Military.com

Air Force Wants to Add 4,700 Airmen; Buy More F-35s, Drones

The Air Force wants to add 4,700 airmen to its ranks, as well as purchase more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, MQ-9 Reaper drones, the latest KC-46 tankers and a slew of weapons, according to its fiscal 2019 budget request.


The Air Force wants to add 4,700 airmen to its ranks, as well as purchase more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, MQ-9 Reaper drones, the latest KC-46 tankers and a slew of weapons, according to its fiscal 2019 budget request.

The service is requesting $194.1 billion, including war funding -- a 14 percent increase from the previous request, for more personnel; operations and maintenance; and research and development, among other accounts.

Want to read more stories from Military.com? Download the Military.com News App today.

The request would increase the size of the active-duty end strength to just over 329,100 airmen, an increase of 4,000 airmen over the previous year, according to the documents. The Air National Guard is requesting another 500 airmen; the Air Force Reserve wants another 200 airmen.

Related content:
-- Troops Would Get 2.6% Pay Raise in 2019 Under Trump Budget
-- To Make Way for Future Bomber, AF Plans to Retire B-1, B-2 in 2030s
-- Air Force Wants 350K Airmen by 2024


"We continue to focus on addressing gaps in critical career fields to include intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance; remotely piloted aircraft; and cyber career fields," the budget request states. That includes ramping up training pipelines for those career fields, it added.

1K New Pilots

The service also seeks more active-duty pilots to combat its ongoing pilot shortage.

"The FY 2019 Active Air Force budget supports production of 989 new pilots and funds 883,748 flying hours while sustaining a fleet of 4,051 aircraft," the document states.

More F-35s, MQ-9s, KC-46s

The service intends to buy 48 F-35A Joint Strike Fighters, a small but steady increase as more F-35s roll off the Lockheed Martin production line.

As drone operations increase and MQ-1 Predators hit the boneyard, the service wants to beef up its Reaper fleet with 13 new drones.

It will also purchase 15 more KC-46 Pegasus refueling tankers, on par with last year's request.

Billions for B-21 Research

In its research and development request, the main focus is on the B-21 Long Range Strike Bomber program. The Air Force is requesting $2.3 billion for modernization efforts, a boost of more than $300 million.

The service also hopes to boost its weapons buying program for multiple aircraft involved in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, as it sees an increasing number of missions in Afghanistan.

Thousands More JDAMs, Hellfires

The Air Force wants 36,000 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, an increase of more than 8,000 new weapons in its quest to build up the precision-guided munition line.

It also intends to buy 4,338 AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, likely to coincide with the MQ-9 increase.

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

© Copyright 2018 Military.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.