MONCh Correspondent Marty Kauchak attended the 18 September Media Availability with Secretary of the US Air Force (USAF) Heather Wilson and USAF Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. Two topics of interest are provided here.
386 - Remember that number, as it becoming the defining point of Secretary Wilson’s tenure as the service’s senior civilian leader.
Ms Wilson notes her service has 312 operational squadrons today. However, she also asserts the, “Air Force We Need,” has 386 operational squadrons by 2030. Specifically, USAF wants five more bomber squadrons; seven more space squadrons; 14 more aerial refueling squadrons; seven more special operations squadrons; nine more combat search and rescue squadrons; seven more fighter squadrons; two more remotely piloted aircraft squadrons; one more airlift squadron; and 22 more command and control (C2) and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) squadrons.
While the USAF will modernise its nuclear deterrent and cyber capabilities, the service does not need to increase the number of missile or cyber operations squadrons. Reporters at this afternoon’s media event kept pressing Secretary Wilson and Gen. Goldfein for answers to the logical and unemotional question: how will USAF afford 74 more squadrons with all the people, planes, satellites, and infrastructure needed to make them useful?
In one instance, Wilson told this gathering that the service was engaged in a, “conversation,” with US congress and the American people about just what is needed to manage today’s great power competition with Russia and China outlined so clearly in the January 2018 National Defense Strategy.
Whether this reasoning will rule the day against the rising US budget deficit, will certainly play out in the remaining two budget cycles of the Trump Presidency, and the increasing possibility a Democratic Congress will control the legislative branch after this November’s US elections.
Secretary Wilson further confirmed the end-of-service life for the service’s joint surveillance and target attack radar system (JSTARS) aircraft is the mid-2020s. “We are shifting to what we call ‘Advanced Battle Management System' (ABMS), which connects a variety of sensors to make sure what is going on the battle space,” Secretary Wilson explained and emphasided, “the idea of replacing JSTARS with another single platform is what we are getting away from.”
While the ABMS strategy opens the door for smaller, yet capable special mission aircraft to be part of a post-JSTARS force, the service is not ready to announce a request for proposal or other acquisition milestone for the programme.