Nearly two-thirds of the US Navy’s F/A-18 fleet can’t fly

ARABIAN GULF (July 22, 2015) Senior Chief Navy Diver Dalbert Rivera, of Arecibo, Puerto Rico, Master Diver of Mobile Diving Salvage Unit One, Company 1-3, leads Navy Divers and Explosive Ordnance Disposal Technicians, assigned to Commander, Task Group (CTG) 56.1, in the successful salvage an F/A-18 Super Hornet lost at sea aboard USNS Catawba (T-ATF 168). (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Arthurgwain L. Marquez/Released)

Nearly two-thirds of the US Navy’s F/A-18 fleet can no longer slip the surly bonds of earth, a dismal reality for a cash and parts-strapped Navy.

With the backlog growing ever longer as time progresses, many US Navy aircraft and ships remain “confined to quarters” due to budget woes and overhaul backlogs, symptoms of what leadership says is Congress’ inability to pass a proper budget.

With money tight after several years of lean budgets under the Obama Administration- made worse by the inability of DC lawmakers to produce a budget before the start of the new fiscal year in October, many things on the Navy’s “to-do” list have been back burnered due to lack of funding and parts- from ship and submarine overhauls to aircraft maintenance and funding PCS moves for sailors heading to new duty stations.

In 2017, Congress failed for the ninth year in a row to produce a budget before the October 1 start of the fiscal year, reverting to continuing resolutions (CRs) that keep money flowing at prior year levels.

With Congress dragging feet, the Armed Services’ vice chiefs will go before the House and Senate Armed Services Committees later this week to testify in readiness hearings, hoping to make pitches for more money that can be spent to fix dangerously-low readiness issues that can be resolved in the “here and now.”

“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 told Defense News on February 2. “All of those places are in ship maintenance, aviation depot throughout –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 source indicated that while the backlog is high, the results would be visible in short order- if only the money was there.

“There’s about six to eight billion dollars 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.”

In the naval aviation sector, 53% of all Navy aircraft can’t fly, ranging from strike fighters to helicopters. While 1/4 to 1/3 of aircraft are usually out of the fight due to maintenance, the current statistic is over double the “norm.”  More alarming is the fact that over 62% of the F/A-18 fleet is currently out of service.

Navy crews are having trouble even taking to the sky, with training and flying hours cut. In light of all the penny pinching and lack of flying, many flying officers are opting out of continuing a career in the Navy.

With only five months left in the 2017 fiscal year, Continuing Resolutions (CR) such as the ones proposed simply don’t seem to be enough to senior Naval officials.

“The full CR is not a good situation at all,” a senior Navy official said.

With ramping tensions unfolding in the South China Sea and other parts of the world, the budget woes paint a very troubling picture, indeed

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  • Andy Wolf

    Andy Wolf is an Appalachian native who spent much of his youth and young adulthood overseas in search of combat, riches, and adventure- accruing decades of experience in military, corporate, first responder, journalistic and advisory roles. He resides in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains with his K9 companion, Kiki.

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