USAF is undergoing its biggest expansion since the end of the Cold War, and the reasons are clear
In September, at the Air Force Association’s annual Space & Cyber Conference, Heather Wilson — Donald Trump’s Secretary of the U.S. Air Force — presented the Trump administration’s new roadmap for the U.S. Air Force: the historic expansion of the already, by far, largest air force in the world.
Wilson identified the perceived context of the new expansionist developments right at the start of her 30-minute speech — Russia conducted its largest military exercise on “Russian soil in four decades,” she said, and China sent its first operational aircraft carrier into the Pacific and has “militarized” the South China Sea — and thus exposed at the same time the old dilemma of global security policy: The one’s defense looks quite like offense to the other, and vice versa.
The largest expansion since the end of the Cold War
Secretary Wilson explained that the U.S. Air Force will expand its current operational squadrons — which she martially called “the clenched fist of American resolve” — from 312 to 386 between 2025 and 2030. That’s an increase of 25 percent — the largest expansion ever since the end of the Cold War.
A squadron consists of 12 to 24 aircraft. Wilson’s expansion thus corresponds to well over 1,000 new bombers, fighter jets, and drones, as well as reconnaissance and refueling aircraft. Approximately $25 billion will be added to the annual Air Force budget, and no less than 40,000 additional staff will be needed. That amounts to the Trump administration reversing recent trends, as the Air Force has “drastically downsized in past years,” Military.com reports.
Foreign Policy received exclusive insight into the composition of these 74 new squadrons. The largest percentage increase among the various squadrons is attributed to the bomber squadrons: aircraft that can be equipped with nuclear weapons and, above all, aim at the destruction of stationary targets such as buildings or other massive infrastructure — but not mobile combat units — which is largely interpreted as a shift in strategic focus towards wars against nations, not terrorist groups.
There is also a massive increase in the number of refueling aircraft,