DOD Seeks To Boost F-35 Fighter Readiness In Coming Year

Only about half of the U.S. military’s fleet of F-35s are currently considered mission capable, according to defense officials.

The F-35 Lightning II is an agile, high-performance, multirole fighter that combines stealth, sensor fusion and situational awareness. [Courtesy: U.S. Air Force]

Defense officials have launched a "war on readiness," setting a goal of boosting the mission capable rate of the U.S. military's fleet of F-35 fighters to 64 percent within the next year, according to an F-35 Joint Program official.

The goal comes as little more than half of U.S. F-35 fighters are considered mission capable.

"The mission capable (MC) rate goal for the U.S. Service F-35 fleet (Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps) is 70 percent for the [USAF] F-35A, and 75 percent for the [U.S. Marine Corps] F-35B and [U.S. Navy] F-35C," Lt. Gen. Mike Schmidt, program executive officer for the F-35 Joint Program Office (JPO), said in a statement Wednesday. "The current average MC rate across the U.S. Services’ F-35 fleet is 56 percent."

Deployed or combat-coded aircraft "significantly exceeds this average," Schmidt added.

The JPO released the information following questions about goals and benchmarks for mission readiness that emerged during the Sea-Air-Space Symposium held earlier this month in National Harbor, Maryland.

Earlier this year, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released a report that indicated that the U.S. Air Force F-35A readiness dropped by 11 percent between 2021 and 2022, compared to the Marine Corps' fleet of F-35B availability, which slipped by 7 percent during that same period. The Navy's F-35C availability, by contrast, rose by 5 percent during that period, CBO found.

Defense officials want to see improvement in readiness rates across the board within the next year. 

"The War on Readiness is an effort to drive increased MC rates across the fleet with a goal of achieving a 64 percent MC rate by April 2024," Schmidt said. 

Program officials are focused on four key pillars, according to Schmidt: "resolving the top degraders, returning aircraft listed as long term down to MC status, optimizing unit level maintenance, and improving supply chain performance," he said.

"Continued investment in readiness will enable the F-35 JPO to return to green for critical degraders, return aircraft back to the fight, increase efficiency of our flight-line maintainers, accelerate reduction of the current repair work in progress (WIP) backlog and move us towards our MC rate goals," Schmidt said.

Kimberly is managing editor of FLYING Digital.

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get the latest FLYING stories delivered directly to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter