Mission capable rates—the number of aircraft assigned for duty that are ready to fly—have declined over the past 10 years for Air Force fighters and bombers, according to service data we’ve seen that run through early Fiscal 2009. Fighter MC rates peaked in 2005, at 77.5 percent, but have been losing about a percentage point a year, and now stand at 72.1 percent. The MC rates for bombers peaked in 2004 at 70.3 percent, but have declined more steeply and now check in at just 58.2 percent. On an up note, airlift MC rates climbed to about 74 percent in Fiscal 2002 and have hovered between 73 and 75 percent since. And, the trend for intelligence-surveillance-reconnaissance platforms has risen steadily, from 70.8 percent in 2000 to 84.3 percent today. (Of note, those ISR rates include relatively uncomplicated unmanned aerial vehicles such as MQ-1 Predators and MQ-9 Reapers.) Surprisingly the MC rate for KC-135s, which are among the oldest aircraft in service, has improved since 2000 when it was 71.1 percent, and now stands at 79.7 percent; this is likely due to heavy investment in spare parts and the virtual rebuilding of these aircraft in depot, not to mention, the hard work of USAF maintainers.
Three B-1B Lancers from the 7th Bomb Wing flew over the Indo-Pacific alongside F-16s from the Japanese Air Self-Defense Force as part of a joint large force exercise. The mission began and ended in the continental U.S. The bombers flew 31 hours and landed Jan. 11.