from our base for PME that was selected to attend a sister school. He always had a DP for each rank.
    ~He commissioned in 1987, and winged as a WSO in Nov. 1988.

    I am sure you have seen posts by some guy named Bullet here that works on the 35 at the Pentagon. That would be my DH...the WSO.

    Last tidbit: Please Google Mike Good astronaut. BG Brian Killough, Col. Brian Kirkwood, or Colonel Ken Byrd. All were WSOs.
    ~ I know for a fact their year groups because during the course of Bullets career he served with them somewhere. They all were young in the 90s. I mean in UNT in 1988 young.

    Yes, life is different now. The strike is basically your only fighter option, but I am not so sure I would agree with you on the go RPA over CSO if you went to fly manned. The RPA is undermanned, and releasing them to go UPT might be a crap shoot. Whereas, a CSO will get manned airframe hours and it might be easier to xtrain.

    I do agree ABM is not where I would advise my child to go from a deployment/future career.

    For those that wonder what a GIB is ...Guy/Gal in Back.
    Old WSOs have patches that say things like:
    WSO Union....shut up and drive!

    Needless to say, I am a proud WSO wife and now a proud C130J pilot Mom.
     
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2015
  19. Non Ducor Duco

    Non Ducor Duco I am not led, I lead

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    Could you please expound on this? I have heard so little about ABM, is it really less desired than even RPA?
     
  20. Pima

    Pima Parent

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    I think so, the fact is no matter what rated position you take will be endless hours some days.

    You will owe upon winging X amount of time. If you desire to bolt at that time, ask yourself what would you do in the corporate world as an ABM? How many opportunities outside of govt will you have to translate that experience?

    Now ask that same question as an RPA pilot.
    ~ We daily hear/read via the news of drones creating issues in the commercial airline world.
    ~~ Don't you think the FAA will want to hire pilots with RPA experience?
    ~Amazon says they will one day deliver packages via drones
    ~~ Don't you think they want the employees that have been a drone pilot for years to help them design this system?
    ~ Next generation drones will be coming down the line at a fast pace for our military
    ~~ Don't you think they want someone to say, that is not what they need, this is what they need..only an RPA pilot can say that.

    Don't get me wrong. I believe there is a strategic need for ABM, but I think that for the military and the technological advance in our society the AF is placing little emphasis on the ABM world.
    ~ Money talks. AF right now has 2 different RPA retention bonus programs going to keep them. There is no talk of that for ABM.
    ~ My DS at UPT said he would be happy with anything except something that started with an E. ABMs fly in an E airframe.

    I respect them. I do not want anybody to misinterpret my post. I am just saying that in the end, for that career it is a lot more than you can imagine and in the end, I am not sure how you convert your experience (minus management) to a corporate world when comparing it to an RPA pilot.
     

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