AF announces FY16 aviator bonuses: RPA pilots eligible for first time

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  • By Public Affairs Command Information
  • Office of the Secretary of the Air Force
Eligible active-duty aviators have until Sept. 30 to apply for the fiscal year 2016 Aviator Retention Pay or Critical Skills Retention Bonus programs, Air Force officials announced Dec. 15.

"The cost to train and develop our Airmen is a significant investment for the Air Force," said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A. Welsh III. "These incentives are cost effective methods to retain a sufficient force of skilled and experienced aviators to meet our current and future requirements."

RPA pilot Critical Skills Retention Bonus

Air Force leadership, having advocated through the Office of the Secretary of Defense and to Congress for increased authority, announces that for the first time, the fiscal 2016 National Defense Authorization Act is authorizing remotely piloted aircraft pilots to be paid using the same authorities as all other aviators. This new legislative authority cannot be implemented until cross-service guidance is drafted and approved. In the meantime, the Air Force will offer, a Critical Skills Retention Bonus to those career RPA pilots (18X) whose undergraduate RPA pilot training service obligation is expiring.

Officers who have earned an aeronautical rating prior to attending Undergraduate RPA Pilot Training (URT) are eligible for an identical bonus offering under the fiscal 2016 Aviator Retention Pay program outlined below. The combination of bonuses now allows the Air Force to compensate all RPA pilots at the same level regardless of aeronautical rating.

"It is important to ensure RPA pilots receive a bonus that is equitable to other pilots," said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. "Therefore, we worked closely with OSD to implement the CSRB for them and with a commensurate amount this year. These Airmen are making extremely important contributions to the fight; we need these professionals to stay with us and we're committed to retaining them in our force."

The Air Force takes into account training costs, market conditions and demand when determining the appropriate incentives designed to retain skilled and experienced Airmen in RPA and other critical missions.

The fluid global environment points to a strong demand for the effects airpower delivers and to retain the highly skilled pilots needed for the nation's defense.

"RPA missions are increasingly critical to national security, and our ability to retain experienced RPA pilots will enable us to meet current and emergent mission requirements," said Lt. Gen. Jay Raymond, the deputy chief of staff for operations.

In fiscal 2016, RPA pilots who have accumulated six years of aviation service after completion of undergraduate RPA pilot training are eligible for a bonus of five annual installments of $25,000, with the option to receive 50 percent of the bonus total payable up front. Once the new authorities and cross-service guidance are available, RPA pilots will be eligible to transition to longer bonus periods matching those currently available to other aviators.

To be eligible, officers must be active-duty lieutenant colonels and below who have an 18X RPA aeronautical rating. They must have completed undergraduate RPA pilot training and six years of 18X aviation service after RPA training. In addition, they must be entitled to and be receiving RPA aviation incentive pay, and cannot complete 25 years of active-duty before the end of their bonus period.

Aviator retention pay

This year's ARP program continues to build upon previous year's offers to decisively shape and retain the rated force providing specific eligible pilots and combat systems officers with monetary incentives in exchange for active-duty service commitments.

Pilots, to include those who entered into a fiscal 2015 agreement last year, have the opportunity to accept an agreement of five years or one that will commit them until they reach 20 Years of Aviation Service (YAS). Those pilots who are uncommitted and have not previously accepted an ARP agreement are offered the same five year or 20 YAS commitment at a reduced rate.

"This year, the most noteworthy change is the opportunity for pilots whose undergraduate flying training active duty service commitments expire in FY17 to enroll in an ARP agreement now and receive their first payment immediately upon contract ratification," said Brig. Gen. Brian Kelly, the director of military force management policy. "Remaining payments will be spread out equally over the contract term."

Additionally, combat systems officers from the rescue, remotely piloted aircraft and fighter career fields may accept an ARP agreement for five or nine years, not to exceed 20 YAS, to address shortages and growing requirements. Those combat systems officers and air battle managers in the RPA enterprise are also eligible for ARP at the same level as other RPA pilots.

The fiscal 2016 ARP program applies to lieutenant colonels and below. Also, these officers must be qualified for operational flying duty and entitled to and receiving monthly flight pay.

Depending on the aviator category and length of the ARP contract, incentives will vary from $15,000 to $25,000 per year with some categories eligible to receive 50 percent of the ARP total payable up front.

Similar to the fiscal 2015 program, Airmen who will complete their Undergraduate Flying Training active-duty service commitment (ADSC) anytime in fiscal 2016 may submit an application to the Air Force Personnel Center to lock in a contract under the fiscal 2016 ARP program terms and conditions.

Airmen applying for these bonus programs should typically expect to see payments within three weeks after final approval of their application and processing by DFAS. Complete eligibility requirements and application instructions are available on the myPers website at the Officer Compensation link in the left hand column.