Air Force pilot shortage climbs to 2,000, inundated aviators carry 'a very heavy burden’

The Air Force’s pilot shortage continues to get worse – the armed services branch is now about 2,000 below its target number.

"Almost 2,000 pilots short of a force that has 20,000 pilots, so that's one in 10 that we're short," Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson told reporters during a Pentagon briefing Thursday.

Wilson didn’t say what kind of pilots were needed, but said "increasing the readiness of the force so that we win any fight, anytime are our top priorities,” Military.com reported. Last summer, the Air Force said it was 1,500 pilots short.

Wilson added that the service is currently too small "for all the missions that we're being asked to carry out.”

"Surge has become the new normal in the U.S. Air Force – and you can do that maybe for about a year, two years, maybe three or four years," she said, according to Military.com. "Less than 1 percent of Americans serve in uniform... and they are carrying a very heavy burden."

The Air Force has flown 14,000 sorties in the past three months alone. It is handling missions in the Middle East and Europe, a pressure campaign against North Korea and hurricane relief efforts, Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said, according to CNBC.

To help retain pilots, the Air Force this year has announced salary increases and bonus programs, up to $455,000 over 13 years for select fighter pilots.

The Air Force has been losing pilots to commercial aviation companies, who offer better pay and more stable schedules, Military.com reported.