The Air Force We Need: 386 Operational Squadrons
(Source: US Air Force; issued Sept 17, 2018)
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. --- Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced the results of an in-depth analysis aimed at outlining what the Air Force needs to implement the National Defense Strategy while speaking at the Air Force Association's annual Air, Space and Cyber conference Sept. 17.
“The analysis says what every Airmen already knows,” Wilson said. “The Air Force is too small for what the nation is asking us to do. We have 312 operational squadrons today. The Air Force We Need has 386 operational squadrons by 2030.”
The National Defense Strategy, Air Force leaders said, marks the reemergence of long-term, strategic competition with China and Russia. The Air Force’s imperative is to compete, deter, and win this competition by fielding a force that is lethal, resilient, rapidly adapting and integrates seamlessly with the joint force, allies and partners.
Wilson said the analysis of the 386 squadrons needed to support this strategy is based on estimates of the expected threat by 2025 to 2030. At the end of the Cold War, the Air Force had 401 operational squadrons.
“Today, we are the best Air Force in the world,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said. “Our adversaries know it. They have been studying our way of war and investing in ways to take away those advantages. This is about how we stay in front.”
Wilson said the Air Force chose to focus on operational squadrons—fighter and bomber squadrons, attack and special operations, space, cyber, tanker, airlift and other frontline units—because they’re the core fighting units of the Air Force.
“Our operational squadrons are the clenched fist of American resolve,” she said.
The analysis, according to Air Force senior leaders, presents an honest assessment of the Air Force America needs to fight and win in future conflicts. The analysis was driven by strategy and not by budget.
“We usually have the dialogue about the Air Force we can afford,” Goldfein said. “This is different. This is about the Air Force we need to present credible options to compete, deter, and if deterrence fails, win.”
Wilson understands it will take time to build the support and budget required for the Air Force We Need.
“We aren’t naïve,” she said. “But we have an obligation to be honest with our countrymen and tell them, as those who came before us have done in their time, what should be done… What we must do.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE: “Wilson and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein said they have yet to come up with a dollar figure for the increases,” National Public Radio reported Sept. 17.
But Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, estimated that it would cost the Air Force an additional $18 billion a year just for the personnel and aircraft operations, training and recruiting.
That figure does not include the billions of additional dollars needed to buy the aircraft, he added.
"If they are buying many more F-35s, then the costs would be higher," said Harrison. "I could not hazard a guess on this without knowing the mix of aircraft involved.")
SecAF Wilson Provides Air Force Update
(Source: US Air Force; issued Sept 17, 2018)
NATIONAL HARBOR, Md. --- Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson presented an update of the state of the Air Force Sept. 17, during the 2018 Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference in National Harbor.
Wilson discussed restoring force readiness, space operations and the future of the Air Force during her presentation.
“Sometimes it is hard to see the sweep of history when we are just trying to get today’s work done,” Wilson said. “Which is why it is important to come together like this, to take stock of where we are, so that we can reaffirm where we need to go.”
Wilson said currently, the Air Force has returned to an era of great power competition. Because of this, the Air Force must focus on readiness and acquisition to prepare for present and future operations.
“The [National] Defense Strategy tells us that we need to be able to defend the homeland, provide a credible nuclear deterrent and win against a major power while countering a rogue nation, all while managing violent extremists with a lower level of effort,” Wilson said.
The Air Force, she said, meets the threats the nation faces with its most basic unit, the squadron.
“Our operational squadrons are the combat power of the Air Force, they are the clenched fist of American resolve,” Wilson said. “We have 312 operational squadrons today. The ‘Air Force We Need’ has 386 operational squadrons by 2030. It takes all of us to get that combat power ready and able to fight…A fist is nothing without the weight of the body behind it.”
The Air Force is also working hard to recover from its maintainer shortage. Just a few years ago the Air Force was short 4,000 maintainers. Wilson said by the end of 2018, that deficit will be eliminated.
“The Air Force is more ready for major combat operations today than we were two years ago,” Wilson said. “More than 75 percent of our force is combat ready and we’re moving the whole force to higher levels of readiness with actions that will play out over the next several years.”
Wilson also briefed on the importance of the mission in space, including a recent proposal to the Defense Department regarding the structure and responsibilities of a new branch of the Armed Services.
“As Airmen, we have the responsibility develop a proposal for the president that is bold, and that carries out his vision,” she said.
Wilson added the Air Force is fully committed to ensuring the U.S. continues to lead in space.
“There are actions that the Air Force can take immediately,” she said.
These actions include restructuring of the Space and Missiles Systems Center, which will enhance purchasing of space systems, and working with the Joint Staff to establish and support a unified combatant command for space.
“America is the best in the world at space and our adversaries know it. The threat to our space capabilities is growing and we can no longer view space as a function. It is a warfighting mission,” Wilson said. “The president has brought space into the spotlight. Dominating in space has now become kitchen table conversation and that will benefit this country.”