Wilsbach Nominated to Be the New Boss at Air Combat Command

Pacific Air Forces commander Gen. Kenneth S. Wilsbach has been nominated to take over as the head of Air Combat Command, USAF’s largest major command by Active-Duty personnel, Air & Space Forces Magazine confirmed May 4. 

Wilsbach’s nomination reached the Senate on May 2. An Air Force official confirmed the nomination is to lead ACC. Wilsbach will be replaced at PACAF by Lt. Gen. Kevin B. Schneider, who was nominated to take the post April 24. Schneider had been the director of the Air Force staff.

Since taking command of PACAF in July 2020, Wilsbach has overseen the command’s continued pivot toward Agile Combat Employment, including the deployment of fifth-generation fighters to Tinian and the Philippines for the first time. PACAF has also frequently deployed fighters and bombers as of late to fly alongside Japanese and South Korean aircraft in response to North Korean missile tests. 

Prior to his time at PACAF, Wilsbach was deputy commander of U.S. Forces Korea and commander of Alaskan Command under U.S. Northern Command. He has commanded at the squadron, group, and wing levels, and is a command pilot with experience in the F-15C, F-16, and F-22, having flown 71 combat missions in operations Northern Watch, Southern Watch and Enduring Freedom. 

If confirmed, Wilsbach will oversee several key initiatives at ACC—the continued transition of more and more units to the F-35, testing and eventual delivery of the F-15EX to operational units, potential retirements for the A-10 and F-22, and rapid development and incorporation of Collaborative Combat Aircraft into the fleet. 

Given his experience in the Pacific, Wilsbach offers a depth of knowledge on China, which Pentagon and Air Force leaders continue to emphasize as the “pacing challenge” for the U.S. 

If confirmed, Wilsbach will succeed Gen. Mark D. Kelly, who has led ACC and its more than 87,000 Airmen and 1,100 aircraft since August 2020. 

But before Wilsbach can take over an aircraft inventory that ranges from F-35s to E-3 Sentrys to the U-2 Dragon Lady, he must first overcome the hold on flag and general officer nominations imposed by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), who is using that power to protest the administration’s policy to allow the military to cover the cost of travel for female service members seeking abortions. DOD officials say the policy is necessary to enable equal treatment of troops under the law, and Democratic lawmakers have criticized Tuberville for hurting readiness and delaying leadership moves.