Roughly 25 percent of the Marines’ 280 F/A-18 Hornet fighter jets could fly now if needed, the top aviation Marine said Wednesday.
Only 72 “could take off today, this morning, right now,” said Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, deputy commandant for Marine Corps aviation. Of the rest, 109 are in longer-term, scheduled depot work and 99 are temporarily offline for less complex maintenance, or because they are awaiting a spare part, he said.
Davis said the lack of spare parts continues to be the biggest challenge the Marines face in having more Hornets ready to fly.
Of the 72 available aircraft, 56 Hornets are committed to active-duty squadrons and the remainder are with training or reserve units, Davis said.
The 56 active-duty aircraft are about 20 short of what Davis said those units need for squadron pilots to stay fully trained.
“We’ve got a lot less inventory and a lot less units,” he said. “I’ve never seen the Marine Corps as operationally deployed and out there as we are in a sustained fashion ... probably since Desert Storm.”
Constant wartime missions have pushed Hornets to the end of their planned service faster than expected. An investigation by Stars and Stripes in September found decreased funding and fewer aircraft have led to a lack of training flight hours, which contributed to a spike in Hornet crashes in 2016.
The Marines lost five aircraft and three pilots -- Maj. Richard Norton, 36, Capt. Jake Frederick, 32, and Capt. Jeff Kuss, 32 – in Hornet crashes in 2016.
The Marines will request additional funds to buy parts and restore more of the Hornets, Davis said.
“Our need to recapitalize airplanes is large – certainly on the F-18 side,” he said.
The Marine lieutenant colonel removed from command of the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion in May was ousted over alleged "misconduct" but has not been charged with a crime, Task & Purpose has learned.
Lt. Col. Francisco Zavala, 42, who was removed from his post by the commanding general of 1st Marine Division on May 7, has since been reassigned to the command element of 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, and a decision on whether he will be charged is "still pending," MEF spokeswoman 1st Lt. Virginia Burger told Task & Purpose last week.
"We are not aware of any ongoing or additional investigations of Lt. Col. Zavala at this time," MEF spokesman 2nd Lt. Brian Tuthill told Task & Purpose on Monday. "The command investigation was closed May 14 and the alleged misconduct concerns Articles 128 and 133 of the UCMJ," Tuthill added, mentioning offenses under military law that deal with assault and conduct unbecoming an officer and gentleman.
"There is a period of due process afforded the accused and he is presumed innocent until proven guilty," he said.
When asked for an explanation for the delay, MEF officials directed Task & Purpose to contact 1st Marine Division officials, who did not respond before deadline.
The investigation of Zavala, completed on May 3 and released to Task & Purpose in response to a Freedom of Information Act request, showed that he had allegedly acted inappropriately. The report also confirmed some details of his wife's account of alleged domestic violence that Task & Purpose first reported last month.
U.S. troops rejoice — the midnight curfew for service members in South Korea has been temporarily suspended, as command evaluates if you can be trusted to not act like wild animals in the streets of Pyeongtaek.
Late last month Activision's Infinity Ward dropped a teaser trailer for Call of Duty: Modern Warfare — a soft-reboot of one of it's most beloved games — and just two weeks after the May 30 reveal, the game developer unveiled some new details on what's in store for the first-person shooter's multiplayer: Juggernaut and ghillie suits!