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U. S. Air Force Fleet Suffers Drop In Readines

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11/1/2018 5:54:50 AM
Posted: 1 year ago
U. S. Air Force Fleet Suffers Drop In Readiness Amid Pilot Crisis
Keeping the U. S. Air Force's massive fleet airborne is becoming increasingly difficult. Air Force data published by the Air Force Times has found that the mission capable rate for the entire fleet was 73. 1% in 2015 and that fell to 71. 3% in 2017. While that drop doesn't appear to be significant at first glance, A closer look at availability rates across some of the Air Force's most important platforms spells serious trouble. Years of punishing service over Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan has resulted in a slight drop in the F-16's mission capable rate which fell from 73. 7% in 2015 to 70. 2% in 2017. Likewise, The A-10 attack aircraft and C-17 transport have seen their availability fall 3 and 1. 4 percentage points respectively over the same period.
Notably, The situation is far worse when it comes to the Air Force's newest and most advanced fighter aircraft. Between 2015 and 2018, The F-35A's availability plummeted from 68% to just 55%. That's despite the Air Force never employing the aircraft in combat, Though Marine Corps and Israeli F-35s have already conducted airstrikes in the Middle East. The $150 million F-22 Raptor is also plagued by availability problems. In 2015, The aircraft had a mission capable rate of just over 67% but last year, That plunged to a dismal 49%.
There are several reasons for the availability crisis across the Air Force fleet and the punishing operational tempo in the Middle East since 9/11 is certainly a major one. However, There are other factors such as a serious shortage in maintenance personnel and an ageing fleet. Even though the F-35 and F-22 are new, Both airframes require a higher level of maintenance on their stealth coatings to keep them operational. The key takeaway from the data is that in the future, The Air Force may struggle to hold on to pilots and respond to contingencies around the world. The service is already struggling with a critical pilot shortage and it needs around 2, 000 new pilots. If there are not enough operational airframes across the fleet, It will become increasingly likely that pilots will leave the Air Force, With many attracted by lucrative salaries in commercial aviation.

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