Air Force Offers $225,000 Bonus to Fighter Pilots The Air Force is opening its wallet to keep more fighter pilots for a longer period of time, even as the service faces serious budget cuts that may continue for years. About 250 fighter pilots are eligible to receive a $225,000 bonus in exchange for a nine-year commitment under the latest change to the Aviator Retention Pay program, said Lt. Col. Kurt Konopatzke, chief of rated force policy. Pilots can take half the money up front in a lump sum payout of $112,500, minus taxes. The rest is paid out over the nine years of the contract. Previously, fighter pilots could only sign up to five-year contracts for bonuses of $25,000 per year, so now they can receive nearly twice the amount of money to stay in the Air Force, Konopatzke said. Other aviators also are eligible for the retention bonus, but for contracts of no more than five years, at up to $25,000 per year for a maximum of $125,000. Fighter pilots who have completed 10 years of service after pilot training have until Sept. 30, the end of the fiscal year, to decide whether to sign a nine-year contract, Konopatzke said. The Air Force hopes about 162 fighter pilots — 65 percent of those eligible — will take the new option. That would cost the Air Force about $36.675 million, with a payout this fiscal year of $18.337 million. The reason the Air Force is being so generous is that it has a current and projected shortage of fighter pilots, Konopatzke said. Last year, the Air Force allowed fighter pilots to take half of their retention bonus up front if they extended their contracts for five years. “As we started looking at the data through FY 13 and in the out years, we realized that the shortage hasn’t gone away, and as a matter of fact, as we look at our projections, we think that shortage is going to continue for the next several years,” he said.