Air Force secretary calls for 24 percent increase in squadrons

Two U.S. Air Force B-52H Stratofortress bombers and two Koku Jieitai (Japan Air Self-Defense Force) F-15 fighters execute a routine bilateral training mission in the vicinity of Japan, July 26, 2018.

The United States Air Force is calling for more room (and money) to grow, saying the current organization is too small to meet its current national defense strategy workload.

Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson has outlined a plan to grow the number of operational squadrons would jump from 312 to 386, to meet the demands of the USAF within the 2020-2025 timeline.

“The defense strategy tells us that we need to be able to defend the homeland, provide a credible nuclear deterrent, win against a major power while encountering a rogue nation, all while managing violent extremists with lower levels of effort,” Wilson said at the Air Force Association’s annual conference in National Harbor, Maryland, on Monday. “While all those missions rely on every service working together, each of them relies heavily on the Air Force.”

According to Federal News Radio, fourteen of the 74 new squadrons would be dedicated to refueling. Five would go to the bomber fleet, seven for space units, nine Combat Search and Rescue (CSAR), seven fighter squadrons, one airlift squadron, two UAV squadrons and twenty-two Command and Control squadrons.

Interestingly enough, despite the future spending predictions in the nuclear and cyber areas, there were no calls to increase manpower.

As of 2018, 685,000 airmen and civilian personnel compose the active Air Force , Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard components. With propositions already in place to boost the numbers to 702,000, the additional numbers boosts would expand that number between 740,000 and 745,000.

According to Manpower, Personnel and Services Deputy Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Brian Kelly, the numbers are based on the perceived needs of the force.

“That is not a budget-constrained number, it’s a number that’s based on what we think we need and how our combatant commands need to use our airmen,” he said. “It’s about a ten-year period to build that number of airmen. Over the last couple years, since 2016, we’ve been building at about four-to-five thousand per year. That’s a reasonable number, and that would continue for a number of years to get to that additional 40,000.”

The USAF has yet to expound on how the force increases will be distributed among the branch’s three components.

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