The U.S. Marine Corps has got an air force problem. Its current fleet of fighter jets, purchased from the 1980s to the mid-1990s, is in poor repair. And a new fleet of of vertical-launching F-35 stealth fighters that the Marines have been waiting years to put into action is coming on-line too slowly to keep up flying units’ strength.
The slow-motion collapse of the combat squadrons could, in some future conflict, expose Marine infantry on the ground to enemy air attack—something that hasn’t happened in generations.
The Marines’ air fleet isn’t small, at least on paper. It consists of 276 F/A-18 Hornet fighters, more than two-thirds of the Marines’ combat-capable jets. But on April 20, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, the Marines’ deputy commandant for aviation, told the Senate that just 87 of those Hornets were flightworthy—a mere 32 percent.
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Image courtesy of US Air Force