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ARLINGTON, Va. — The Navy is upping flight bonuses for naval flight officers — including weapons officers and navigators — from $15,000 to $25,000 a year for five years, according to the Navy.

The Navy is not retaining as many flight officers as it wants, so the service is offering them flight bonuses commensurate with what pilots receive, officials said.

The increase is retroactive to Oct. 1, according to a Navy administrative announcement.

Even though the Navy is trying to cut its end strength, its congressionally allotted number of personnel for the service, aviation is a skill for which the Navy is trying to retain personnel, said Navy spokesman Cmdr. Ron Hill.

It is more cost effective to retain aviators than to recruit new ones, Hill explained.

“It would take a great deal [of] training and experience to become proficient in that,” he said.

The Navy decided to increase the bonus for flight officers after it retained fewer flight officers than pilots in fiscal 2005, wrote a Navy official via e-mail on Thursday.

“Naval Aviation is already stretched thin and is critically low in [junior officer] ranks where the 5 year ACCP [Bonus Program] is targeted,” the official wrote.

“This program allows Naval Aviation to meet its requirements at the [department head] level after other commitments are met.”

The bonus program was instituted over 10 years ago amid dropping retention of naval aviators, the official wrote.

“Overall the program has been highly successful when combined with the increase in retention caused by 9-11,” the official wrote.

“With retention starting to decline again, the ACCP program is going to become even more critical to continue to retain officers to their department head tours.”

Unlike other incentives, the bonuses are not tax-free or tax-deductible.

The Navy has 3,611 flight officers, but officials did not know how many would meet eligibility requirements for the new bonuses.

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