Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan told lawmakers May 1 that most of the Pentagon’s fighter aircraft fleet has made progress toward meeting an 80 percent mission capable rate goal by Oct. 1, but the Air Force fighters continue to struggle.
The Navy has made “significant progress” with its F/A-18 Super Hornets and should be on track to meet the readiness capable rate by the end of fiscal year 2019, he said during a hearing before the House Appropriations Defense Subcommittee (HAC-D) on Capitol Hill.
However, the Air Force’s F-22 Raptors and F-16 Fighting Falcons have struggled, as has the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, he noted. The Lockheed Martin [LMT]-built F-16 in particular “is a bit of a high bar” to pass, he added.
Former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis set the goal to have the Pentagon’s fighter aircraft reach an 80 percent mission capable rate by the end of FY ’19 last fall.
HAC-D Member Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) noted that the mission capable rate is “a very high priority” for the committee, noting “we have a lot of money invested in these platforms and we have a lot of flyers that aren’t getting the airtime they need in terms of readiness.”
Shanahan said that the emphasis for the 80 percent mission capable rate was primarily for the Lockheed Martin-built F-35 and the Boeing [BA]-developed F/A-18, and that “tremendous” progress has been made.
Since the F-35 is “a brand-new aircraft,” the 80 percent goal “should be the baseline where we start,” he said. However, he did not state whether he believed the Joint Strike Fighter would meet the readiness goal by Oct. 1.
He maintained that the Pentagon is going to “drive home” the push to reach 80 percent mission capable rates for its fighters.
“It’s a lot of iron to keep on the ground, and given all the training missions and the productivity we can generate, I think holding that standard is smart for now,” he said.