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After 5 Deaths In 2 Days, US Military Aviation Is In A Full-Blown Crisis
Within just 48 hours this week, four military aircraft crashed — unrelated incidents, but a cluster of disasters that is becoming depressingly familiar.
Four Marines died when their CH-53 Super Stallion crashed during training. A Marine AV-8B crashed during take-off and a Marine CH-53E was damaged during a landing in Djibouti. And then an Air Force F-16 Thunderbird crashed, killing the pilot.
The back-to-back crashes prompted Djibouti to ground all U.S. military aircraft, resulting in the U.S. cancelling the rest of an exercise in that country.
The weeks before were hardly any less grim. Eleven service members were killed in March in two separate crashes involving an Air Force Pave Hawk HH-60 and a Navy F/A-18F Super Hornet. Some experts believe the military’s straining operational pace is fueling the aviation crisis.
This recent spate of crashes is not even the deadliest in recent history: Last July, 15 Marines and a sailor were killed when an aging Marine Corps KC-130T tanker crashed in Mississippi. Less than a month later, another three Marines died when their MV-22B Osprey went down off Australia.
Military pilots are flying aging planes and helicopters that have been used constantly since 2001 – many of which should have been retired years ago. And the new planes designed to replace them have been beset with delays and ballooning costs.
U.S. military pilots are at risk as they fly old battle-worn aircraft, said Todd Harrison, an aerospace expert with the Center for Strategic and International Studies think tank in Washington.
The numbers of mishaps for certain types of aircraft have been increasing in recent years, Harrison told Task & Purpose on Thursday.
“I think the high op tempo and stress on the force over the past 17 years of continuous combat operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and elsewhere is catching up to the U.S. military,” Harrison said.
At a Pentagon press conference on Thursday, one reporter asked if the recent wave of crashes shows that the U.S. military is facing an aviation crisis.
“I would reject ‘wave’ and ‘crisis,’” said Marine Lt. Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., director the Joint Staff. “We are going to look at each one in turn. Each one is tragic. We regret each one. I’m certainly not prepared to say it’s a wave of mishaps or some form of crisis.”
The Pentagon will look at each crash in detail to see if any systemic problems or maintenance issues are affecting military aviation, McKenzie said, adding that he was unaware of any widespread issues. However, he acknowledged that having six crashes in such a short period of time is not normal.
One risk military pilots face as they fly older aircraft is that budget cuts have forced the military branches to invest less in maintenance, said retired Air Force Lt. Col. Darren Sorenson, a former F-15 pilot.
“While the maintainers who work on these aircraft as some of the best in the world, they can only do so much with the spare parts they’ve been given,” Sorenson said in an email to Task & Purpose. “One only has to the look at the readiness rates of the aircraft to see that more and more of them are not in a combat ready, or even flyable condition.
“Maintainers often have to go take a part from one (or more) working aircraft to fix another. It’s a constantly revolving shell game. It adds unnecessary work and risk to an already heavily tasked platform.”
NASA is reportedly investigating one of its astronauts in a case that appears to involve the first allegations of criminal activity from space.
Hackers could have breached US bioterrorism defenses for years, records show. We'll never know if they did
The Department of Homeland Security stored sensitive data from the nation's bioterrorism defense program on an insecure website where it was vulnerable to attacks by hackers for over a decade, according to government documents reviewed by The Los Angeles Times.
The data included the locations of at least some BioWatch air samplers, which are installed at subway stations and other public locations in more than 30 U.S. cities and are designed to detect anthrax or other airborne biological weapons, Homeland Security officials confirmed. It also included the results of tests for possible pathogens, a list of biological agents that could be detected and response plans that would be put in place in the event of an attack.
The information — housed on a dot-org website run by a private contractor — has been moved behind a secure federal government firewall, and the website was shut down in May. But Homeland Security officials acknowledge they do not know whether hackers ever gained access to the data.
The State Department doesn't really care if its human rights training for partner security forces is working or not
By law, the United States is required to promote "human rights and fundamental freedoms" when it trains foreign militaries. So it makes sense that if the U.S. government is going to spend billions on foreign security assistance every year, it should probably systematically track whether that human rights training is actually having an impact or not, right?
Apparently not. According to a new audit from the Government Accountability Office, both the Departments of Defense and State "have not assessed the effectiveness of human rights training for foreign security forces" — and while the Pentagon agreed to establish a process to do so, State simply can't be bothered.
A Kansas VA hospital police supervisor reported 'dangerous' deficiencies among his officers. Now he says he faced retaliation
The Kansas City VA Medical Center is still dealing with the fallout of a violent confrontation last year between one of its police officers and a patient, with the Kansas City Police Department launching a homicide investigation.
And now Topeka's VA hospital is dealing with an internal dispute between leaders of its Veterans Affairs police force that raises new questions about how the agency nationwide treats patients — and the officers who report misconduct by colleagues.
A New Mexico woman was charged Friday in the robbery and homicide of a Marine Corps veteran from Belen late last month after allegedly watching her boyfriend kill the man and torch his car to hide evidence.