Air Force deployments could soon begin to look a little different as the service transitions to a new schedule for training and dispatching forces around the world.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown Jr. said in August 2021 that after 20 years of nonstop combat rotations to U.S. Central Command, a fresh approach will help keep squadrons ready to go when needed and avoid short staffing.

Under the new plan, airmen would spend a year on local and large-scale training before becoming available to head overseas. Deployments as part of defense secretary-directed operations, regular rotations through Air Force military hubs in other countries, or other ready-response forces would last another six months — like normal deployments now.

Airmen would then return home for a final six months of reconnecting with family, in-depth aircraft repairs and upgrades, and brushing up on basic skills.

The updated force generation model could be ready for primetime as soon as October 2022. How each squadron’s phases will be staggered throughout the year to avoid aircraft shortages — particularly among smaller fleets like the 16 E-8C Joint STARS ground target-tracking planes or the 20 B-2 Spirit bombers.

It dovetails with other concepts in the works, including the “lead wing” effort to group squadrons together to train and plan throughout the year, and an overhaul of fighter jet maintenance.

The service is breaking its massive aircraft maintenance units into smaller fighter generation squadrons, helping fighter bases rotate more smoothly through training, operations and reconstitution after deployment. Squadron commanders can focus on one of those phases at a time instead of overseeing people at all three stages as well.

All fighter wings are slated to get on board by summer 2022.

Rachel Cohen is the editor of Air Force Times. She joined the publication as its senior reporter in March 2021. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Frederick News-Post (Md.), Air and Space Forces Magazine, Inside Defense, Inside Health Policy and elsewhere.

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