This article first appeared in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report.
Due to the strains of simultaneously fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan while running other missions around the world, the U.S. Marine Corps is nearly tripling the planned utilization rates of many of its aircraft platforms, Gen. James Amos, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, told the Senate Armed Services Committee April 22.
The F/A-18C and D; the KC-130; the EA-6B; and the MV-22 Osprey are all "flying at utilization rates far beyond those for which they were designed," the general warned, adding that as the platforms begin to wear out from overuse, the Corps is looking at an increasing deficit of available aircraft for training and future employment.
"These shortfalls include all modifications, intermediate maintenance events, depot maintenance, transition/procurement aircraft, and aircraft damaged beyond repair," Amos said.
As far as all of the Corps' ground, sea and air gear goes, the general pointed to the recent experience of the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade's deployment to Afghanistan as an example of how the Corps is currently sending units to fight.
Equipment assets were pulled from a variety of sources, including more than 55 percent coming via new procurement provided by Marine Corps Systems Command, 27 percent from within the Central Command area of operations, "including items made available from units retrograding from Iraq," and about 4 percent from the Logistics Command and the USMC's Prepositioned Program in Norway. Even with all that, "14 percent of 2nd MEB's equipment needed to be drawn from our nondeployed operating forces."
With the tempo of deployments likely to remain largely unchanged in the near-term, Amos warned that this mix-and-match approach isn't sustainable if the Corps is to maintain its readiness between deployments.