Tags: Middle East | War on Terrorism | navy fighter fleet | us navy | super hornets | navy hornets

Virginian-Pilot: Mideast Missions Taking Toll on Navy's Fighter Fleet

By    |   Monday, 22 Jun 2015 06:01 PM

More than a decade of combat missions in the Middle East is taking a toll on the Navy's fleet of fighter jets, with hundreds of them out of service as they await upgrades.

According to The Virginian-Pilot, half of the 560 F/A-18 Hornets and about one-fifth of the 523 Super Hornets are in long-term maintenance because they have exceeded their recommended flying time — in many cases, by 2,000 hours.

As a result, the Navy has had to pull from other squadrons to support the military operations in the Middle East that have been ongoing since the early 2000s.

The typical lifespan of the jets is 6,000 flying hours. Many of the Navy's Hornets and Super Hornets that have reached this milestone are showing significant wear that must be addressed in order to keep them flying safe, according to the Pilot report.

Coupled with budget delays to have new jets built and layoffs of service technicians, the Navy now has a major backlog of aircraft waiting to be fixed.

The issue has also created a training problem, as the shortage of mission-ready Hornets — a 1980s-era jet — means there are fewer available for pilots to fly in order to maintain their proficiency.

"Bottom line: Our readiness consumption has exceeded our readiness production," Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker, commander of Naval Air Forces, told the Pilot. "Now we're trying to rebalance that."

The Senate passed the National Defense Authorization Act last week despite a veto threat from President Barack Obama, and the legislation now heads to the House. The bill includes funding that would go toward the production of 12 new Super Hornets and also would help ramp up the production of F-35s, the next-generation — and very expensive— fighter that is not scheduled to be in service until 2018.

The Navy, according to the Pilot, has brought on hundreds of civilian workers to help fix the jets currently out of service.

"We're flying legacy jets that shouldn't be flying right now," Capt. Randy Stearns, commodore of Strike Fighter Wing Atlantic, told the Pilot. "We've extended these past the time we thought we'd be flying them, and we've learned some lessons through that process."

U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh, meanwhile, said cuts to the nation's defense budget will weaken the United States' air dominance moving forward.

"We are 200,000 people fewer in the active component," Welsh said last month. "That's 40 percent less than we were during the first Gulf War. It's a dramatically different Air Force."

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More than a decade of combat missions in the Middle East is taking a toll on the Navy's fleet of fighter jets, with hundreds of them out of service as they await upgrades.
navy fighter fleet, us navy, super hornets, navy hornets
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2015-01-22
Monday, 22 Jun 2015 06:01 PM
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