The U.S. Air Force has a shortage of up to 2,000 pilots. Federal News Radio reported to increase numbers and fill the shortage, the U.S. Air Force wants to create an online video game and track player performance to recruit.

According to Lt. Gen. Steven L. Kwast, Commander of Air Education and Training Command (AETC) in San Antonio, the idea is for the air force to create an online video game that tests cognitive, emotional and psychological skills relevant to the Air Force.

The video games would be played online, allowing the air force to track high ranking players. The Air Force could obtain the IP addresses of players who perform exceptionally well and then send the players messages and offer them incentives to join the Air Force.

“But if I find this 15-year old kid that is just brilliant, 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 sign-up bonus and I’ll send you to Harvard for four years for free if you’re 20 willing to tell your parents to come in to a recruiting station,” said Kwast in an interview with the Defense Writers Group.

Air Force Could Track Skills and Characteristics of Online Players 

While video games for U.S. military recruitment is not a new concept, tracking online player success to identify potentially talented recruits is new and, as Kwast stated, already in development.

The game is based on data extracted from the Airforce’s Pilot Training Next program in Austin, Texas. In the program, 15 officers and five enlisted airmen went through an experimental training course that was used to discover the attributes that make a good pilot.

“We are looking at building an intelligent tutor to monitor the students. It will track their biometrics and understand their stress level to optimize the learning environment for the individual and put them under the right amount of stress to create learning,” said Lt. Col. Robert Vicars, Pilot Training Next initiative director.

The game is then built around the data found in the Pilot Training Next program. The game will test and look for the characteristics the Next program found to be beneficial for pilots.

“It’s amazing what we know. Our team of psychologists, sociologists and cultural anthropologists, when they get together and you look at the body of knowledge out there. It’s amazing that by looking at a couple of scenarios and making you make some decisions  and answer some questions through a game I can measure things like critical thinking, creative thinking, conceptual thinking, contextual thinking, collaborative thinking, constructive thinking. I can tell if you are empathetic, I can tell if you cheat, I can tell if you cut corners, I can tell if you are morally courageous under pressure or whether you save your own skin,” Kwast said.

Recruitment for Air Force Pilots Also At Local Universities

Pilots are not the only ones the Air Force hopes to recruit via online video games. Other personnel needed by the Air Force will also be recruited from players playing the games so long as they excel at the required skills.

Apart from using the new video games to recruit pilots and other personnel, the Air Force is also looking into partnering with local universities to access brilliant students who have completed aviation programs.

“We are partnering with some local universities to see if we can take some of their students who have gone through one of their aviation programs. They already have their commercial multi-engine ratings and then can we pipeline them and not do the whole training, but just do the T-1 training and cut the pilot training in half, as well as experiment to see if we can use technology, some virtual reality and augmented reality to determine ‘Can I shorten that timeline?” Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen Wilson said.

The Air Force hopes the first version of the game will be available this summer. The whole transcript of the interview Lt. Gen. Kwast had with journalists in Washington on May 24 can be accessed here.

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