Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Marine Aviation Readiness

How bad is maintenance in the Marines?  Here’s a glimpse courtesy of Breaking Defense website and Lt. Gen. Jon Davis who testified before the seapower subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) (1).

Chronic maintenance problems with the aging F-18 Hornet are hobbling the Marines, leaving them with less than 60 percent of the strike fighters they need to conduct training and operations, the deputy commandant for aviation told the Senate this afternoon.

“I pulled up our readiness data just yesterday,” Lt. Gen. Jon Davis told the seapower subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “We have 87 aircraft that were mission capable.”

Now, you know that people are fudging readiness figures to try to look good.  So, that 87 number is actually a lot less but we’ll take it at face value for purposes of this discussion.  How many aircraft should the Marines have ready?

“How many Hornets should the Marine Corps have ready to go? Under the current, shrunken force structure, 150: a training squadron of 30 and 12 combat squadrons of 10 aircraft each.”

So, the Marines have 87 aircraft that are mission capable out of a requirement of 150.  That’s not good.  I wonder if that counts the F-35s that are only fictitiously combat capable?  But, I digress …

There’s another, hidden, problem here.  The number of aircraft needed is also fictitious. 

 “Until 18 months ago, that figure was 174 — 30 training aircraft and 12 squadrons of 12aircraft each — but the Marines decided to shrink each squadron to reflect the reality of insufficient aircraft.”

This is deeply disturbing.  Rather than fix problems, the Marines are resorting to lowering the number of aircraft per squadron to appear better?  I thought manning and equipment was determined on a strategy and operations based assessment of threats and needs, not simply setting an arbitrary number to try to make things appear better than they are.

Do We Have Anything That Can Fly?

I note that the Marines are still ensuring an uninterrupted supply of funds for the purchase of new F-35s.  Shouldn’t we be fixing and maintaining the equipment we have before we start buying new stuff?  Weren’t we all raised to take care of what we have before we start asking for new things?  The Marines neglect to maintain what they have and we reward them with new aircraft?  Won’t they simply neglect to maintain those, too?  Is this responsible care of taxpayer’s assets?

The Marines funding for new purchases should be cut off until they get their current aircraft up to 90%+ readiness and they demonstrate that they can take care of what they already have.

Heads should roll over this. 


(1)Breaking Defense website, “Marines Are Flying Only 60% of F-18 Hornets They Need”, Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., 20-Apr-2016,


  1. 1. The Marines don't really need any F/A-18s. They could be transferred to the Navy tomorrow and Marines would barely notice. All requirements are invented by Generals in the Pentagon, and are based on budget games.

    2. Only in American can Generals brag about their incompetence and not get fired. I don't recall any of them saying we need more funds for maintenance even if we procure fewer F-35s. Meanwhile the Corps recently decided to add two squadrons of V-22s. And the corps volunteers to send aircraft and manpower to everywhere it can think of so it can complain about over stretched forces and demand more money. Same with the Navy and its ships.

    3. The Generals need adult supervision. A hollow force is just a game they play. Someone needs to tell them to disband six VMFA squadrons and use the manpower and aircraft to fill our other squadrons. And to stop sending UDP units to peaceful Okinawa to sit around camp pretending they are needed.

  2. Last F18D was delivered to USMC in 2000. The first F18A in 1980.
    Since the first navy F18E.
    Back in 2011 the goal was to extend airframe life from 6000 hr to 8000 and even 10,000 hr.
    "One jet, Furlano said, had a crack in one of its bulkheads. Rather than manufacture an entirely new panel and spend the time taking the aircraft apart to install it, he said, the engineers created a brace in-house to cover the crack and support the structure."

    Even the Super hornets in the USN are now reaching 6000 hr so they will be sucking up maintenance money.

    But it seems only pin money is being allocated to the rebuild line in Jacksonville ( compared to other programs)

    But this was interesting, the reduction to 10 plane squadrons was a temporary (ha) measure to 'preserve readiness' but even that measure has failed
    "“The USMC F/A-18A-D community is enduring a sustained shortage in excess of 40 aircraft fleet wide due to “Out Of Reporting” (OOR) maintenance. The USMC currently has eleven active squadrons and one reserve squadron that deploy with a full complement of aircraft, but the community is forced to absorb the shortfall during pre-deployment training due to a degraded Primary Mission Aircraft Inventory (PMAI). HQMC AVN is resetting the force by temporarily reducing squadron Flight Line Entitlement (FLE) to 10 aircraft to preserve future combat readiness ..


  3. This problem is also affecting the CH53 and EA-6B communities. The biggest problem is the F35 and the V22, their purchase cost (roughly 3-4 times more than other platforms), their delay in getting to the fleet (both over a decade), and their high cost per flight hour (roughly 70K per V22 flight Hour). The Marines have no one to blame but themselves. Add this to their new shore based Special MAGTAFs that they build to mimic a SOF responsibility. So how is Spain treating you Marines?

  4. Here is a link with USAF cost per hour data.

    Their CV-22s cost more to fly than the old B-52s!

    The V-22 is full of ultra-expensive lightweight composite parts that don't last long, especially when the rotors are up and pound the wings with downwash causing big vibrations.

    This was the result of several efforts during development to shed weight since performance was so poor. It promised 10,000 to 20,000 lbs of cargo. The KPP was 10,000lbs which a new 46E could lift. The most demonstrated was 9800lbs, and that was just a 25-min hover 20 feet off the ground, and before another 2000 lbs of empty weight was added with the hoist, gun and other gadgets. The current limit is 6000 to 8000lbs, about as much as a H60L, which is one-third its size.

    The Marine Corps Times had a story yesterday on-line that six of the 12 V-22s forward deployed to Spain were sent home. The spin is "crew rest" but I suspect those six were sent home on ship as they need depot level refits. That's another reason the H-53Es are wore out. They are tasked with many H-46s missions that the V-22s can't do, like that ship op in Hawaii where two collided.

    1. "Their CV-22s cost more to fly than the old B-52s!"

      It depends how it is accounted for.
      Classicaly, we depreciate fixed assets.

      Lets say you buy an aircraft for $100mn which you expect to fly for 10,000 hours, you get $10,000 per hour as a cost, plus fuel and consumables.
      Lets say you buy the same aircraft, 5 years later, for $110mn, you get a flight cost of $11,000 per hour on the second plane, which is identical in every way, which is problematic.

      And thats still the simple stuff
      You refurbish some of the first set, for a cost of $50mn per plane, which adds another 10,000 hours of flight time, which blank slate, costs $150mn, for 20,000hrs, $7,500 per hour
      At this point, we have three essentially identical models, costing $7500, $10000 and $11000 per hour in capital wear.

      It gets even more complicated once I point out that some could have be "refurbed" after 9000 flight hrs, some after 1000, giving $60mn for 11,000 flight hrs, or $150mn for 19,000 flight hrs.

      You might find that, whilst you expected your plane to last for 10,000hrs, it falls out of the sky at 8,000 or keeps chugging on until 15,000hrs, when you discover this has a huge impact on when the cost of flying explodes, or crashes.

      Alternatively, you could, because you are ****ing huge, not account for the airframes initial cost, and the flying hour cost is literally the cost of fuel, pilot, maintainers ect flying for an hour.

      A third alternative, is accounting based on modern replacement costs.
      So, although the fighter that just landed after a four hour flight cost $50mn in the 80's, a replacement would cost $200mn, so you publish your flying hour cost based on that.

      Different organisations record things differently, different years are recorded differently.

  5. Let's not forget the cost of the wildly expensive CH-53K at over $115 million!

    The fur is going to fly!


  6. Lets not forget that the USMC aviation mafia... has forced the navy into the F35 mess... but now they also want have us (USN) buying V22s for the COD mission. Truly a bad idea for cost, cost per hour, reliability, carrying capability and did I mention cost? The only advantage is the ability to go straight to a DDG vice hub and spoke ops from the CVN. Better idea would be to give each CVN, 4 Marine V22s and the Navy put a 6-8 plane det of HH60s on LHA's to support landing forces and provide a swing capability for assault ops.

    1. I'm not at all sure that a V-22 can land on any old surface ship flight deck as is claimed. Between flight deck area constraints, deck structural ratings, and deck heat tolerances, we may find that many ships can't handle V-22's. I'm not saying that is the case, just that I'm nowhere near sure that the V-22 can land on any ship. Just as the Navy forgot to check whether the Seahawk-type helo could safely tow the LCS MCM gear before committing to it, I wonder if the Navy has actually checked to see whether the V-22 can land on a ship's flight deck?

    2. Ever see an CH-53E or Navy MH-53E land on a destroyer or cruiser? Search for a photo. Never happens, it's too heavy. It might cause it to tip over in seas and slide off the deck. That even happened to a MH-60 last year.

      And the V-22 is the same empty weight size as the CH-53E! V-22 can't even vertrep safely, too much downwash and hover instability. It has done so, but very rarely, and this humorous video shows why.


    3. Yeah, would like to see a V22 or even a CH53 try to land or even just keep station above the deck of a DDG?!?

    4. Didn't they use to flight CH-53s of the AOR and AOE to Vertrep ships?


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