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Navy Working Through Plan to Hit 80 Percent Hornet Mission Capable Target

A U.S. Navy F/A-18E Super Hornet, with Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 151, is parked on the flight deck aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) US Navy Photo

ANNAPOLIS, Md. — The Navy is working through how it will try and hit the ambitious readiness target set by Secretary of Defense James Mattis for Hornet and Super Hornet fighters, Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Research, Development, and Acquisition James “Hondo” Geurts said on Tuesday.

In a September memo, Mattis told the Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force those services needed to have their fleet of fighters to meet an 80 percent mission capable rate by the end of Fiscal Year 2019. The Navy’s current rate is 53 percent for the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet fleet and 44 percent for the service’s reserve fleet of F-18C Hornets.

Leading the effort for the Navy will be commander of Naval Air Forces, Vice Adm. DeWolfe Miller III, Geurts said.

“The first major effort is to get everybody on the same sheet of the music and put somebody in charge and we put the Air Boss in charge,” he said speaking at the NDIA Expeditionary Warfare Conference.
“Air Boss, you’re in charge of delivering the 80 percent mission capable rate and let’s all fall in behind the Air Boss and figure out what are we doing to contribute to that.”

To that end, Miller is looking to commercial aviation for tools and techniques, Naval Air Forces spokesman Cmdr. Ron Flanders told USNI News last week.

“One of the main efforts involves adopting commercial best practices to modernize maintenance depots and streamline supply chain management,” Flanders said. “By adopting these proven practices, we will rapidly attain the ability to sustain increased numbers of full mission capable aircraft and achieve SECDEF’s readiness vision.”

Both Secretary of the Navy Richard V. Spencer and Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan have promoted commercial aviation maintenance practices as a model to improve how quickly the services can repair their aircraft.

In a roundtable with reporters in August, Spencer sent the Navy and Marines to Delta airlines to see how the company had reduced its maintenance backlog.

Shanahan, formerly an executive at Boeing, told reporters last week said the Pentagon was looking to commercial aviation for best maintenance practices.

“When you look at the F-18s, this is the same size of fleet as Southwest has. It’s not a super-large fleet, they’re all basically the same,” Shanahan said last week, reported Defense News. “So how do we put in place, you know, the support practices and the parts so that people aren’t working as hard?”

Inside the Department of the Navy, Geurts said the Marines and the Navy are looking more holistically on how future acquisition would pay more attention to maintenance and sustaining platforms throughout the life of programs.

“On the acquisition side quite frankly we got out of the business of having the acquisition program office involved in the logistics support. So the acquisition guys that are buying all the production equipment why don’t we buy all the spares when we’re buying the production equipment. That’s probably better for both sides and so we’re really looking at the way we’re contracting for that,” he said.
“Where we have also failed is that we haven’t shown [industry] the composite demand signal. We have one set of contracts to buy some new stuff, another to repair some of that stuff and third set of contracts to buy some spares. If we put that accumulated demand signal together and say ‘look I need 100 boxes from you’ and ‘I’m going to need a hundred boxes from you for the next five years,’ you would probably act differently.”

In the shorter term, the Navy and Marines are also considering shedding older aircraft to focus repair efforts on newer aircraft that don’t require as much maintenance.

“We’ve got to get rid of airplanes,” Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told reporters last week, reported Task and Purpose. “At some point, when you get new, you’ve got to get rid of the old ones. You can’t just keep them.”

  • Ser Arthur Dayne

    I have to admit… I did not know “DeWolfe” is a real name. When I hear “De Wolfe” , I think of either Ned Stark or Robb Stark.

  • RunningBear

    After 8 years of proudly cutting the money from the DOD; did have an impact on their military readiness, “no money, no parts”! Transitioning the last USN 3 F/A-18C Hornet squadrons to the 30+ F/A-18 Super Hornet squadrons, will reduce the need for those few “C” spare parts. Also, the USMC will have more available spare parts for their Hornet C/D squadrons.
    Fly Navy

    • Bubblehead

      I guess the Marines ran out of museums to rob spare parts from?

      • RunningBear

        F/A-18C VFA-34/37/106/204 to SBug

        Fly Navy

    • Masau80

      The Marines put all their eggs into the F-35 basket on the promise that they would have had the new jets 10 years ago. Couple that with the long OEF/OIF commitment, they ended up flying the wings literally off their legacy hornets. The influx of the remaining Navy legacy hornets will allow the Corps to limp along until the F-35 shows up in numbers. Fewer expeditionary deployments, and no more VMFA squadrons in CVWs will help as well.

      • RunningBear

        F-35B VMFA-121/211/122
        F-35C VMFA-314

        Fly Navy

      • E1 Kabong

        “…on the promise that they would have had the new jets 10 years ago. “?

        Says who?

        Nothing to do with the oh, OVER TWENTY YEARS of war-fighting the US military has been dealing with, right?

        Show me where the planners in the 1990’s foresaw THAT.

        • Masau80

          That is why I said this: “Couple that with the long OEF/OIF commitment, they ended up flying the wings literally off their legacy hornets.” Had the JSF program been on track as planned, we wouldn’t be having this discussion about the Marines at all.

          • E1 Kabong


            Had the US not been AT WAR for decades, things wouldn’t be in such sad shape.

            Add a two term president who’s only accomplishment was to make Jimmy Carter look good, and here we are….

          • Masau80

            The legacy hornets would still be beyond their projected lifespans irregardless of OEF/OIF. They had a planned replacement window a decade ago by the F-35. The extended combat tours only acerbated the wear and tear – but even without the OEF/OIF requirements, they still would have been flow in normal operational cycles beyond that lifespan milestone. Jimmy Carter’s mirror just made things worse as the $$ to sustain them could never reach the fleet.

          • E1 Kabong


            It’s the cat/trap cycles that wore them out.

  • airider

    Oh for crying out loud, don’t shoot for an arbitrary number, shoot for what the operational commanders need.

    • Matthew Schilling

      Can’t we assume the 80% goal emerged from some thinking on the topic?

  • eddie046

    I’d like to try to get them to shoot for 5 9’s. 99.999%