Consistent with Washington’s increasingly saber-rattling rhetoric, the world’s largest military is putting its money where its mouth is. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis has ordered the Air Force and Navy to increase their mission-capable rates for four major aircraft to 80 percent over the next twelve months, throwing the spotlight on the lamentable state of the nation’s airborne fleet. The mid-September memo was seen exclusively by Defense News.
The planes in question – the F-35, F-22, F-16 and F-18 – are currently in a dismal state of air-readiness. Last year, fewer than half the Air Force’s F-22s were mission-capable, and the notoriously expensive F-35 saw its first crash last month, just days after the fleet took to the air for the first time.