The Air Force hopes to add 4,700 total force airmen in fiscal 2019, which would bring the service’s overall end strength to about 506,200.
It would also grow the Air National Guard from 106,600 to 107,100, and the Air Force Reserve from 69,800 to 70,000.
This would bring the Air Force nearly back to where it was in fiscal 2013, when it had a total force end strength of 507,315, including 330,694 active duty airmen. The following year, a severe drawdown cut the end strength down to 492,496, including 316,332 active duty airmen.
The increase would help the Air Force close shortfalls in its remotely piloted aircraft, cyber, and intelligence career fields, the Air Force said, and work to correct the shortfall in pilots that has alarmed the service.
It would also continue the Air Force’s effort to restore its maintenance ranks, which at one point were short 4,000 crew chiefs and other maintainers. The Air Force said in December that it had cut that shortfall down to 400 by the end of 2017. The Air Force is also trying to increase the experience level of its maintainers.
The Air Force also hopes to add capacity to train more pilots and other airmen, with a particular focus on critical skills. And the Air Force hopes to restore lost squadron manning in a bid to improve the service’s readiness.
The budget also calls for increasing the number of combat squadrons from 55 to 58 over the next five years.
Stephen Losey is the air warfare reporter for Defense News. He previously covered leadership and personnel issues at Air Force Times, and the Pentagon, special operations and air warfare at Military.com. He has traveled to the Middle East to cover U.S. Air Force operations.