The Marine Corps is being asked to do more with less. Budget cuts, long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the fight against ISIS are taking a toll on the US Marine Corps. According to military analysts, pilots are also losing valuable hours in the air to train and all of these things are putting our nation at risk.
“Unlike previous wars, we did not have a period of time afterwards where we did not have tasking,” said Col. Sean Salene. “There was no time to catch our breath.”
Salene oversees nine helicopter squadrons in New River, NC– including the Super Stallion workhorses of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Of the 147 helicopters, only 42 can fly. Fighter jets are also being forced to stay on the ground due to broken-down parts. According to a Marine Corps report, only 30% of the 276 Marine F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters are ready to fly.
Marine Major Mike Malone, a maintenance officer, told Fox’s Jennifer Griffin they’re being forced to cannibalize parts from planes to keep others flying. An aircraft still flying after 30 years needed a part, so the Corps cannibalized a hinge from a museum jet on display on the USS Yorktown.
Marines are extending flying time of aircraft designed to fly 6,000 hours to 8,000 hours.
It’s getting harder and harder to patch these planes together and it could sometimes take 18 months to get parts for early model F-18 jets, officials said.
“Imagine taking a 1995 Cadillac and trying to make it a Ferrari,” says Sgt. Argentry Uebelhoer. “You’re trying to make it faster and more efficient but it’s still an old airframe,” he says.
Production on F18 jets halted in 2001 and delays in the state- of- the- art joint strike fighter, slated to replace the F18, has been “plagued by cost overruns.”
Lt Col Harry Thomas says, “We’re an operational squadron… we’re supposed to be flying jets, not building them.” Thomas says the most frustrating thing for him is that his pilots are not getting the flying hours they need.
He blames funding. US military spending has declined dramatically since 2010. Many highly trained mechanics have left for the private sector and everything ends up falling on the backs of young Marines. Commanders worry this is creating safety risks, as they see an “unprecedented level of stress on the force.”
Lt. Gen Jon Davis, who oversees Marine Corps aviation, also has two sons who are Marine pilots. He says after 15 years of hard service, “We don’t have enough airplanes in the fly line to make sure Marines are ready to go out the door.”
According to Fox News, the Chief of Navy Operations is working on this and “increasing the budget on maintenance.”
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