A majority of Marine Corps aircraft can’t fly, prompting Marine officials to warn that the aviation corps is reaching a “breaking point,” Fox News reported.
Years of airstrikes in Afghanistan, Iraq and battling the Islamic State have taken its toll on the aircraft.
“Quite honestly, it is coming on the backs of our young Marines,” Lt. Col. Matthew “Pablo” Brown, commanding officer of VMFA (AW)-533, a Hornet squadron based at Marine Corps Air Station Beaufort in South Carolina. “They can do it, and they are doing it, but it is certainly not easy.”
Fewer than one-third of the 276 F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters are ready to fly, Fox reported. Meanwhile, just 42 of 147 heavy-lift CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters are ready to fly.
Defense spending in 2010 was $691 billion, but in 2015, that dropped to $560 billion.
White House press secretary Josh Earnest blamed much of this on Republicans in Congress.
“I can’t provide an update for you in terms of the current condition of the air wing of the Marine corps, what I will say generally is we’ve been quite concerned about the approach that Congress has taken to funding our defense priorities,” Earnest told TheBlaze. “There has been a willingness on the part of Republicans to champion the sequester that has had a negative impact on the ability to fund our core defense programs.”
Still, Earnest added there are “legitimate places where defense spending can be cut” for the sake of “smart budgeting.”
“Those are the types of decision middle class families make around the kitchen table every day, or at least every month,” Earnest said.
Further, it sometimes takes Marines 18 months to get parts for the early F-18 jets. Production of these jets was stopped in 2001.
From Fox News:
The cuts include those made by the Obama administration as well as the sequestration cutbacks agreed to by Congress.
Lt. Col Thomas, call sign “Crash,” deployed to the Pacific with 10 jets last year. Only seven made it. A fuel leak caused his F/A-18 to catch fire in Guam. Instead of ejecting, he landed safely, saving taxpayers $29 million.
Thomas has deployed eight times in all, including six to Iraq and Afghanistan. Right now only two of his 14 Hornets can fly. His Marines deploy in three months.
“We are supposed to be doing the type of maintenance like you would take your car to Jiffy Lube for replacing fluids, doing minor inspections, changing tires, things of that nature, not building airplanes from the ground up,” he added.
This story was updated to include a comment from White House press secretary Josh Earnest.