Echoing the Marine Corps aviation leader’s concerns about his service’s readiness crisis, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. David Deptula reported Friday that “over 50 percent of our Air Force can’t fly because of lack of maintenance.” Joining Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the deputy commandant for aviation, at a forum hosted by the American Enterprise Institute and AFA’s Mitchell Institute, Deptula, who is dean of AFA’s Mitchell Institute, said “25 years of continuous combat, coupled with budget instability, lower than needed top lines, has made the Air Force the smallest, oldest and the least ready in its history.” That punishing combination of factors has hurt not just readiness, but also force structure, he said, noting there is “34 percent fewer people, 40 percent fewer aircraft, 60 percent fewer combat-coded fighter squadrons, and 25 percent fewer aircraft per squadron.” And the average of the service’s aircraft has increased from 12 years to 27 years, he said. Deptula equated using the 50-year-old B-52s to employing World War II B-17s over Baghdad. “We’re operating a geriatric Air Force,” Deptula said, because, the “national security leadership, over the last 25 years,” has neglected to modernize the force. (See also: Readiness Shortfalls.)
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.