Sequestration will slow the ability of the Marine Corps to put its legacy F/A-18 fighter jets through depot and maintenance, a dilemma that would leave fewer aircraft available for training or force the service to place greater flight hours on available airframes, the Marine’s top office for aviation said Wednesday.
Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle told the House Armed Services Committee’s aviation panel the Marine Corps would focus on ensuring forward deployed fighter squadrons would have a “full complement“ of the aircraft, producing a shortage on the home front for training.
Schmidle said that 102 of 257 F/A-18s in the Marine Corps fleet are typically in depot and considered out of service. He said the number of unavailable aircraft will rise by January if the service remains under sequestration, which introduced across the board budget cuts March 1.
That will leave non-deployed units left to train with only six aircraft, he said.
“You’re either going to train plots to a lower standard or you’re going to overfly those airframes, put more hours on them to train people,” he said, adding increased flight hours could negatively impact the expected lifetime of the aircraft.
Schmidle said that scenario was his biggest near-term concern when asked by the panel to discuss a projected shortfall of tactical fighter aircraft for the Marines in the 2020s, in part due to the delays in the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter program. The Marine Corps is buying the F-35B short take-off and vertical landing variant of the JSF, which is made by Lockheed Martin [LMT].