Aging Bombers Affect Fleet Readiness

The mission capable rate of the Air Force’s entire bomber fleet has been low because the service has such a small fleet, which is why the Long-Range Strike Bomber is so important to keep the service capable, Gen. Robin Rand, commander of Air Force Global Strike Command, told lawmakers on Tuesday. Rand, in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee, said the service has just 159 total bombers, with its newest aircraft a 25-year-old B-2, meaning large-scale maintenance is a constant need and one that negatively impacts the overall readiness of the fleet. “At any time there’s going to be a number of your aircraft in heavy maintenance depot status doing modernization,” Rand said. “The 50 percent available rate is a result of that small number.” For example, the Air Force at any time usually has just 11 B-2s available for operations. Of the aircraft that are on flightlines, the mission capable rate of the bomber fleet is comparable to other weapons systems in the Air Force, Rand said. “The long-range strike capability is something our nation has to have,” Rand said. “To do that we have to modernize our current fleet, we have to acquire a new LRS-B, and I think we are on the path to that.”