The Air Force of the Future: A Comparison of Alternative Force Structures

Section 1064 of the fiscal year (FY) 2018 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) mandated three separate studies of the Air Force’s current and future force structure. The law specified that the studies consider future threats to air and space forces, traditional and alternative roles and missions for the Air Force, the role of new technology and remotely piloted aircraft (RPAs), and operation and sustainment costs, among other factors. It further mandated that each study include a force-sizing construct for the Air Force and recommended inventories by aircraft type in the 2030 timeframe. The purpose of this report is to compare, contrast, and critique the three studies of the Air Force’s future force structure. While each study had the option of producing a classified annex with additional material, this analysis only considers the unclassified material released from the three studies. The Air Force of the Future provides an independent assessment of the current state of the Air Force, areas where the studies agree, areas where they disagree, and areas where additional research and analysis is needed.

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This report is made possible by general support to CSIS and project support from General Atomics and Lockheed Martin.

Todd Harrison

Todd Harrison

Former Senior Associate (Non-resident), Aerospace Security Project and Defense Budget Analysis