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Learn To Lead - Chapter 8
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How long does it take to become an F-16 fighter jet pilot in the United States Air Force (USAF)?
Depends on when you start counting, but let’s assume you just graduated high school and you want to fly an F-16. How long will it take? About 6 to 7 years.
The first step is obtaining your bachelor's degree and a commission as a Second Lieutenant. You can do this through the Air Force Academy or Air Force ROTC, they both take about 4 years minimum. Another option is to go to college and then apply for Officer Training School (This will take about an additional 7–8 months).
Let’s say you go to college, graduate, and obtain the commission through Air Force ROTC in 4 years. If you earn a pilot slot, then you head over to Pilot Training. Pilot training begins about 6–7 months after you arrive at your pilot training base. This all depends on how backed-up training is. The wait could be as short as 2–3 months, or as long as 10 to 11 doing a “casual”. Once you start the pipeline, you are off to the races.
The first course will be IFT. This takes approximately 5 weeks to complete, and it is an introduction to flight training. After that, you will go on to fly the T-6 Texan. This course will take approximately 5–6 months to complete. After the T-6, you move on to the T-38C Talon if you make the cut; add another 4–5 months of training here. While you complete the T-38C, CONGRATS! You “dropped” an F-16… Hang in there with me. After you complete T-38C Training, you have to go to IFF (Introduction to fighter fundamentals) which will take about 2 months, then complete SERE and Water survival. After all of it is complete, you will go and move to the base where you will start the Basic Course in the F-16. After you arrive at the base, it will probably be another 4 to 6 months before you get your first sortie in the F-16. Once you complete B-Course, you will arrive at your first unit as an unqualified wingman, and still, have to go through Mission Qualification Training (MQT). Once that is done, CONGRATS, you are a qualified wingman in the mighty F-16. And don’t believe training stops here, you now have to become a 2 ship flight lead, then a 4 ship flight lead, then an IP, and perhaps a Weapons Officer. Training never stops!