Recently I was invited to give a keynote address to the first Aircrew Performance Conference, hosted by the 19th Air Force, and supported by USAF personnel from across the country.  Regrettably, there were few participants from outside of the US Air Force who would surely have learned a lot and benefitted from taking themes discussed at the event back to their home services.

Comprehensive Readiness for Aircrew Flying Training (CRAFT) and Optimizing the Human Weapons System (OHWS) are relatively recent programs supporting physical, physiological, and cognitive training and fitness within the US Air Force. Both programs seek to make aircrew more survivable, effective, and lethal (my words).  In very simplistic terms, these programs seek to educate men and women to drink more, eat better and work out smarter to enable them to perform better in the air.

The CRAFT and OHWS programs have not been around for a long time, really just 3+ years thus far but are gaining real traction from the bases and squadrons that have adopted them.  Commanders need to recognize the true value to the safe operation of their aircraft with aircrew who have benefitted from the CRAFT and OHWS programs.  General Officers should recognize that having men and women operate at their peak capabilities positively contributes to the effectiveness of the mission and the chances of the aircraft coming back home at the safely.

We spend $Billions upon $Billions on the technological marvels that we fly yet precious little on ensuring that the men and women who fly will be able to perform at their peak capabilities. F-35s cost a bargain price of $78M USD these days.  The B-2 cost $1/2 Billion back in the day and the cost of the new B-21 is certainly going to rival that number.  6th Gen fighters will cost more than $250M.  We build the most capable aircraft in the world yet historically invest very little to ensure that we gain the maximum benefit and performance from the men and women who fly those amazing aircraft.  If we could extract 3-5% better performance from each man and woman, those gains would make our aviators into better warfighters. Investing in the Human Weapons System would seem like ‘Pennies on the Dollar’ compared to the enormous investment in our equipment.

How do we make our militaries understand how essential it is to optimize the capabilities of our aviators in both peacetime and war. I will dissect this theme in the coming weeks.  More to come.