The Air National Guard will be forced to move away from the “capstone principle” of one flying unit per state as budgets continue to cut, with more units changing missions away from manned flight.
As opposed to flying mobility and fighter aircraft, states will now see more remotely piloted aircraft and cyber warfare units, said Army Gen. Frank Grass, the chief of the National Guard Bureau, said today at the Air Force Association’s Air and Space Conference in National Harbor, Md.
“The future is each state may not have a manned flying mission any more,” Grass said.
The process began last month with the last C-21 leaving the North Dakota Air National Guard, which still flies the MQ-1 Predator.
While more individual wings may turn away from manned missions, the Air Force could see an increase in associate units — National Guard or Reserve airmen placed with active duty squadrons, Grass said. This has been a focus of Air Force leadership, and the National Guard sees it as an opportunity to stay in manned flying missions.
The move away from manned flying would impact the Air National Guard’s homeland response mission, but not necessarily end it. Instead of flying overwatch or helping providing equipment in response to emergencies, Air National Guard cyber warfare units could help state agencies, such as policy and highway departments, assess their digital security and help protect a state’s cyber infrastructure, Grass said.
The Air National Guard currently has 12 units with a cyber capability, mostly network warfare squadrons with some information operations units, and they are working with the Active Duty Air Force on the service’s cyber structure, Grass said. The citizen airmen, for the most part, have civilian jobs in technology, and those skills can continue to help the National Guard as they look to plus up their numbers in cyber warfare, he said.