Naval Aviators Are Being Offered More Cash to Become Commanding Officers

Pilots stand on the flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan.
Pilots stand on the flight deck of the USS Ronald Reagan. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Kenneth Abbate)

Big cash bonuses are not just for Navy recruits. The Navy is also offering more than $100,000 to naval aviators to stay in the service and become senior officers and admirals.

In an administrative message released last week, the sea service announced that pilots who are commanders in rank and eligible to head up a squadron could receive $105,000 if they agree to three more years of service.

The amount is $5,000 higher than in previous years, and the Navy has also introduced a two-year obligation option with a $35,000 bonus as well.

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The message notes that officers who take the three-year bonus -- paid out in $35,000 increments over those years -- will have a 22-year obligation of service. The two-year bonus carries a 21-year obligation.

Meanwhile, the Navy's recruiting website for new enlisted sailors boasts that future active-duty sailors who leave for boot camp before October can earn up to $140,000 between bonuses and loan repayment offerings.

The Navy says that its goal with the large retention bonus for pilots is to keep "highly talented, hard-working naval aviators and naval flight officers, screened for aviation command" on active duty and hold on to "their invaluable and irreplaceable skill sets and leadership."

"They are the major commanders and flag officers of tomorrow," the message added.

While there is little recent data, historically, government investigations and reports have found that the Navy has struggled to retain pilots in necessary numbers. However, that problem is not as severe as the struggle the Navy's surface warfare community faces. It's also not the only branch facing the challenge.

The Navy also runs a similar retention program for reserve pilots at the department head level. This year, it offered similar-sized bonuses for some pilots to stay past that mid-career point as well.

Applications for the commanding officer bonus are due by the end of August.

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @ktoropin.

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