The Air Force has been on a high operations tempo for deployments dating back years before 9/11 all the way to the 1990 Gulf War, CMSAF James Cody told the audience at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday. But now, as the United States draws down from Afghanistan, new challenges are confronting the force and they are not just fiscal ones, he said. The ops tempo will come down, and the size of the force will shrink, which means the service must pay credence to the careful development of its airmen, from special duties to education to experience, said Cody. “We will have to be very discerning about who’s going to do what, where, and when,” he said. “There is a toll to pay for this period,” said Cody of the Air Force’s last two decades of operations tempo. The service must now figure out where it is as a force, and work to balance its mission requirements with airmen’s family and personal lives, he said. The last 10 years have been very demanding on many airmen, and the service will have to work very hard as it “normalizes” ops tempo, said Cody. “How do we bring folks back, reconnect with their lives, and allow them to continue to serve?” asked Cody rhetorically. Service leadership is now discussing and grappling with all of these questions, 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.