The nation needs all 25 of the Air National Guard's fighter squadrons, two of the service's senior officers told congressional staffers at an event NGAUS sponsored last week.
The Guard's 25 fighter squadrons must also have modern aircraft to defend the homeland and fight alongside the Air Force overseas, the pair added.
"The Air Force’s fighter structure is geriatric and rapidly declining," said Brig. Gen. Timothy J. Donnellan, the Idaho Guard’s assistant adjutant general-Air, on Capitol Hill Nov. 2. "We’ve got to start procuring fighter aircraft now.
"The Total Force can’t lose a single fighter squadron," he continued. "We need 25 fighter squadrons in the National Guard going forward."
Last week's event at the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, D.C. — which NGAUS co-hosted with Sen. Mike Crapo, R-Idaho, and Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., — was attended by more than 50 congressional staffers.
Maj. Gen. Paul D. Rogers, the adjutant general of Michigan, Maj. Gen. Janeen L. Birckhead, the adjutant general of Maryland, Brig. Gen. Drew E. Dougherty, the Maryland Guard’s assistant adjutant general-Air, and Command Sgt. Maj. Alice Mapes, the Idaho Guard’s senior enlisted leader, were also present.
NGAUS considers modernizing and recapitalizing the Guard’s fighter fleet a legislative priority.
The Air Guard's 25 fighter squadrons must effectively meet and support the 2022 National Defense Strategy’s readiness and lethality requirements.
But the Air Force wants to retire the older aircraft most of these squadrons fly, so it can afford next-generation systems.
With some of these squadrons not in the fielding plans for new airframes, hundreds of experienced Guard pilots and maintainers are uncertain about their futures.
On Nov. 2, Donnellan argued divesting Guard airframes without a recapitalization plan risks the nation’s air power falling behind China’s.
It would also leave hundreds of Air Guard pilots and maintainers — who are some of the most experienced people at their jobs in the entire Air Force — without aircraft.
Rogers warned losing the Guard’s air talent would cause "a national problem" amid rising threats worldwide.
"At the end of the day, it’s about the talent," he stated. "Are they ready to compete?"
NGAUS recommends Congress include language in the fiscal 2024 National Defense Authorization Act requiring a roadmap for recapitalizing the Guard's fighter squadrons from the secretary of defense.
This roadmap would be implemented before any Air Guard units close, preventing any losses to the component’s fighter force structure.
NGAUS also supports the Fighter Force Preservation and Recapitalization Act, which supports Air Guard fighter modernization and recapitalization efforts.
Bacon introduced the Fighter Force Preservation and Recapitalization Act in May.
The association then launched a call to action encouraging its members to request their elected representatives support Bacon's bill.
NGAUS additionally suggests the fiscal 2024 NDAA plan and design military construction funding for modernizing the Air Guard’s facilities to accommodate any recapitalized platforms.
In June, the House Armed Services Committee’s version of the NDAA included Bacon's provision preventing the Air Force from eliminating any Guard fighter units without a recapitalization plan.
The House and Senate haven’t reconciled the differences between each chamber’s version of the NDAA.
The fate of Bacon’s provision is thus unclear before a final version of the annual defense policy bill reaches President Joe Biden and potentially becomes law.
— By Mark Hensch