USAF drops 80% mission capability rate goal after F-22, F-35 and F-16 fail to reach readiness goal

USAF drops 80% mission capability rate goal after F-22, F-35 and F-16 fail to reach readiness goal

By Dario Leone
May 13 2020
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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 Air Force (USAF) abandoned 80% mission capability rate goals, 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, FlightGlobal reported.

The mission capability rate is the percentage of aircraft that are able to perform at least one mission over a period of time.

Mattis directed the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps to reach an 80 percent mission capability 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.

“The Office of the Secretary of Defense determined the fiscal year 2019 80% mission capable rate initiative is not an FY2020 requirement. As a result, the air force returned to allowing lead commands to determine the required [mission capability] rates to meet readiness objectives.”

“From April 2018 to February 2020, overall readiness increased 16%, and pacing-unit readiness – those units required in the first 30 days of Combatant Command war plans – increased 35%,” he explained.

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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.

Despite improvements, the end goal was not reached for a variety of reasons, says Brown.

F-35s and F-22s are notoriously difficult to maintain because of complex designs and stealth body coatings, which must be periodically preserved by hand.

“Maintaining ageing aircraft is an extremely difficult and expensive task, while new, technologically advanced weapons systems present their own challenges,” he pointed out. “We developed and are now implementing a Strategic Sustainment Framework that will both improve materiel readiness and set the conditions for long-term cost reduction by developing multiple sources of supply, enhancing our repair network capabilities and capitalising on conditions-based maintenance, plus other commercial best practices.”

Details of the new Strategic Sustainment Framework were not disclosed.

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Photo credit: Staff Sgt. Jensen Stidham


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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