Press Releases

Bacon Leads Bipartisan Bill to Preserve Air Force Fighter Force Structure

WASHINGTON – Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE-02), alongside Reps. Jason Crow (D-CO-06), John James (R-MI-10), Doug Lamborn (R-CO-05), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD-02), and Elissa Slotkin (D-MI-07) introduced H.R 3392, the Fighter Force Preservation and Recapitalization Act. This legislation prevents the closure of Air National Guard fighter squadrons at a time when pilot and maintenance manning are at critically low levels.


H.R. 3392 ensures Air National Guard fighter squadrons continue to support the Total Force as the Air Force undertakes a massive modernization and recapitalization effort. The Air National Guard represents 30 percent of the Air Force fighter force and is responsible for 94 percent of homeland defense missions. On average, the pilots and maintainers are twice as experienced as their active duty counterparts. The Air Force must retain these valuable servicemembers as it seeks to divest legacy equipment, which is predominately found in the Air National Guard. 


“The Air National Guard is no longer the strategic reserve of the 1980s and 1990s,” said Bacon. “These units deploy globally to meet combatant commander requirements while simultaneously defending the homeland. We must ensure the most important part of our fighter force – the Airmen -- are retained as fighter recapitalization decisions are made. Every pilot and aircraft maintainer matters, and our nation simply cannot afford continued loss of these highly trained personnel.”


“The Air National Guard is integral to mission readiness. It is responsible for nearly 94 percent of homeland air defense missions and constitutes nearly 30 percent of our total Air Force fighting force, but the fighter aircraft they are flying are over 28 years old on average,” said Crow“We simply can’t afford continued divestment. That’s why I’m supporting legislation to modernize and recapitalize the Air National Guard to maintain air dominance now and in the future.


“Michigan is a military powerhouse and Selfridge Air National Guard Base is its crown jewel,” James said. “My district has long been a strong advocate of replacing the current A-10 Thunderbolts with a next generation fighter. I will not rest until Selfridge is home to a mission worthy of its stature and strategic position.” 


“The Air National Guard’s unique dual commitment to both their state and our Nation is vital to the modernization efforts necessary to outpace our strategic competitors,” said Lamborn. “In Colorado, Air National Guard Airmen execute offensive and defensive counter-air missions and provide Air Sovereignty Alerts, whether defending our homeland or fighting abroad. This bill ensures that as we modernize our fighting capabilities we maintain and leverage the years of experience held at our Air National Guard units.”

“Maintaining the right number of fighter squadrons in the Air National Guard is mission critical,” said Ruppersberger. As the Air Force divests legacy platforms, we must replace them with newer and better planes that enable us to both defend our skies and retain the immense talent these squadrons provide, especially in light of a serious shortage in pilots and maintenance crews. I’m proud to join my colleagues on both sides of the aisle in this bipartisan effort supporting the Air National Guard, its airmen, and their national security missions.”


“As the Defense Department makes important investments in next generation aircraft, it’s critical that the Air Force have a plan ready to replace older aircraft with newer ones — before retiring them — so we maintain our ability to protect the homeland,” said Slotkin. “The Air National Guard is a key component of our national defense, and preserving and strengthening ANG bases across the country, including Selfridge Air National Guard Base, is essential to our military’s readiness. This is a bipartisan bill that would ensure there are no gaps in the Air Force’s readiness during the transition to newer, better fighter aircraft by maintaining the current number of fighter missions in the Air National Guard, including the A-10 mission at Selfridge, until the Air Force develops a fighter recapitalization plan.”


Since 1987, the Air Force fighter fleet has been reduced by 60 percent.  The Air Force entered 2023 nearly 1,900 pilots short of the number needed to fully meet mission requirements.  This shortfall results in an unsustainable operational tempo for both pilots and the aircraft maintenance technicians, which adds to the Air Force’s retention challenges. To ensure the combat air power necessary to defend the homeland and prevail in any future conflict, the Air Force must retain its most experienced and talented personnel, a large portion of which reside in the Air National Guard. H.R. 3392 accomplishes this by ensuring the Air Force maintains 25 Air National Guard fighter squadrons across 22 states, ready to support their Nation at home and abroad.