The Air Force needs to raise Irregular Warfare and Counterinsurgency operations from an ad-hoc mission, often evolved on-the-fly, to a marquee capability on a par with things like major regional operations, nuclear operations, and airlift, Acting Air Force Secretary Michael Donley said Tuesday. IW and COIN need to be considered “at a higher doctrinal level” than they currently enjoy, Donley said in a meeting with reporters, and the Air Force’s role in these missions needs to be more formally fleshed out. Donley mentioned this briefly in his address to the AFA Air & Space Conference Monday, as a way of calling attention to the issue. “I’d like to see a broader strategic consensus in the Air Force about our role at the lower end of conflict,” he said.
The Air Force overall reduced its size by 120 aircraft in fiscal year 2021, but kept about the same number of fighter, bomber and attack aircraft, according to data supplied by the service. The F-35 fleet saw the biggest increase while the B-1B bomber fleet saw the largest decline.