More than half of the U.S. Navy’s aircraft can’t fly because there isn’t enough money to fix them, Defense News reports. Aircraft maintenance might not sound as impressive as tons of pointless new ships, but, there it is.
The grounded aircraft situation is largely due to the fact that, for the entirety of the Obama administration, the Democrats in the executive branch and the Republicans in Congress couldn’t agree on a budget, though we’re sort of past the point of arguing about it now:
According to the Navy, 53 percent of all Navy aircraft can’t fly — about 1,700 combat aircraft, patrol, and transport planes and helicopters. Not all are due to budget problems — at any given time, about one-fourth to one-third of aircraft are out of service for regular maintenance. But the 53 percent figure represents about twice the historic norm.
The strike fighter situation is even more acute and more remarkable since the aircraft are vitally important to projecting the fleet’s combat power. Sixty-two percent of F/A-18s are out of service; 27 percent in major depot work; and 35 percent simply awaiting maintenance or parts, the Navy said.
But aircraft aren’t the only victims of budget issues.
The Navy’s fleet has a backlog of vessels needing repairs. Every carrier has run long for at least three years and some submarines have been out of service for four years or longer. The USS Boise, a Los Angeles-class attack sub, has lost its diving certification and cannot operate until it undergoes maintenance. Five more subs will face a similar fate by the end of the year, if more money is not available, Navy officials told Defense News.
The money shortage is not just impacting ships and aircraft. The Navy lacks funds to move service members and their family members around for assignment changes. The Navy also needs $440 million to pay sailors. Fifteen percent of its shore facilities are in need of repair, demolition or replacement, the report said.
None of this news is helpful to President Donald Trump, who wants the Navy’s fleet to grow from a goal of 308 ships to 350; there are 272 ships in the fleet so far. But all of this talk of added ships is really moot if huge swathes of planes can’t fly, and if the problem is only getting worse. A large part of U.S. Navy warfighting doctrine is built around the aircraft carrier and its associated battle group, but the key word in “aircraft carrier” is “aircraft.”
No aircraft, and a carrier just becomes another floating bathtub.