The Air Force is facing a shortage of training tools that mimic potential adversaries’ enhanced capabilities, Air Combat Command’s vice chief, Maj. Gen. Jerry Harris, told lawmakers Saturday. The service’s “capacity to simulate or replicate these threats in appropriate numbers is one of our training challenges, impacting readiness,” he wrote in a prepared statement to the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Land Forces Subcommittee. “Our operators need to train to the [advanced anti-access, area denial] threat in realistically simulated combat environments.” Harris noted simulators resolve some of the issues, but alleviating the live-flying shortfall will require improvement in the replication capacity along with continued investment in new live, virtual, constructive training systems. During a February budget briefing, Lt. Gen. Mike Holmes, the deputy chief of staff for strategic plans and requirements, told reporters the service has a five-year plan to build a next-generation training apparatus. The service’s Fiscal 2017 budget request allots $235 million for training range upgrades, with most going toward infrastructure, including communications and improved threat emitters. (See also: The Readiness Conundrum.)
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.