Lt. General Steven L. Kwast

Facing a “national crisis” in the form of a shortage of qualified pilots, the U.S. Air Force is experimenting with a variety of ways to speed up training and to improve retention,  according to Lt General Steven Kwast, who leads efforts to recruit and train personnel, but he says the longer term solution may involve video games.

The Air Force is working with contractors on a series of video games it hopes to put online later this summer. It will be able to track the abilities of players, and contact those who show the right attributes to perhaps, one day, be a fighter pilot. Kwast stressed that the Air Force will not know the names of those playing the video games.


“If there’s a 15-year-old kid out there that is just on fire, intellectually and cognitively, to be a fighter pilot, let’s say, I have no right to know who they are,” he said, “I’ll probably send a message to that IP address saying ‘Go tell your mom and dad that you are special, and I will offer you a $100,000 signing bonus” said Kwast, “but we go through the parents, of course.”


The idea is reminiscent of the movies like “The Last Starfighter” and “Ender’s Game” in which young people who score well on flight simulator video games are recruited to fly spaceships and save the universe. Science fiction writers have often been ahead of their time, predicting how a new technology could change our lives, says Kwast. This may just be another example of fiction predicting what will become fact.


Kwast spoke at a Defense Writers Group breakfast discussion, that also covered issues related to training for women, training accidents and how many personnel it should take to run a surveillance drone, as unmanned aircraft technology continues to become more capable and effective.  The group is part of the Project for Media and National Security at the George Washington University’s School of Media and Public Affairs.

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