We recently shared here a story about the horrific situation surrounding the rise of U.S. military aviation accidents. Just ask yourself, when was the last time you heard about a U.S. Navy Blue Angel and a U.S. Air Force Thunderbird aircraft crashing within the same week — and the Blue Angel pilot was killed. We’re at a critical point for the maintenance of our military aviation, rotary and fixed wing. And one of the crucial advantages our military has is its operational maneuverability, but are we, in Obama’s military, losing that edge?
What you’re about to read is worrying indeed.
As reported by CNN, “It’s something akin to raising the dead. A troubling shortage of flyable combat aircraft — one military official recently called the air fleet the “smallest, oldest and least ready” in history — is forcing the military to go to its “boneyard.”
The Marine Corps announced last month it was taking the extreme step of resurrecting 23 F/A-18 Hornets to meet fleet requirements until the new — and much-delayed — F-35 fighter is eventually delivered. “We are very focused on our current readiness, and at the moment, we don’t have enough Hornets for combat, flight instruction and day-to-day training,” Sarah Burns, a spokesman for the U.S. Marine Corps, told CNN. She explained that the out-of-service, aging aircraft are housed at the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center — a desert base in Arizona known as “the boneyard” — with the “intent to store, maintain, and upgrade them for today’s use.”
The military regularly sends “mothball” or extra aircraft to the “boneyard” for long-term storage, rather than destroying the planes. However, Lt. Gen. Jon M. Davis, deputy commandant for aviation for the U.S. Marine Corps, noted that while bringing back the planes does provide additional inventory, they are still “old birds” and not as reliable as they once were. And if planes aren’t in the boneyard already, others are getting close.
The delayed arrival of new aircraft, like the fifth-generation F-35, also has forced the military to rely heavily on planes nearing the end of their lifespan. According to Maj. Gen. Scott West, the director of current operations for the Air Force, airmen are flying some aircraft and bombers, like the B-52 Stratofortress, that are more than 50 years old. Appearing before a House Armed Services subcommittee last week, leaders from the Air Force, Navy, Army and Marines warned lawmakers that fiscal constraints, coupled with the critical focus on overseas operations, have seriously degraded training and readiness efforts.
“Twenty-five years of continuous combat operations … coupled with budget instability and lower-than-planned funding levels, have contributed to one of the smallest, oldest and least ready forces across the full-spectrum of operations in our history,” said Maj. Gen. Scott West, director of current operations, Headquarters for the U.S. Air Force.”
We reported here that aviation maintenance crews have actually gone to museums to find aircraft spare parts. I don’t know if any of you’ve ever seen it, but the boneyard out in Arizona is at Davis-Monthan AB. If you’re a parent, spouse or child with a loved one in the U.S. military, does it concern you that this is the status of the military under one Barack Obama?
Or perhaps you’re one of those who feel so great that our taxpayer dollars will be used to fund hormone treatments and gender reassignment surgery for transgender troops — along with new barracks and bathroom facilities. Yep, that’s a far more critical aspect of our combat readiness than effective and well-maintained aviation assets.
What is also very disturbing is an acquisition and procurement system that never delivers on time. It shouldn’t take 15 to 20 years from concept to implementation for our warriors to get the right tools. And I know, folks are going to tell me how far more technologically advanced we are — well, we cranked out some very technologically advance weapon systems for our troops back in World War II, like the P-51 fighter aircraft.
My favorite story however involves the USS Yorktown, a Pacific fleet aircraft carrier during World War II. The Yorktown was horribly damaged during the Battle of Coral Sea, a loss. It slowly made its way back to Pearl Harbor for repair where the BDA, (battle damage assessment), was three months. Admiral Nimitz, Commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet, conveyed that was unacceptable, stating “We must have this ship back in three days.”
The USS Yorktown steamed out from Pearl Harbor fully repaired in those 72 hours to join the carriers Enterprise and Hornet against the formidable Japanese carrier task force that had attacked Pearl Harbor. And thanks to an intelligence intercept, Nimitz knew the Japanese were heading for Midway Island — after the surrender of the U.S. Marine forces at Wake Island. Nimitz was dedicated to that not being the fate at Midway. And it was not, for those who know their history, it was the additional aircraft carrier, the USS Yorktown, that made the difference enabling the defeat of the Japanese fleet, turning the tide of the war in the Pacific.
That was all because we as Americans set a higher standard when it comes to our military readiness. There was no time for 90 days of repairs…so why today do we accept such a low standard of readiness and acquisition for our military? It is unconscionable and embarrassing that our men and women in our military aviation force are having to resurrect planes from boneyards and scavenge museums in order to provide for our common defense.
Yet, we have a commander in chief and secretary of defense who place more importance on converting Bradley Manning to Chelsea. Ladies and gents, if there’s anything that should be awarded a prestigious FUBAR award, this is it! My prayers go out to our brave combat aviators whose lives we’re putting at risk, needlessly.