Delays in the arrival of the much anticipated F-35 have forced the U.S. Marines to search through an Arizona “boneyard” for the remains of F/A Hornets that have been sitting in a state of disrepair for years. The jets are being reclaimed and refurbished by Boeing due to an aircraft shortage for the Marine Corps caused by constant delays of the F-35.
Boening has refurbished two out of a planned 30 F/A Hornets to join the Marine Corps fleet. The planes were refurbished to reach a “C+” standard under the current contract terms between Boeing and the Marines Corps. The Marines had the opportunity to adopt second generation F/A- 18E/F Super Hornets, much like the U.S. Navy did, but declined under the assumption the new F-35s would arrive on time. Omar Lamrani, senior military analyst for global intelligence firm Stratfor commented on the issue to FoxNews.com by stating:
“In hindsight, it was a misstep for the USMC to not have purchased the F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, but only because the F-35 has seen such extensive delays and complications in production, If the F-35 had entered production as originally scheduled and at the expected price, then the USMC would have been able to successfully transition straight from the F/A-18 Hornets to the F-35.”
The F-35 was supposed to be ready for the Marines as early as 2006. At the time the Marine corps decided that the Super Hornets were too expensive to bridge the gap between the F/A Hornets and the F-35 and decided to pass on the purchase. Over time the F/A Hornets grew increasingly decrepit and fell out of use. Constant quality-control issues delayed the F-35 leaving the Marine Corps without the necessary resources to complete their missions.
Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the USMC deputy commandant for aviation, explained to lawmakers that only 32% of the Marines’ Hornet fighters are operational. He went on to state that they need at least 58% of the F/A-18 to be flight ready so that they are prepared for combat, day-to-day training, and flight instruction for new pilots. Davis went on to bluntly lay the Marines cards on the table. He stated to the Senate:
“I am concerned with our current readiness rates, both in equipment and personnel.”
David Cenciotti, an influential blogger at The Aviationist, told FoxNews.com that he believes that refurbishing the 30 F/A Hornets is a “smart move” by the Marine Corps given their current situation. He claims that they are easy to maintain and operate once they reach the “C+” standard Boeing has been able to provide. He sees them planes as “gap fillers” that are able to conduct combat operations in low-lethality scenarios.