VOA Exclusive: Air Force Has Too Few Fighter Squadrons to Meet Commanders' Needs: When Iraqi troops began the operation to retake Mosul last month, fighter pilots in America’s F-22 Raptor jets struck the first Islamic State targets there. But that kind of operation may be in jeopardy.
The U.S. Air Force says a shortage of fighter pilots has become so dire that it is struggling to satisfy combat requirements abroad.
“We have too few squadrons to meet the combatant commanders’ needs,” Major General Scott Vander Hamm, the general in charge of fixing the fighter pilot crisis, said in an exclusive interview with VOA.
The Air Force is currently authorized to have 3,500 fighter pilots, but it is 725 fighter pilots short. And with fewer pilots, the number of fighter pilot squadrons have also dropped, from 134 squadrons in 1986 to 55 in 2016.
As a greater percentage of the force has needed to be deployed over the past 10 years, readiness -- the ability to accomplish missions at home and abroad -- has dropped 20 percent.
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