Just five of the 49 types of aircraft in the US military’s arsenal met mission readiness targets for five or more years during the period between fiscal year 2011 and fiscal year 2021, the Government Accountability Office has revealed.
The findings come despite the pouring of over $800 billion of US taxpayer money into the military in 2021, and notwithstanding the Pentagon’s heavy reliance on the Air Force.
The US Air Force has to do the heavy lifting in the majority of its operations across the globe, including the bombing of multiple countries.
In a comprehensive 352-page report released, the congressional spending watchdog indicated that issues like aircraft age, maintenance problems and spare parts availability dramatically hindered readiness levels.
And this was measured by the fleet aircraft ability to fly and perform at least one mission.
Only the Air Force’s UH-1N, a granddaddy of a helicopter produced in the 1970’s, was deemed mission capable throughout the eleven-year period studied.
The Navy’s EP-3E anti-submarine reconnaissance turboprop was second best, meeting the annual mission capability goals for seven of eleven years.
The Air Force’s stealthy B-2 bomber and RC-135S-W command and control aircraft got a score of six years, with the Navy’s E-6B C&C plane rounding out the top five, deemed mission ready for five of 11 years.
The remaining 44 planes and helicopters in the list scored 3 or below, with a whopping 26 military aircraft types failing to meet mission capability requirements for even a single year.
Among these were the Marine Corps’ much-hyped F-35B strike fighter, Air Force F-16s, F-22s and Marine KC-130J tankers, Air Force C-17 cargo haulers, Navy E-C2 C&C aircraft, and ten different Army, Navy and Marine Corps choppers, including the CV-22 Osprey.
The Navy’s sleek F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet multirole jet, depicted in this year’s critically-acclaimed summer blockbuster Top Gun: Maverick, was deemed unready to fly for all 11 years.
The report calculated that during the FY-2011-2021 time frame, the only branch of the military to improve its mission capability rate was the Army, with the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps all suffering a drop in readiness.
In FY 2021, only two of the 49 studied aircraft met the mission-capability criteria.
The GAO pointed to a broad range of factors affecting readiness levels, from delays in fleet upgrades and forced extensions of service life to unexpected breakdowns requiring costly repairs and new parts, shortages of said components, delays in their delivery, and even the loss of parts makers entirely.
On top of that, the watchdog cited a lack of depot maintenance capability, a shortage of trained maintenance personnel, and problems with access to the necessary technical data to make repairs possible.
According to the GAO, Army and Air Force operating and support costs have dropped by a whopping 18 and 54%, respectively, over the decade under examination, while those of the Navy and Marine Corps increased by 39% and 75%, respectively over the same period.
Total operating and support costs reached $54 billion in 2020, with overall average maintenance costs increasing, aircraft inventories increasing by 14.8%, but total flight hours dropping by more than 20%.
Sputnik / ABC Flash-Point News 2022.