U.S. Marine Corps Not Combat Ready
The United States Marine Corps aviation wing is suffering from the burden of 15 years’ worth of fighting and budget cuts. Fox News reported on April 17 that the vast majority of U.S. strike fighter aircraft are not airworthy. Yet it is unclear where the money to maintain and replace them will come from. Budget cuts and sequestration have reduced anticipated budgets—from $691 billion in 2010 to $560 billion in 2015, an inflation-adjusted 21 percent decrease in five years.
Several aging major equipment platforms need replacing. The MV-22B Osprey was to be the solution for the rotary-wing aircraft used by the corps. Yet several accidents have degraded confidence in this “upgrade.” The F-18 Hornets were to be replaced with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter—but known flaws, significant budget overruns, and postponements in deployment testing have delayed F-35 adoption.
Marine Corps F/A-18 Hornets are supposed to have a shelf life of 6,000 hours, but they are being refurbished to extend that life to 8,000 hours, possibly even 10,000 hours. Pilots are being asked to remain operationally ready with aircraft that are well beyond their engineered limits. Not only has time spent refining their skills in the air been reduced, but pilots are now limited by aging aircraft that could pose safety risks even outside of combat roles.