Aviation Admirals: Spare Parts Shortage Primary Cause of F/A-18 Readiness Slump; Situation Improving
BY RICHARD R. BURGESS, Managing Editor
WASHINGTON — Underfunding of spare parts over the last few years is the primary cause for reduced readiness of the Navy’s F/A-18 strike fighter fleet, a senior naval aviation admiral told Congress.
“Not-mission-capable-for-supply [category] is our No. 1 driver for readiness on the F/A-18, particularly the E and F [versions],” Vice Adm. Paul A. Grosklags, commander of Naval Air Systems Command, testified April 12 before the House Armed Services Tactical Air and Ground Forces subcommittee. “You are well aware that we’ve underfunded those accounts for the last seven or eight years.
“The average [for spare parts] over the last eight years was funded to about 72 percent of the requirement,” Grosklags said. “You can see how over time that would build up to a significant deficit in our spares support for that platform.
“Starting with the RAA [Request for Additional Appropriations in [fiscal] ’17 and continuing in fiscal year ’18 and now into the PB [President’s Budget] ’19 budget request, funding for all of our aircraft, not just E and F spares, has increased dramatically, to the 90, 95, almost 100 percent range, across each of those fiscal years. That will take a little bit of time to have some effect as we have to go to industry and put those on contract and get them delivered. That is our prime effort at going after the spares shortage,” he said.
“The only thing I would add is that it’s not just about the APN-6 [new spare parts budget line], it’s making sure we can repair the parts we already buy,” said Rear Adm. Scott D. Conn, the Navy’s director of Air Warfare, also testifying before the subcommittee. “With the investments we have in our APN 7 [repair] accounts to make sure our [Fleet Readiness Centers] have the right tools, the right benches to be able to turn around those parts [we already buy] is just as critical. Quite frankly, those parts are cheaper than new ones.
“The cannibalization rate is a bad way to do business, it takes twice the time,” Conn said. “Sailors are doing twice the work for one job. There is a risk that when you cannibalize you break the part.
“This is an all-in strategy,” Conn said. “The investments we made in [spare] parts in ’17 will reach in full in ’19. [For] the investments we made in ’18, we will realize that full effect in ’20; in ’19, full effect in ’21. There are other things we have to do before those parts show up. Supply chain management is one of those, making sure we get the right parts to the right aircraft to get then in the air.”