As previously mentioned, joining the Air Force is a great way to become an airline pilot. Now that we've established that... Do NOT join the Air Force to become an airline pilot or to fly. Join because you want to serve your country and if you are lucky enough then you will get to fly.
Let's break down the timeline and steps to get there:
- 4 years, paid for, excellent opportunities, sets you up great for your career
- horrible REAL college experience, don't get to experience much of the real world
- 4 years, MAY get a scholarship to have SOME paid for, real college experience
- Pretty good networking but not as good as USAFA
- 9.5 weeks
- Little to zero networking, may/may not prepare you to be an officer
Your best chances of getting a pilot slot are through the Academy. Through AFROTC you apply to a Rated board; however, you may get selected as a CSO, RPA, etc. With OTS you apply for specific positions (ie. pilot only) so you won't do something you don't necessarily want to do.
I've seen all 3 sources and ultimately finished with OTS. I think AFROTC is probably the best option if lots of pilot slots are being given out. Having said that, USAFA is really the only guaranteed way if you want to deal with a lot BS.
So now you've received your pilot slot and commissioned as an officer, now what? On to UPT....
You'll go to either Laughlin, Vance, Columbus, or if you get selected for ENJJPT then to Sheppard. Here you will go through Initial Flight Screening (I think it's been changed to IFT now) where you'll fly the DA-20 for approximately 20 hours up in Colorado.
Finally, everything you've worked for... You start slackademics... 6 weeks of Aerospace Physiology, T-6 Systems, Instruments, Formation, etc. You'll then move on to the flight line where you'll fly the T-6 and work 12 hours a day and then come home and study for a few more.
After about 6 months you'll track to either T-38s, T-1s, or Helos. Statistically a class size is about 24 studs with 4-5 T-38s (maybe a Guard or couple internationals in here too), 1 Helo, and the rest to T-1s. You'll move into Phase 3 and repeat the Academics and flying for your jet.
You reach drop night after 52+ weeks of UPT. You're racked and stacked amongst your peers and given a jet you may or may not want. Lately fighters have been dropping quite a bit, but it comes and goes. Most likely your class of 24 studs will get 2-3 fighters.
If you got a heavy (which will be most of your class) they'll nugget off to their next base to do about 6-9 months of upgrade training in the C-130, KC-135, KC-10, U-28, etc. Other than that, I can't tell what exactly that involves.
But let's say you were one of the lucky ones and dropped a fighter... Next you'll move on to Intro to Fighter Fundamentals (IFF) where you'll continue to fly the -38. Here you'll learn to fly very, very basic BFM and BSA. They're teaching you to be the best wingman you can be. If you graduate you'll move onto your B-course...
B-course locations and times depend on what jet you get. For the Viper, it's about 9 months. This is where you'll go through your IQT (initial qualification) and learn how to employ. Once you graduate you'll nugget of to your first fighter squadron where you'll complete MQT (mission qual).
After 250-350 hours, if you're good then you'll be sent to 2-ship upgrade training.. And this basically continues your entire career.
If you want to serve and fly doing it, then great! But I would not look at military flying as an entrance into the airline world. Yes, you will be able to fly circles around your peers after your military training, but it will probably be the hardest you've ever worked.
As I've laid out, this process has taken most of us years and guess what, the training never stops. I haven't even really talked about all the TDYs, deployments, missed holidays, missed birthdays, missed anniversaries, etc. You will be away from your family a lot. And when you are home you're going to be working 60+ hours a week. And when you're home for the night you're going to need to study.
I don't want to discourage you, but just want you to see what Air Force flying is really like. Good luck!