The U.S. Air Force is going to war
with its reservists. Not on purpose, not exactly. It's all about money. The air
force is retiring 324 older fighters in order to save $3.4 billion in
maintenance and operating costs. With age , comes higher costs to keep elderly
aircraft flying. Over the last decade, as the average age of air force fighters
went from 12.2 years to nearly 20 years, availability of these aircraft went
from 68 percent to 58 percent. Maintenance and repair costs went up as well.
Older aircraft are more expensive to keep going, and the additional time needed
for maintenance means they are available for operations less.
Most of the
older aircraft are in the reserves. So many reservists will no longer have an
aircraft to fly. Well, not exactly. The air force is offering reservists the
opportunity to operate UAVs (Predator and Reaper). That's a mixed blessing,
because, while the pilots no longer fly, they operate the UAVs flying over Iraq
or Afghanistan, from bases in the United States. This is done using a satellite
communications link. The maintenance crews do go overseas. The reservists are
not happy with this trend, but the air force is basically giving them a choice
of either going along or getting out.