Navy chiefs see difficulties but improvement with aircraft readiness

By Stephen Carlson  |  Updated Sept. 12, 2017 at 3:45 PM
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Sept. 12 (UPI) -- Senior Navy leaders said naval aviation readiness is gradually improving, but acknowledged that the pace has been frustrating and slow.

During a panel discussion on Sep. 9 at the 61st Annual Tailhook Convention in Reno, Nev., commander of Naval Air Forces Vice Adm. Mike Schoemaker said that though "readiness was our No. 1 priority", overseas commitments and budget constraints make it difficult to intensify improvement.

"Meeting our commitments around the world are coming at the expense of our forces at home," Shoemaker said. He added that there is some cause for optimism with the forthcoming 2017 budget and $1 billion to be earmarked for naval aviation readiness.

"Readiness needles, they're moving slowly in the right direction," Shoemaker said. "Not as fast as I would like, but they are trending in the right direction."

Chief of Naval Air Systems Command Vice Adm. Paul Grosklags said the situation is still unacceptable, despite some improvement.

"If you look at ready basic aircraft that we've had on the flight line, despite the efforts of hundreds, if not thousands of people, we have approximately 30 more ready basic aircraft today than we had in September of 2015," he said

Grosklags said readiness is on the verge of improving at a much faster pace due to investments in personnel. The number of aircraft undergoing in-service repairs has dropped over the last year and that the Navy is close to reaching its 2017 goal of producing 500 ready aircraft.

"There are 81 fewer aircraft today that are in an ISR status than there were at the beginning of the calendar year," he said. "That's at the same time when the number of ISRs required-the amount of work required, has actually increased."

Grosklag said he expected additional funding in the future to allow for the hiring of more engineers, industry representatives and equipment to speed up long delayed maintenance backlogs and aircraft readiness requirements.

"That money will have real impact," Grosklag said. "You're not going to see it tomorrow, but you may see it next week."

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