For over 200 years, the United States Marine Corps has been use to making things happen with leftovers and hand-me-downs from the Army and the Navy. But now in the eighth and final year of Barack Obama sitting in the Oval Office, the Leathernecks only wish they could get their hands on the cast offs from their Sister Services. With the budget for the armed forces slashed under Obama, the Marine Corps has resorted to cannibalizing museum piece aircraft to get even a small slice of their aircraft airworthy.
As reported by Lucas Tomlinson and Jennifer Griffin of Fox News on Apr. 15, 2016, young Marine aircraft mechanics have resorted to stripping equipment off a long since retired military airplane in order to keep one of their multi-million dollar F/A-18 Hornet’s capable of flight. This is the latest episode of what many in the military believe is the purposeful gutting of the armed forces by the Obama Administration.
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While Tomlinson and Griffin compiled their report at the Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) in Beaufort, SC and the MCAS (Helicopter) New River, NC, they interviewed a number of Marines, both officer and enlisted. Some gave their names, some spoke only on grounds of strict anonymity. Interestingly enough, those who spoke anonymously, and those who spoke officially under the watchful eye of the normally hyper-politically correct DivPA (Division of Public Affairs) Officers, sometimes derisively referred to as “Political Commissars” reminiscent of the old Soviet Army, all the Marines interviewed did little to hold back their disgust and frustration of the current situation.
In a case of it may be more important what they didn’t say, the journalists didn’t state in their report that the Marines’ aircraft weren’t ready for combat or even capable of training flights. As the reporters flatly stated, “Today, the vast majority of Marine Corps aircraft can’t fly.” And they have the numbers to prove it.
As cited by a report provided to Fox News by the Marine Corps:
- Out of 276 F/A-18 Hornet strike fighters in the Marine Corps inventory, only about 30 percent are ready to fly.
- Similarly, only 42 of 147 heavy-lift CH-53E Super Stallion helicopters are airworthy.
A particularly troubling case from MCAS Beaufort was of Marine mechanics having to strip the landing gear door off of a mothballed museum jet that was found on the flight deck of the World War II-era USS Yorktown at nearby Patriots Point Naval & Maritime Museum in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, just outside of Charleston. As Sgt. Argentry Uebelhoer lamented, “Imagine taking a 1995 Cadillac and trying to make it a Ferrari. You’re trying to make it faster, more efficient, but it’s still an old airframe … [and] the aircraft is constantly breaking.”
Cannibalization, or taking parts from banged-up multi-million dollar aircraft to repair a lesser banged-up multi-million dollar aircraft and make it at least somewhat airworthy, has become the norm. “We are an operational squadron. We are supposed to be flying jets, not building them,” said Lt. Col. Harry “Crash” Thomas, Commanding Officer of VMFA-312, a Marine Corps F/A-18 squadron stationed at Beaufort.
It was also noted that 10 years ago, Marine aviators were getting between 25-30 hours of stick time per month to keep their combat efficiency razor sharp, one anonymous fighter jock stated. However, Thomas did verify that his winged warriors are, in fact, getting in their flight time. “This last 30 days our average flight time per pilot was just over 4 hours,” the Squadron CO flatly stated.
Lt. Col. Thomas deployed last year to the Pacific with 10 jets last year. Unfortunately, only seven actually deployed. With a fuel leak causing his Hornet to catch fire in a training exercise over Guam, he could have legitimately ejected. Instead, the Teufelhunden chose to gamble on landing his stricken aircraft. Which he did, and also saved the American taxpayers $29 million worth of jet.
As reported, “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.”
All this comes in the wake of the CNN Wire Service (via Fox News 6 of Milwaukee, Wisc.) and the British Ministry of Defence’s Forces.tv, both on Mar. 11, 2016, reporting that in yet another Obama cost cutting move, the Pentagon is calling back to service the antiquated OV-10 Bronco turbo-prop for service against the ISIS Islamic Jihadists in Syria and Iraq. The 50-year-old OV-10 was completely retired from US military service during the early years of the Clinton Administration. Interestingly enough, if the Bronco were an automobile, it would rate “Antique Car” license plates.
Not so much a case of standard military griping, there is validation to the complaint that the current resident of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has taken a meat cleaver to the military budget. Announced in late 2012, the newly unveiled Obama budget ensured the U.S. military, once considered the greatest on the planet, will face $1.2 trillion in budget cuts over the next decade.