Volun-told to RPAs?


5-Year Member
May 16, 2016
Anyone have any info (or an informed guess) as to what percentage of cadets seeking (manned-) UPT pilot slots were nonetheless assigned to RPA slots? And is this trend increasing over time for USAFA (and pilot-qualified) grads? All of the RPA slot data that I can find fold in those who preferenced an RPA assignment.
All applicants for all types of rate duty are solely volunteers, meaning if you applied to both pilot training and RPA training but were only selected for the latter, you could still turn down RPA duty. I don't have any hard numbers but USAFA cadets get first preference in rated duty application, meaning if you want to be a real pilot instead of a computer pilot, you will more than likely get that opportunity.

The only caveat to all this is that active duty Air Force pilots, can (and do) get forced into RPA duty, since Air Force pilots are under 10 year ADSC contracts. Again, you likely won't find any hard statistics for this. When the UAV world was first getting started in the early 2000's, it was more common for this to happen. However since the Air Force created two separate career fields for pilots and UAV drivers, you will probably find there is more of an emphasis on keeping the two separated.
One aspect that needs to be understood is that although there is an RPA school, the AF has at times forced students at UPT bases to go RPA (drop night). It was only a couple of yrs ago that all of the UPT bases, except ENJJPT dropped 2 RPA slots per class for entire yr. They announced this action very short notice. The students of the 1st class that dropped RPAs were informed about 2 weeks prior to drop night, needless to say there were students very unhappy because for a yr they thought as long as they graduated they would go fixed wing only to find out at last minute that would not be true.

Just saying that even if you get UPT there is a chance that they could still send you to the RPA world out of UPT. It comes down to the needs of the AF. It is like a pendulum. The AF tries to keep it in balance, but sometimes it swings.

I will add that in a course of about 6 yrs they did this 2x. My DS winged in 14. His was the 1st class to have no RPA drops. I want to say the one that did the 2 RPA drops for a yr., occurred about 3 yrs ago. They were losing RPA pilots at a higher rate than they could replace them, plus at the exact same time although the UPT world was running at 110% rate, the backlog was long not only for UPT class start dates, but at the airframe school houses. It was not uncommon for the sims to be running 24/7 6 days a week. Thus, to help the fixed wing school house world with catching up, and get more RPA pilots, Big Blue figured pull them from UPT.
Any updated information on RPA slots and fill rates from this years job drops?