Attrition: Old Aircraft Get Worked To Death


July 6, 2007: The U.S. Air Force is suffering lowered readiness (percent of aircraft able to fly) because of the large number of older aircraft that are being flown a lot to support operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2001, 73 percent of air force units were fully mission capable (FMC, an imprecise term for how many of yourauthorized number of aircraft are available for use). By 2004, the FMC rate was 68 percent, and today it is 56 percent. Almost all of this decline is due to heavy use of older aircraft (like the KC-135 tanker and older versions of the C-130 transport). These older aircraft break down more frequently, and require more maintenance under the best of conditions. In peacetime, the FMC rates for these older birds would be much better. But tankers and transports are the hardest working air force aircraft in the current war. The air force has not been able to get a new tanker because of corruption allegations, and the usual Congressional budget politics. The older C-130s are being replaced, but it takes time, and the air force transports are being worked very hard.


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