The Air Force has narrowed down hundreds of airmen in the running to become enlisted drone pilots to enter the next phase of the program.
The Air Force Personnel Center on Wednesday said 305 active-duty enlisted airmen were identified for an upcoming selection board tasked with picking the next enlisted group to attend remotely piloted aircraft training.
Officials didn't disclose how many of those airmen will then be selected for formal training, set to begin in 2017. But they're seeing a surge of interest.
The center received more than 800 applicants during this cycle. For comparison, the program normally gets around 200 applicants. Because of the boost, the center is processing potential candidates in groups.
The Air Force last year announced it would begin training enlisted airmen to operate the unarmed RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted aircraft. Officials in September touted that the Enlisted Pilot Initial Class, or EPIC, would begin on Oct. 12 with four of 12 total students training alongside 20 recently commissioned officers.
The formal training process spans an entire year.
"We have an incredibly talented pool of enlisted Airmen, and we're confident that this rigorous selection process will yield excellent enlisted aircrew who will continue to provide combatant commanders with the ISR they need to win today's fight," Senior Master Sgt. Rebecca Guthrie, career enlisted aviator assignments manager at AFPC said in a release.
Candidates selected in Phase 2 "will need to get the required medical screening and commander’s recommendation and submit completed application packages to AFPC no later than Dec. 16," the release said. If warranted, medical waivers will be due by Jan. 27, 2017.
The enlisted RPA pilot selection board will meet Feb. 6 - 9, with results expected by the end of that month, officials said.