Sign In

Air Force Special Operations Command implements new pilot initiative

Share This Article

The new year has brought new pilot initiatives for the US Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). For the first time in its history, AFSOC has revamped its approach to training and integrating new special operations pilots.

The initiative, called the Pilot Training Next (PTN), is implemented by the Air Education and Training Command (AETC). According to the Air Force, the PTN utilizes emerging technology, such as artificial intelligence, virtual reality, and data analytics, to innovate and improve the efficiency of training.

Hitherto, pilot training followed a progressive approach in which pilots would have to complete one phase of training before advancing to the next. Often, progression through those phases would be stalled because of the unavailability of aircraft.

But the PTN aims at getting more qualified pilots to their units faster and cheaper.  

“The program helped build the progressive mindset that AFSOC focuses on to accomplish our global mission,” said 1st Lieutenant Brandt in a press release.

“I think AFSOC and the PTN community very much subscribe to this same mindset – constantly finding new systems to implement and technologies to use to stay efficient, effective and relevant moving into the future.”

U.S. Air Force 1st Lts. Nicholas Brandt and Ricardo Orocho, pilots assigned to the 524th Special Operations Squadron, prepare to sortie on Dec.30, 2020 from Duke Field, Florida. For the first time in Air Force Special Operations Command history, two new graduates from the Air Education and Training Command’s Pilot Training Next (PTN), served as aircraft commander and co-pilot on a mission sortie. This is AFSOC’s new pilot initiative (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Michael Charles)

Two AFSOC pilots (1st Lieutenants Nicholas Brandt and Ricardo Orocho) from the 524th Special Operations Squadron were the first PTN graduates to fly as aircraft commander and co-pilot on the same sortie.

“When we scheduled them to fly together, we weren’t looking at the historical nature of the flight,” said Lieutenant Colonel Joshua Jensen, the commander of the 524th SOS.

“Their proficiency in accomplishing the objectives placed before them and their dedication to the mission are why we trust them at such an early point in their careers.”

AFSOC’s special operations squadrons specialize in the insertion, extraction, and resupply of special operations troops in permissive, semi-permissive, and non-permissive environments; airborne intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; close air support; and refueling and rearming special operations aircraft both during mid-flight and on the ground.

Related Posts
Stavros Atlamazoglou

Stavros Atlamazoglou is a seasoned defense journalist specializing in special operations and national security. He is a Hellenic Army veteran (national service with the 575th Marine Battalion and Army HQ). He holds a BA from the Johns Hopkins University, an MA from the Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and is pursuing a J.D. at Boston College Law School.