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Mattis memo ordering higher combat jet readiness sparks quiet freakout at the Pentagon

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Jamie McIntyre & Travis J. Tritten

 October 11, 2018

MISSION IMPROBABLE: They didn’t see this coming. Just as the services were breathing a little easier with fresh money from Congress for spare parts and maintenance operations to begin to restore the readiness of their crippled aviation squadrons, the big guy issued orders to march in double time. On Tuesday, news broke that Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a memo last month to the Air Force and Navy departments giving them just 12 months to get 80 percent of their fighter jets fit for combat.

While no one is complaining publicly, several of the players in the tactical aviation units I talked to yesterday indicated that Mattis’ tall order may be a tad unrealistic. “Up to now our talking point has been that it took us years to get into this problem, it’s going to take years to get out,” said one officer who asked not to be identified. “We’re in a big hole,” said another.


LEARN FROM THE PROS: The Mattis memo orders the services to bring mission-capable rates for their F-35, F-22, F-16 and F/A-18 fleet above 80 percent by Oct. 15 of next year. “I’m just not sure that’s possible,” lamented one aviation officer. Mattis directed the services to take a page out of the private-sector playbook, and use the best practices of commercial aviation companies to improve readiness quickly. “I am confident in our Department’s ability to generate additional capacity from our current aircraft inventory, alongside the commercial aviation industry's sustainment of high availability rates,” Mattis wrote in the Sept. 17 memo.

The Senate Armed Services Committee drilled down on the commercial industry’s example during testimony by Air Force leaders on Wednesday. “I did a little sniffing around, I think Delta Airlines, their aircraft readiness in their fleet is about 86 percent. I believe it’s somewhere along those lines. Yet for the [Air Force] F-35 that’s a new airplane, coming online, coming to the fleet, I think it’s in the … mid-60s,” Sen. Dan Sullivan, a subcommittee chairman, said while questioning Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Gen. David Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff.




Question: Why The Big Rush?

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