New Air Force Planning Boss: 386 Squadron Level a “Baseline”

The Air Force’s “Force We Need” of 386 operational squadrons is just one of four possible force structure levels the service is considering, with new analysis just beginning to determine the other possibilities, the head of this planning effort said Tuesday.

Maj. Gen. Michael Fantini, the director of Air Force Warfighter Integration Capability, said the 386 number—announced by Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson in September as the service’s necessary force structure level—is the “gun to the head” answer for what size the Air Force needs to be to meet its mission requirements.

AFWIC, which reached initial operating capability last year, is looking at three more possible routes using intelligence, wargaming, and simulation to determine how big the Air Force needs to be.

The studies are looking at the following scenarios:

  • The Air Force would fight from a resilient base inside a threat environment.
  • The fight would take place from a standoff location.
  • The fight would rely on “disruptive” technology, such as unmanned “loyal wingman” aircraft or low-cost unmanned systems.

These four scenarios are the “baseline [the 386 number], evolutionary, revolutionary, and disruptive” looks at how the Air Force needs to build itself for future operations, Fantini said Tuesday at an AFA Mitchell Institute event in Arlington, Va.

This analysis only began within the past two-to-three months, after the “Force We Need” plan was announced, so it is too early to share any “initial reflections” with leadership. The group had only about 60 percent of its total personnel when it declared IOC, and eventually plans a staff of about 260.

Wilson and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein stood up AFWIC to “plan across stove pipes to prepare for warfare of the future,” Wilson said in a news release announcing the center.

AFWIC is forming a “cross-functional team” along with working with other groups such as AFWERX, Air University’s “Blue Horizons” fellowship, acquisitions programs, major commands, and outside groups such as MITRE Corp. for its studies. Eventually, “five eye” nations will help contribute to the planning and AFWIC will absorb other USAF planning efforts, such as Air Superiority 2030.