Training Cuts: Ex-Pilots React

Former Navy F/A-18 pilot Harry Hirschman is disgusted by the Air Force's decision to drastically cut back on training time for fighter jocks.F-5_3-plane_SandMntn.jpg"There's a lot of gamesmanship that goes into the training and readiness numbers. But you can't game the number of hours each pilot gets to fly," he tells Defense Tech.

In the Navy, it took at least 32 hours per month to even come close to full combat readiness. And that needs to be maintained for several months per squadron per pilot in order to be able to get the myriad types of training in. It's impossible to be 100% efficient on the training too, because senior pilots end up repeating certain types of sorties with junior pilots in order to move them along the learning curve.A cut like the one described below will hurt across the board because it's so deep. Squadrons will give as much time to the junior pilots as they can in order to get them up to a minimum level of competence and safety but they won't be able to do it all because they'll have to send senior guys along to teach. It's a very difficult situation for a squadron commander and training officer.But then, there may be some gamesmanship in what the Air Force is doing. By cutting so dramatically into something that defense watchers know will impact combat readiness, they may be hoping for a reprieve.
"The irony is the savings projected are a pittance," adds retired Gen. Tom Wilkerson, who logged over 3,000 hours in the front seats of F-4s and F/A-18s. "What is $272 million against one F-22 [stealth fighter] purchase?"
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