To prepare for the prospect of a conflict with a near-peer adversary such as China or Russia, the Air Force needs to increase in size from 312 operational squadrons to 386 by 2030, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson said Monday at the Air Force Association’s annual Air, Space and Cyber conference. The service’s target size is based on an in-depth analysis aimed at outlining what the Air Force needs to implement the National Defense Strategy unveiled earlier this year, according to a news release. The 24 percent increase in squadrons is the centerpiece of the service’s “Air Force We Need” proposal. At the end of the Cold War, the Air Force had 401 operational squadrons.
Command, control, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (C2ISR) squadrons would experience the largest gain under the proposal, increasing from 40 squadrons to 62 between 2025 and 2030, Wilson said. Tanker squadrons also would grow significantly, increasing from 40 to 54 squadrons, reports Air Force Times. The number of fighter squadrons would rise by 7 to 62.
The Air Force currently is projected to grow by 15,000 active-duty, Guard and Reserve airmen and civilians to about 685,000 by the end of fiscal 2023. Adding 74 squadrons would require an additional 40,000 airmen and civilians by 2030, said spokeswoman Ann Stefanek.
Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. DeAndre Curtiss