The Marine Corps’ aviators have increased their monthly flight hours per pilot, and are now flying substantially more than Air Force pilots, military officials said.
Both the Marine Corps and Air Force are facing pilot shortages and aircraft readiness problems that have left a large number of aircraft grounded.
But the Marine Corps says it has made strides over the past year increasing monthly flight hours.
The Marines are averaging between 14 to 16 hours a month per pilot, while the Air Force is averaging just a little above nine to 10 hours per pilot per month, according to testimony Wednesday from Gen. Glenn M. Walters, the Marine Corps assistant commandant, and Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Stephen W. Wilson at a Senate Armed Services hearing on military readiness.
Another article explains what that means:
When I started flying in the Marine Corps two decades ago, pilots assigned to line units regularly got about 30 hours per month. That gradually dropped to 20. With 30 hours, one steadily improves. With 20, one is at least confident in fundamental skills.
With 15 and below, one is just focusing on the bare essentials. Once a pilot goes below about 15 hours, his skills start to atrophy.
Pilot skill is the single most important factor determining effectiveness of aircraft in combat.
Yet the Pentagon prioritizes the procurement of new expensive hardware to such an extent that there isn’t enough money left over to properly develop the pilots.
It doesn’t help that many newer US planes are so over-engineered that keeping them flight worthy is a constant struggle and flight hours are in the tens of thousands of dollars. ($135,000 for the B-2 bomber, $70,000 for the F-22.)
Thus, not only is the brass set to replace a vast array of specialized aircraft with the complex, multi-role F-35, which is inferior to the planes it is replacing in their specialist roles. It is shoveling such a high portion of the Pentagon funds to the defense contractors, there aren’t enough resources left over to properly train their men on the equipment they buy.
I don’t know to what extent simulator hours can make up for low flight hours. I also don’t know what the situation is in other armed forces. In Russia for example, even though their planes are somewhat cheaper to fly, their financial constraints are that much greater.
However, one thing that is clear is that for all those incredible billions spent through its military budget over the last two or three decades US air power has not grown but has stood in place or has actually diminished. If it has not yet, it very likely will decrease when F-35s start replacing the superior and more reliable specialist aircraft en masse.
But don’t worry. Lockheed, Raytheon, Boeing and General Dynamics have made a killing along the way. That’s the important thing. At least it is to Congress and the generals.