Air Force, facing fighter pilot shortage, offers retention bonuses of up to $225,000

The Air Force estimates that without a serious recruiting effort, it will be short 700 fighter pilots eight years from now -- so it is offering retention bonuses of up to $225,000 to stay in the service for an additional nine years.

The deadline to respond to this unusual help wanted ad is Sept 30.

“Now we do have a fighter pilot shortage. We're currently about 200 fighter pilots short,” said Maj.Gen James Jones, US Air Force, Operations Plans and Requirements.

“We are concerned about it... and we anticipate that fighter pilot shortage will continue to grow in years to come.”

The Aviator Retention Program would offer fighter pilots $25,000 a year to stay on.

The reasons for the shortage? Fighter pilot fatigue after 12 years of war. Sequestration, which has one-third of the air force fighter squadrons grounded. Plus commercial airlines offer higher salaries on average .

Boeing estimates there will be a global need for 460,000 new commercial pilots over the next two decades, which will add to the need to woo the U.S. military's ace pilots.

The FAA has also raised the qualification requirements for commercial co-pilots from 250 flying hours to 1500, making U.S. military-trained pilots with years of experience even more attractive.

Some fighter pilots are retiring, frustrated that their experience in the cockpit was underutilized when they were reassigned to fly unmanned drones. The Air Force has revisited that policy and is now training drone pilots without cockpit experience.

“And let's remember, these fighter pilots are flying $100 million airplanes, or $150 million, if they're early models of F22s or F35s,” explained Retired Air Force Lieutenant General Tom McInerney.

“So the experience and that they need to keep flying such expensive material aircraft is what the Air Force is aiming at.”

It currently costs the taxpayer about $6 million a year to train one fighter pilot in today's Air Force.