The U.S. Air Force is aiming high when it comes to competing with other world powers. The Air Force has released a new analysis calling for a substantial increase in personnel and equipment over the next decade. The plan starts with growing the number of operational squadrons, currently at 312. "The Air Force we need will have about 386 operational squadrons," says Ann Stefanek, Air Force spokeswoman. "That is based on the need to compete, deter and win in great power competition." That competition is coming from Russia and China, both of which continue to expand their military capabilities.
Growing the number of squadrons doesn't just mean recruiting more airmen, but also adding more equipment. At a time when the Pentagon has expressed concern about the supply of munitions, the Air Force is looking to expand equipment orders across the board. "In addition to additional space squadrons and fighter and bomber squadrons, we also believe we'll need to add to our other capabilities," says Stefanek. That could include refueling tankers, fighter jets and bombers.
The Air Force analysis does not include an estimated price for the expansion, but it would likely reach into the billions of dollars. Complicating matters is President Trump's proposed Space Force, a sixth branch of the military he wants to establish in the next two years. The President recently signed a $716 billion defense bill meant to bolster all branches of the military, but the Air Force plan will probably require new action from Congress beyond that.
Stefanek tells KTRH that this is more about a long-term strategy than any urgent, immediate needs. "We have a very steady growth plan through the next five years, but we will definitely need additional resources if we are going to continue to recruit and build the Air Force we need," she says. "We know that it will take time to build support and the budget required for the Air Force that we need."