Gen. Mark Welsh, outgoing U.S. Air Force chief of staff, has said the military service will need as many as 60,000 airmen to increase the branch’s capability and expand in the space, cyber and remotely piloted aircraft domains, DoD Buzz reported Monday.
Brendan McGarry reports that Welsh told Defense News’ Aaron Mehta in an interview that the Air Force aims for an end strength of 321,000 personnel by fiscal 2019 but at present needs between 40,000 and 60,000 airmen to fulfill its mission.
The Air Force’s active-duty members will remain at 317,000 by fiscal year 2017, according to report.
“If you look at just bedding down the F-35 over the next 15-20 years, it’s going to take 30,000 airmen,” Welsh told Mehta during the interview at the Pentagon.
“If we’re not allowed to divest the airmen who are doing other things today for our Air Force to put against the F-35 fleet, you start with 30,000 more that are required,” he added.
Welsh also said the limited headcount will affect airmen retention at the Air Force over time, McGarry reports.