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Air Force says only 7 of every 10 planes combat-ready

If the balloon goes up, many U.S. combat aircraft won’t be able to respond

(NationalSentinel) Military Readiness: President Donald J. Trump campaigned on a platform of dramatically improving and expanding the U.S. military after years of overuse followed by major cuts in personnel and funding.

The Air Force is certainly hoping he can convince Congress to help him keep that pledge.

As reported by the Air Force Times, the nation’s air service says only seven of every 10 combat aircraft in its inventory are mission-capable at any given time – and that ratio is falling, thanks to a lack of funding and an aging fleet:

In fiscal 2014, mission-capable rates for all of the Air Force’s airplanes and helicopters were just shy of 74 percent. 

One year later, that rate had dropped to 73 percent. It fell even further in 2016, to about 72 percent. 

The decline in readiness is accompanied — and partly caused — by the increasing age of the Air Force’s fleet. The average aircraft age has spiked in recent years, from roughly 24 years in fiscal 2010 to 27 years in 2016. 

Air Force leaders have expressed concern about aircraft readiness rates and aging airframes for the last several years. 

“Our highest investment priority is in improving readiness,” acting Air Force Secretary Lisa Disbrow said March 3 at the Air Force Association’s Air Warfare Symposium in Orlando, Florida. “The aircraft we have on the ramp are too old. We need to revitalize the fleet.” 

Worse, experienced pilots and aircraft maintenance personnel are leaving the service for the civilian sector because funding cuts are grounding flights and curbing maintenance.

“Pilots who don’t fly, maintainers who don’t maintain, controllers who don’t control … will not stay with the [Air Force],” said Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein.

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