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US Air Force Demands 74 More Squadrons to Prepare for Major Conflict – Reports

© AP Photo / Vadim GhirdaA US Air Force plane takes off from the Incirlik airbase, southern Turkey, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013.
A US Air Force plane takes off from the Incirlik airbase, southern Turkey, Sunday, Sept. 1, 2013. - Sputnik International
US Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson called for a 24% growth in the number of squadrons by 2030, claiming that the additional aircraft would be necessary to prepare for a possible conflict against major nations and extremist groups.

The demand came as a part of the service’s “Air Force We Need” proposal, which had been in the works for six months now, the Air Force Times reported on Monday. The proposal was prepared after the Pentagon released its National Defense Strategy, which outlined the need of the US military to shift away from the extremist fight towards a deterrent strategy aimed at opposing nations with significant military resources.

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In her keynote address at the Air Force Association’s Air, Space, Cyber Conference, Air Force Secretary Wilson noted that the Air Force took a look at Russian military exercises involving more than 300,000 troops in September and the Chinese unveiling of their first aircraft carrier and the ongoing militarization of the South China Sea before presenting the proposal.

 “We must see the world as it is,” Wilson said. “That was why the National Defense Strategy explicitly recognizes that we have returned to an era of great power competition.”

Wilson noted that the current Air Force service isn’t big enough to carry out all the missions currently assigned to it. The addition of 74 squadrons would raise the number of operational squadrons from 312 to 386 and necessitate significantly more total force manpower. Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said that the Air Force now has about 670,000 active duty and 74 new squadrons would require this figure to grow to 725,000 Guard and Reserve airmen and civilians by 2030. 

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However, such increase would require a massive boost of the Air Force’s budget, which is almost $50 billion in FY 2019, according to Todd Harrison, a defense budget analyst for the Center for Strategic and International Studies. 

“The cost of pay and benefits for 40,000 airmen is about $5.2B per year (give or take),” he wrote in a Tweet on Friday. “Right now the Air Force spends about $53B per year on aircraft operations, training, and recruiting. Increasing the number of squadrons by ~24% would probably add another $13B per year in these operating costs.”

Air Force General David Goldfein in an interview with Air Force Times on Monday said that such enormous financial support would allow the Air Force to change the way the squadrons are deployed. He outlined that currently, airman are deployed in groups in three or more to quickly arrive at the established bases and fight violent extremist groups, yet this positioning would be impossible to maintain while fighting a “peer”. Goldfein also claimed that the current Air Force lacks experience and practice it had 17 years ago while fighting Saddam Hussein with unit-wide deployment, calling it “a kind of muscle memory” that needs to be regained.

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