Murtha Gets It

Rep. John Murtha (D-Pa.) has promised to add F-22s, C-17s, and C-130s to the Pentagon’s Fiscal 2009 budget request, Air Force officials said yesterday. Murtha said as much to reporters after a briefing with USAF Chief of Staff Gen. Michael Moseley on Feb. 6, in which Moseley spelled out the stark realities of the continued grounding of 161 F-15s due to stress cracks and structural fatigue. (USAF expect to clear one of the 162 aircraft identified as having serious structural issues.) In remarks at a Center for Strategic and International Studies seminar Thursday, Murtha said he had learned that, since 1996, “F-15 maintenance hours have increased 236 percent, flying hour costs have increased 87 percent, and depot maintenance has increased 800 man hours on every F-15.” That, he noted, is because the aircraft are older and “their extended use is having a greater toll on operational capability.” Murtha also had the benefit of a briefing delivered by Lt. Gen. David Deptula, deputy chief of staff for ISR, to Capitol Hill staffers last week, in which Deptula explained that USAF aircraft overall have been flying an average of just over two million hours a year for 17 years, but with a third fewer aircraft than it had in 1991. The fleet is now 42 percent older than it was then, on average, as well. Murtha said he would endeavor to help USAF retire old iron and buy new aircraft to restore its slipping credibility in air combat.