The mission capable (MC) rate of the US Air Force (USAF) fighter fleet was far better in 2020, even with limitations imposed by the pandemic, than in 2019, Air Force Magazine reports. The F-35A’s MC rates soared, and rates even improved for the F-15C, which the service is anxious to divest because of its age. The F-15E’s MC rate declined, however.
“Mission capable” rates describe the percentage of jets in the inventory that are ready and available to do at least one of their assigned missions over a period of time. “Full mission capable” is a measure of how many aircraft in a fleet are ready to do their full complement of missions over that period.
According to USAF figures, the F-35A’s mission capable rate leaped from 61.6 percent in fiscal ’19 to 76.07 percent in FY ’20. Joint Program Office director Lt. Gen. Eric Fick told the House Armed Services Committee in April that the program was helped largely by additional funding toward spare parts, a greater percentage of the fleet being of a more recent and less problem-prone vintage, and a greater number of depots being opened.
“Many of our earlier-lot aircraft require modifications, and we are working through retrofits with fleet customers to optimize the timing of these modifications to minimize operational impacts,” Fick said. “Government and industry teams are working to accelerate an affordable long-term solution” to F-35 readiness “while maximizing near-term F-35 availability for training and operations. These changes are driving a steady increase in aircraft full-mission capable rates, and we anticipate fleet availability will continue to climb as F-35 maintenance systems and best practices mature,” he said in testimony.
As Fick said at the McAleese and Associates defense conference in mid-May the sustainment cost of the F-35 is an “existential threat” to the program and that the effort to reduce it is his highest priority.
As already reported the USAF abandoned 80% mission capable rate goals in May 2020, after its F-22, F-35 and F-16 fleets failed to meet the readiness goal ordered in September 2018 by then US secretary of defense James Mattis.
Mattis directed the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps to reach an 80 percent mission capable rate across their fighter and strike fighter aircraft squadrons by the end of September 2019.
General Charles Brown, USAF chief of staff nominee, said in written testimony sent to the US Armed Services Committee and released on May 7, 2020 that the service has dropped that readiness goal.
Brown said in his testimony that the F-16’s mission capable reached a high of 75% in June 2019, F-22s reached a high of 68% in April 2019 and F-35s hit a high of 74% in September 2019.
The US Navy announced on Sep. 24, 2019 that Naval Aviation has achieved its Secretary of Defense-mandated readiness target of an 80 percent mission-capable rate for both its operational F/A-18 E/F “Super Hornet” and EA-18G “Growler” fleets.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force
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