Budget cuts grounds most Marine Corps aircraft

More than a decade of war and massive cuts to the defense budget has left most Marine Corps aircraft grounded.

The Corps simply doesn't have the money to purchase spare parts to keep their planes in the air.

Fox News:

Today, the vast majority of Marine Corps aircraft can’t fly. The reasons behind the grounding of these aircraft include the toll of long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the fight against ISIS and budget cuts precluding the purchase of the parts needed to fix an aging fleet, according to dozens of Marines interviewed by Fox News at two air stations in the Carolinas this week.

Out of 276 F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters in the Marine Corps inventory, only about 30% are ready to fly, according to statistics provided by the Corps. Similarly, only 42 of 147 heavy-lift CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters are airworthy.

U.S. military spending has dropped from $691 billion in 2010 to $560 billion in 2015. The cuts came just as the planes were returning from 15 years of war, suffering from overuse and extreme wear and tear. Many highly trained mechanics in the aviation depots left for jobs in the private sector.

“Quite honestly, it is coming on the backs of our young Marines,” Lt. Col. Matthew “Pablo” Brown, commanding officer of VMFA(AW)-533, a Hornet squadron based at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina. “They can do it, and they are doing it but it is certainly not easy.”

Brown's squadron is due to deploy to the Middle East in the coming days.

Lack of funds has forced the Marines to go outside the normal supply chain to procure desperately needed parts. Cannibalization, or taking parts from one multi-million dollar aircraft to get other multi-million dollar aicraft airborne, has become the norm.

To get one Hornet flying again, Marines at Beaufort stripped a landing gear door off a mothballed museum jet. The door, found on the flight deck of the World War II-era USS Yorktown, was last manufactured over a decade ago.

“Imagine taking a 1995 Cadillac and trying to make it a Ferrari,” Sgt. Argentry Uebelhoer said days before embarking on his third deployment. “You're trying to make it faster, more efficient, but it's still an old airframe … [and] the aircraft is constantly breaking.”

The budget cuts are largely the result of a draw down of forces in Afghanistan and when President Obama suddenly quit Iraq. But sequestration can also be blamed for about $80 billion of those cuts.

Sequestration decimated the military's readiness. Many may not realize but about 60% of defense spending is for pay, pensions, and healthcare for our military and their families. These line items are nearly untouchable when it comes to budget cuts. Defense planners can extend the time period it takes to bring new weapons and platforms on line, but realistically, readiness funds are the best option to achieve the kind of cuts needed under sequestration. Readiness funds are always the first to be cut and the last to be funded.

We found this same situation in the late 1970s after years of cuts following the end of the Vietnam War. The debacle in the Iranian desert where several aircraft were grounded as a result of poor maintenance eventually cost the US 8 lives in a futile attempt to rescue our embassy hostages:

The operation encountered many obstacles and was eventually aborted. Eight helicopters were sent to the first staging area, Desert One, but only five arrived in operational condition.  One encountered hydraulic problems, another got caught in a cloud of very fine sand, and the last one showed signs of a cracked rotor blade. During planning it was decided that the mission would be aborted if fewer than six helicopters remained, despite only four being absolutely necessary.[3] In a move that is still discussed in military circles, the field commanders advised mission abort, which President Carter accepted and confirmed.[4]

As the U.S. force prepared to leave, one of the helicopters crashed into a transport aircraft which contained both servicemen and jet fuel. The resulting fire destroyed both aircraft and killed eight servicemen.

This is the price we pay for our shortsightedness. But there is little appetite on either side of the aisle to spend the kind of money necessary to rebuild our military. 

We live in perilous times and the near future does not appear good for our military.

More than a decade of war and massive cuts to the defense budget has left most Marine Corps aircraft grounded.

The Corps simply doesn't have the money to purchase spare parts to keep their planes in the air.

Fox News:

Today, the vast majority of Marine Corps aircraft can’t fly. The reasons behind the grounding of these aircraft include the toll of long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the fight against ISIS and budget cuts precluding the purchase of the parts needed to fix an aging fleet, according to dozens of Marines interviewed by Fox News at two air stations in the Carolinas this week.

Out of 276 F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters in the Marine Corps inventory, only about 30% are ready to fly, according to statistics provided by the Corps. Similarly, only 42 of 147 heavy-lift CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters are airworthy.

U.S. military spending has dropped from $691 billion in 2010 to $560 billion in 2015. The cuts came just as the planes were returning from 15 years of war, suffering from overuse and extreme wear and tear. Many highly trained mechanics in the aviation depots left for jobs in the private sector.

“Quite honestly, it is coming on the backs of our young Marines,” Lt. Col. Matthew “Pablo” Brown, commanding officer of VMFA(AW)-533, a Hornet squadron based at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina. “They can do it, and they are doing it but it is certainly not easy.”

Brown's squadron is due to deploy to the Middle East in the coming days.

Lack of funds has forced the Marines to go outside the normal supply chain to procure desperately needed parts. Cannibalization, or taking parts from one multi-million dollar aircraft to get other multi-million dollar aicraft airborne, has become the norm.

To get one Hornet flying again, Marines at Beaufort stripped a landing gear door off a mothballed museum jet. The door, found on the flight deck of the World War II-era USS Yorktown, was last manufactured over a decade ago.

“Imagine taking a 1995 Cadillac and trying to make it a Ferrari,” Sgt. Argentry Uebelhoer said days before embarking on his third deployment. “You're trying to make it faster, more efficient, but it's still an old airframe … [and] the aircraft is constantly breaking.”

The budget cuts are largely the result of a draw down of forces in Afghanistan and when President Obama suddenly quit Iraq. But sequestration can also be blamed for about $80 billion of those cuts.

Sequestration decimated the military's readiness. Many may not realize but about 60% of defense spending is for pay, pensions, and healthcare for our military and their families. These line items are nearly untouchable when it comes to budget cuts. Defense planners can extend the time period it takes to bring new weapons and platforms on line, but realistically, readiness funds are the best option to achieve the kind of cuts needed under sequestration. Readiness funds are always the first to be cut and the last to be funded.

We found this same situation in the late 1970s after years of cuts following the end of the Vietnam War. The debacle in the Iranian desert where several aircraft were grounded as a result of poor maintenance eventually cost the US 8 lives in a futile attempt to rescue our embassy hostages:

The operation encountered many obstacles and was eventually aborted. Eight helicopters were sent to the first staging area, Desert One, but only five arrived in operational condition.  One encountered hydraulic problems, another got caught in a cloud of very fine sand, and the last one showed signs of a cracked rotor blade. During planning it was decided that the mission would be aborted if fewer than six helicopters remained, despite only four being absolutely necessary.[3] In a move that is still discussed in military circles, the field commanders advised mission abort, which President Carter accepted and confirmed.[4]

As the U.S. force prepared to leave, one of the helicopters crashed into a transport aircraft which contained both servicemen and jet fuel. The resulting fire destroyed both aircraft and killed eight servicemen.

This is the price we pay for our shortsightedness. But there is little appetite on either side of the aisle to spend the kind of money necessary to rebuild our military. 

We live in perilous times and the near future does not appear good for our military.