Aircraft Readiness in the Military…It’s Only Going to Get Worse

It took four years for Trump to undo all that the Obama administration did with budget cuts across the military. Now as Biden prepares to enter the White House, complete with Kamala Harris prompting to cut the defense budget, we’re in big trouble.

Where’s the real problem? Aircraft readiness.

Across the military, there’s a problem with planes and helicopters being unable to fly.

This problem is found in not only the Air Force but also the Navy, Army, and Marine Corps. According to the Government Accountability Office, the problem has only been getting worse.

What happens when there’s an issue with aircraft readiness? Well, if troops need to be deployed due to an act of war, the U.S. may not be properly equipped.

The U.S. military is supposed to be one of the best in the world. What does that say, then, when aircraft isn’t ready to fly?

Congress requested the report. 46 aircraft were studied across the four branches of service to explore readiness rates between fiscal years 2011 and 2019. This means that six years were the responsibility of the Obama administration and only three belonged to Trump.

Trump inherited the problem of insufficient readiness rates. His administration re-invested money into the military. However, it wasn’t enough to compensate for all that Obama did. Obama’s administration crippled all four branches of the military.

Only three aircraft were capable of meeting “mission-capable” goals for the majority of the years in question. This included the E-6B Mercury and the EP-3E Aries II of the Navy and the UH-1N Huey helicopter of the Air Force. The Air Force helicopter was the only one capable of meeting the goal for all nine years of the studies.

A mission-capable rate is calculated as the percentage of total time an aircraft is capable of flying and performing at least one mission. It’s one of the prime metrics used to identify the readiness and health of the aircraft fleet.

The Department of Defense is already spending billions of dollars to sustain weapon systems. The problem is that only a fraction of this actually goes to aircraft.

Throughout the aircraft reviewed, there were 19 that were 15 percentage points behind where they needed to be and 11 were 25 percentage points away. The remaining were anywhere between 6 and 15 points from being able to reach the goals.

The aircraft that was reviewed by the GAO included fixed and rotary-wing aircraft that focused on combat-related missions. This means that aircraft focusing on moving cargo or high-priority passengers wasn’t included in the study.

Too many aircraft within the military are old. The B-1B Lancer Bomber of the Air Force, for example, is old. There’s a maintenance backlog, unscheduled maintenance, and its service life has been extended long beyond what it was intended.

The list of aircraft that is struggling with life extensions, unexpected repairs, a long list of parts shortages, and more is too long to list. It all requires money and labor – two things that the military has been struggling with since the moment that Obama stepped into office.

Biden has made much of his platform to mirror that of the Obama administration. He plans to continue many of the things that Obama started – and cancel out anything that Trump did.

Anyone who voted for Biden expecting to get a different president was sadly mistaken. All he plans on doing is providing the U.S. with a third Obama administration. It’s not what the country needs and it’s certainly not what the military needs.

Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis had ordered the Air Force and Navy to improve mission-capable rates of several aircraft to 80 percent by the end of 2019. It didn’t happen and it’s not going to happen by the end of 2020. With Biden coming in and looking to slash budgets, it may come down to this terrifying thought: aircraft readiness may never truly improve.