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Air Force and Space Force raise top age for new recruits to 42

Amid a shortage of recruits, the Air Force and Space Force will now accept applicants up to 42 years old.
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Recruits in training
The Air Force and Space Force are increasing the age for recruitment to 42 years old for certain jobs. Photo by Master Sgt. Cecilio Ricardo.

The Air Force and Space Force have upped the age limits for new recruits to 42 years old.

The update comes after the Air Force missed its recruiting goals for the first time since 1999, falling short by nearly 2,700 airmen. Hopeful Airmen and Guardians between 17 and 42 are now eligible to join the two branches.

The accession age of 42 allows recruits to join as officers or enlisted and serve a full 20 years, said Leslie Brown, spokesperson for the Air Force Recruiting Service.

Applicants can be placed in any job that they qualify for which varies by Air Force specialty, she said. Some jobs have specific strength and stamina requirements, or minimum scores on entry tests, or non-corrected vision, for example. 

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Flying officer positions, which the Air Force calls ”rated” positions, like pilots, combat systems officers and air battle managers, still have an age limit of 33.  

“This change opens the aperture to allow more otherwise qualified Americans the opportunity to serve. We believe this change could garner about 50 additional Airmen or Guardians per year,” Brown said. 

In fiscal year 2023, the branch had 12 applicants “who aged out of the process” and the service plans to contact them, Brown said. 

The age change also comes after the Air Force has relaxed recruitment standards in other areas including a two-year pilot program which allows a “do-over” for applicants who test positive for tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) — a trace chemical associated with marijuana use — during physical exams at the Military Entrance Processing Station. 

Previously, a positive THC result would have led to a permanent bar to entry.

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