It may take between 40,000 and 60,000 additional airmen to fill gaps in some mission areas and expand capabilities in others, but the Air Force still can be expected to successfully execute its duties without such a dramatic increase in personnel, Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh said last week.
“It will still be a highly stressed air force, it will still be busy, but we can get the job done,” Welsh, who is slated to retire on July 1, told Military Times.
He noted that the service’s end strength is set to jump from 311,000 active-duty airmen to 317,000 by the end of this year, with plans to expand to 321,000 by the end of 2019.
Welsh had been asked to explain why the Air Force needs up to 60,000 additional personnel, an estimate he had introduced in a speech last month.
He responded that the service would need up to 30,000 airmen to fly and maintain the F-35 fleet over the next 15 to 20 years, assuming the service isn’t allowed to divest legacy systems such as the A-10. Expanding the Air Force’s remotely piloted aircraft wings would take between 5,000 and 10,000 personnel. And fully manning other areas that are now experiencing shortages would require additional personnel as well, Welsh answered.
The Air Force would like to expand its space and cyber capabilities, in addition to its intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance capabilities.
“So I don’t think the number is outrageous. Now, are we going to get 40 to 60,000 more airmen? No, we don’t expect that. But the question I was asked was, how much it would take,” Welsh said.