Insufficient availability of backup aircraft is hindering Navy and Marine Corps readiness, according to the Defense Department Inspector General (IG). Specifically, the services do not have enough F/A-18 fighter and T-45 trainer aircraft to serve squadrons and training wings. As a result, pilots are “barely meeting” minimum pre-deployment training requirements, the IG stated. If the situation is not rectified, both services could “experience a shortfall of trained pilots,” further impacting readiness adversely.
The Navy also has more MH-60R and MH-60S helicopters than it needs to maintain readiness, largely because of problems associated with the new littoral combat ships upon which the aircraft would be deployed. The service already has had to store the helicopters, at a cost of $1.7 million, until the ships are ready for them. An additional $2 million will be needed to continue storing the aircraft until “at least 2020,” when the service takes delivery of the new ships.
The IG also reported that the Marine Corps does has have enough depot maintenance float vehicles to handle its amphibious assault, light armored, and mine resistant ambush protected vehicles. The Marines may have to pay to store unneeded depot maintenance float and other vehicles in order to maintain readiness.
The services need better coordination and communication efforts, which focus on fostering tighter and more effective plans to match assets with readiness needs.