The Air Force is likely to reassess and refine the proposed increase in operational squadrons that was announced at the Air Force Association’s annual conference several months ago, the service’s vice chief of staff said Nov. 14.
The service in September declared it would require a boost in operational squadrons to meet all of the missions laid out in the 2018 National Defense Strategy – from the current 312 up to 386 – by 2030 (Defense Daily, Sept. 17).
“I think there will certainly be some relooking at that number, and refining of that number,” said Air Force Gen. Stephen Wilson Wednesday at an Air Force Association breakfast event in Arlington, Virginia. “That number that we have, 386, is the best we have today based on known plans that we have, the known budget that we have” to fulfill the service’s mission requirements, he added.
Wilson noted that the Air Force was directed by Congress to determine how many operational squadrons would be necessary to fulfill all of the requirements laid out by the National Defense Strategy, and determined 386 based on a series of war plans.
“But what [that number] doesn’t factor in … is what are the new operating concepts to be able to fight differently? … And what will that do to change that number?” he said.
As the service continues to refine the number of squadrons it will require to meet current and future needs, it plans to prioritize 204 squadrons known as pacing units out of the current 312 for near-term readiness, Wilson said. “Those units “are going to be the ones that get the resources, both in money and people and parts and equipment, to make sure that those pacing units are ready first,” he said.
The goal is to have 80 percent of those pacing units mission-ready by 2020, and the current 312 squadrons up to date by 2022, Wilson said.
Meanwhile, the Air Force is focused on meeting Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ directive to improve the mission-readiness of its F-16, F-22 and F-35 fighter squadrons by the end of this calendar year, he added.
“We’re marching out to meet the secretary’s calls to get an 80 percent mission-capable rate across those three platforms,” he said.