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Nearly two-thirds of US Navy’s strike fighters can’t fly

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Gary
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Nearly two-thirds of US Navy’s strike fighters can’t fly

Post by Gary » Tue Feb 07, 2017 4:00 pm

Grounded: Nearly two-thirds of US Navy’s strike fighters can’t fly

By: Christopher P. Cavas, February 6, 2017

Congress’ inability to pass a budget is hurting the fleet, leaders say
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Navy’s F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet strike fighters are the tip of the spear, embodying most of the fierce striking power of the aircraft carrier strike group. But nearly two-thirds of the fleet’s strike fighters can’t fly — grounded because they’re either undergoing maintenance or simply waiting for parts or their turn in line on the aviation depot backlog.

Overall, more than half the Navy’s aircraft are grounded, most because there isn’t enough money to fix them.

Additionally, there isn’t enough money to fix the fleet’s ships, and the backlog of ships needing work continues to grow. Overhauls — “availabilities” in Navy parlance — are being canceled or deferred, and when ships do come in they need longer to refit. Every carrier overall for at least three years has run long, and some submarines are out of service for prolonged periods, as much as four years or more. One submarine, the Boise, has lost its diving certification and can’t operate pending shipyard work.

Leaders claim that if more money doesn’t become available, five more submarines will be in the same state by the end of this year.

The Navy can’t get money to move around service members and their families to change assignments, and about $440 million is needed to pay sailors. And the service claims 15 percent of its shore facilities are in failed condition — awaiting repair, replacement or demolition.

The bleak picture presented by service leaders is in stark contrast to the Trump administration’s widely talked about plan to grow the Navy from today’s goal of 308 ships to 350 — now topped by Chief of Naval Operations Adm. John Richardson’s new Force Structure Assessment that aims at a 355-ship fleet. Richardson’s staff is crafting further details on how the growth will be carried out — plans congressional leaders are eager to hear. It seems to many as though the Navy will be showered with money to attain such lofty goals.

Yet, for now, money is tight, due to several years of declining budgets mandated first by the Obama administration, then Congress, and to the chronic inability of lawmakers to provide uninterrupted funds to the military services and the government at large. Budgets have been cut despite no slackening in the demand for the fleet’s services; and the Navy, to preserve shipbuilding funds, made a conscious choice to slash maintenance and training budgets rather than eliminate ships, which take many years to build and can’t be produced promptly even when funding becomes available.

Congress has failed for the ninth straight year to produce a budget before the Oct. 1 start of fiscal 2017, reverting to continuing resolutions that keep money flowing at prior year levels. CRs have numerous caveats, however, and many new projects or plans can’t be funded since they didn’t exist in the prior year. There is widespread agreement that CR funding creates havoc throughout the Pentagon and the industrial base that supports it — often substantially driving costs higher to recover from lengthy delays. Yet, like the proverbial weather that everyone talks about but no one can change, there seems to be little urgency in Congress to return to a more businesslike budget profile.

The current continuing resolution through April 28 marks the longest stop-gap measure since fiscal 1977 — outstripping 2011 by only a couple weeks, noted Todd Harrison, of the Center for Strategic and International Studies, in a post on Twitter. This also marks the first CR situation during a presidential transition year.

And while the talk about building dozens of more ships grabs headlines, it is not at all clear when or even whether Congress will repeal the Budget Control Act — sequestration — which, if unabated, will continue its restrictions to 2021.

Meanwhile, some details are emerging of the new administration’s efforts to move along the budget process. In a Jan. 31 memorandum, Defense Secretary James Mattis described a three-phase plan that included submission by the Pentagon of a 2017 budget amendment request. The request would be sent to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget by March 1.

Under the plan, the full 2018 budget request is due to OMB no later than May 1.

The third phase of the plan involves a new National Defense Strategy and FY2019-2023 defense program, which “will include a new force sizing construct” to “inform our targets for force structure growth,” Mattis said in the memo.

The services will make their case to Congress this week when the vice chiefs of the Air Force, Army, Navy and Marine Corps testify in readiness hearings before the House Armed Services Committee on Tuesday and the Senate Armed Services Committee the following day.


The vice chiefs are expected to make their pitches for money that can be spent right away, rather than funds for long-term projects that, with only five months left in the fiscal year even if Congress passes a 2017 budget, can’t be quickly put to use.

“If we get any money at all, the first thing we’re going to do is throw it into the places we can execute it,” a senior Navy source said Feb. 2. “All of those places are in ship maintenance, aviation depot throughput — parts and spares — and permanent changes of station so we can move our families around and fill the holes that are being generated by the lack of PCS money.”

The backlog is high. “There’s about $6-8 billion of stuff we can execute in April if we got the money,” the senior Navy source said. “We can put it on contract, we can deliver on it right away.”

Even if the budget top line is increased, Navy leaders say, the immediate need is for maintenance money, not new ship construction. A supplemental Navy list of unfunded requirements for 2017 that was sent to Congress in early January and is still being revised made it clear that maintenance needs are paramount.

“Our priorities are unambiguously focused on readiness — those things required to get planes in the air, ships and subs at sea, sailors trained and ready,” a Navy official declared. “No new starts.”

The dire situation of naval aviation is sobering. According to the Navy, 53 percent of all Navy aircraft can’t fly — about 1,700 combat aircraft, patrol, and transport planes and helicopters. Not all are due to budget problems — at any given time, about one-fourth to one-third of aircraft are out of service for regular maintenance. But the 53 percent figure represents about twice the historic norm.

The strike fighter situation is even more acute and more remarkable since the aircraft are vitally important to projecting the fleet’s combat power. Sixty-two percent of F/A-18s are out of service; 27 percent in major depot work; and 35 percent simply awaiting maintenance or parts, the Navy said.

With training and flying hour funds cut, the Navy’s aircrews are struggling to maintain even minimum flying requirements, the senior Navy source said. Retention is becoming a problem, too. In 2013, 17 percent of flying officers declined department head tours after being selected. The percentage grew to 29 percent in 2016.

Funding shortfalls mean many service members are unable to relocate to take on new assignments. So far in 2017, the Navy said, there have been 15,250 fewer moves compared with 2016.

Under the continuing resolution, the senior Navy official said, another 14 ship availabilities will be deferred in 2018 — one submarine, one cruiser, six destroyers, two landing ship docks, one amphibious transport dock and three minesweepers. Programs seeking to buy items that were not included in the 2016 budget can’t move forward, including CH-53K helicopters, Joint Air-to-Ground Missiles, Long-Range Anti-Ship Missiles and littoral combat ship module weapons. Many more programs that were to increase 2017 buys over 2016 levels can’t do so.

And with only five months left in fiscal 2017, even if a budget is passed in late April, there is some talk about a yearlong continuing resolution — a prospect at which the senior Navy official shook his head.

“The full CR is not a good situation at all,” he said.
Info from Defence News

Snoop 95
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Re: Nearly two-thirds of US Navy’s strike fighters can’t fly

Post by Snoop 95 » Tue Feb 07, 2017 4:04 pm

That's all very interesting, especially if you are a potential enemy of the USA. That kind of information should be classified.

romeo bravo
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Re: Nearly two-thirds of US Navy’s strike fighters can’t fly

Post by romeo bravo » Tue Feb 07, 2017 5:53 pm

That'll suit Trump. If it ain't working, scrap it.

page_verify
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Re: Nearly two-thirds of US Navy’s strike fighters can’t fly

Post by page_verify » Tue Feb 07, 2017 8:48 pm

Anyone would think there's a new administration in town writing a new budget and someone doesn't want to seen to have enough money, same old same old.

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Re: Nearly two-thirds of US Navy’s strike fighters can’t fly

Post by Richard B » Tue Feb 07, 2017 10:06 pm

page_verify wrote:Anyone would think there's a new administration in town writing a new budget and someone doesn't want to seen to have enough money, same old same old.
The USA have been suffering with money for the last decade.
Prpoganda have been good for them. But just like the UK we have very little .

Couple that with the aircraft have been in long term combat for 2 too 3 decades they are worn out.

sherriff
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Re: Nearly two-thirds of US Navy’s strike fighters can’t fly

Post by sherriff » Wed Feb 08, 2017 10:45 am

Thanks Gary....interesting, as usual.
Has a whiff of spin, imo.
Last administration not delivering.....Trumpites to the rescue !
Would imagine the truth is somewhere between this and the reality.
Frighten the 'natives' to get their votes !! Lol.

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22A
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Re: Nearly two-thirds of US Navy’s strike fighters can’t fly

Post by 22A » Thu Feb 09, 2017 2:30 pm

2.30pm Thursday, the US Armed Forces condition is being discussed on Fox News (Sky 509).
One studio expert has just declared "The US Air Force is now the oldest and slowest it's ever been". No one asked him to explain that statement.
Another expert has pointed out that continuing years of combat have taken their toll on airframes

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Re: Nearly two-thirds of US Navy’s strike fighters can’t fly

Post by page_verify » Thu Feb 09, 2017 5:21 pm

22A wrote:One studio expert has just declared "The US Air Force is now the oldest and slowest it's ever been". No one asked him to explain that statement.
Phrases like that do nothing but get lazy journalists excited. With my management hat on, is being the "oldest and slowest it's ever been" causing any problems? Is there a benchmark that says how new and how fast a "good" air force needs to be?
I've little time for military leaders who say their aircraft are broken or old. Where there's a clear need, money gets invested as soon as it's needed (RAF Shadow R1, UAVs, RC-135 as recent examples) while everywhere else needs to remember pockets have bottoms and there's a queue for funding.

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22A
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Re: Nearly two-thirds of US Navy’s strike fighters can’t fly

Post by 22A » Thu Feb 09, 2017 5:34 pm

A different panel of five journalists are now (5.30pm) discussing this.
The Vice Chief of Naval Operations has declared If was comes, we can put our first team out, but the bench is very depleted.
A fact given as an example of the general malaise was "74% of the Marine Corps' F18s are grounded".
One of the journos asked "OK, but how many do we need"?

Snoop 95
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Re: Nearly two-thirds of US Navy’s strike fighters can’t fly

Post by Snoop 95 » Thu Feb 09, 2017 6:18 pm

The age of an aircraft does not necessarily render it ineffective as has been said; the A10 for example and the Buccaneer in the Gulf War. It's how well it fulfils its task that counts and that is more down to up-to-date avionics, weaponry, electronics etc.

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Re: Nearly two-thirds of US Navy’s strike fighters can’t fly

Post by wolfie138 » Fri Feb 10, 2017 2:03 pm

22A wrote:2.30pm Thursday, the US Armed Forces condition is being discussed on Fox News (Sky 509).
One studio expert has just declared "The US Air Force is now the oldest and slowest it's ever been".
seems right - when i was at Duxford last year the F22 could only fly the same speed as the P51!

filmman
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Re: Nearly two-thirds of US Navy’s strike fighters can’t fly

Post by filmman » Fri Feb 10, 2017 7:41 pm

If your short of cash (defence spending down 25% - as pensions, pay static, hardware availability takes a bigger reduction) you "economise".
In the case of the USN you might need to maintain nuclear propulsion systems, subs and carriers. You might effectively mothball conventional ships and planes by delaying maintenance, running down spares and reducing sea time and flying hours.
The USAF shuts bases and runs down active plane numbers. Result public comments that USA can no longer fight on two fronts; they only have a first team and would need time to ramp up mothball assets.
The reality is that most of the funding cuts will not be reversed as Trump wants to spend money on infrastructure. So instead of mothballing its possible that hardware will be cut and new planes orders reduced. F35 types and numbers could be the first hit because of the high cost. Time will tell.

Filmman

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Re: Nearly two-thirds of US Navy’s strike fighters can’t fly

Post by page_verify » Fri Feb 10, 2017 9:44 pm

Filmman, you must read The Economist too! Trump certainly seems to be a spender and a starter, rather than a maintainer and a polisher. Existing inventories will need to be culled to pay for his spending desires along with all but the most important capabilities. "Three bases in England?! I want three bases in Poland next door to the Russians" I can hear him saying!

filmman
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Re: Nearly two-thirds of US Navy’s strike fighters can’t fly

Post by filmman » Sun Feb 12, 2017 8:17 pm

Verify, not the Economist, experience. There is plenty of information to make the big picture. The professionals will advise Trump and time will tell. Thought under Obama the USA runs down effective assets, moves focus to Pacific even though Putin destabilises Georgia. Putin then Grabs the Crimea for the navy base whilst keeping the Ukraine out of NATO; you can't join if in conflict. The Russians are good at chess. China creates Islands in the South China Seas because of oil. If they both think the USA is no longer conventionally all powerful, times could become very difficult. Some countries might become nervous and change their positions if not reassured.
Filmman

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