The Obama administration is still counting on the U:2 to be able to quickly deploy troops from Iraq and Syria, even as the Trump administration is threatening to pull them out.
But the Air Force plans to make a major change to the way it trains and manages its pilots in Iraq and has begun to consider whether it can do the same for its combat-ready pilots.
The Air Force has been planning for this transition for more than a year.
It has been looking at ways to use more advanced training and equipment in Iraq, and it is now considering a “tentative” deployment of up to 500 U:1 trainers in Iraq over the next year.
That could allow the Air National Guard to train as many as 4,000 pilots over the course of four years, officials say.
The new training would include a mix of training with pilots and ground troops, and include more in-person courses and online courses for the first time in a long time.
The move comes as the Air Forces has been grappling with a growing number of pilots who are retiring, and a shortage of qualified pilots and mechanics.
In 2016, there were just 8,000 in the Air Reserve.
In 2017, that number was down to 7,700.
Officials say the air force has to find more pilots who can serve as frontline aircrew to help with the fight against ISIS.
The Trump administration has repeatedly threatened to withdraw the U1, a military version of the Airborne Warning and Control System, or A-10.
But officials have said they are committed to keeping the U2 airframe in Iraq to help train and equip the country’s air forces, and they are considering moving the U-2s to other airfields.
That would be the most significant change in air power in Iraq since the Ulloa program in 2008.
The decision on the new air force is expected to be made in the coming weeks, Air Force officials said.
The U:22 aircraft would be used for training missions in Iraq.
They would be equipped with infrared sensors and cameras that could detect enemy aircraft and provide the ground crews with intelligence.
It would also be equipped to carry out surveillance missions in and around Mosul, the capital of the country.
It’s not clear what kind of training will be offered to the U of A’s pilots, but officials said the UAV could be used to gather intelligence on ISIS.
The pilots could use it to train with other aircrews, who would be able take their own flight lessons and pass them along to the other air crews.
“We have the ability to use that to train and we have the capability to use it for the training of aircrew,” Air Force Maj. Gen. Matthew Burt, commander of the 1st Air Force Training Wing, told The Washington Post.
“The UAV provides the ability for us to have our own pilots and aircrew train with us, and we can use it in a variety of ways,” he added.
The military is also exploring other ways to train air crews in Iraq that include sending them to a combat zone, but the military has yet to decide on what that training might look like.