Expert on Military Readiness: ‘Geriatric Air Force’ Is ‘Least Ready in History’

By Penny Starr | August 1, 2016 | 12:17pm EDT
Lt. Gen. David Deptula, USAF (Retired), now dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies, spoke at the American Enterprise Institute on Jan. 29, 2016. ( Starr)

( – A military expert said on Friday that the United States Air Force’s readiness is at stake because of aging equipment, decades of engagement and a lack of effort to modernize the country’s military.

“The Air Force has been at war not since 9/11, but since January 1991. That’s 25 years,” Lt. Gen. David Deptula, USAF (Retired), said at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C., during a discussion on the military readiness and capabilities, specifically the Marine Corps and Air Force.

“That 25 years of continuous combat, coupled with budget instability and lower than planned top lines, has made the Air Force, the smallest, the oldest and least ready in its history.” Deptula said.

Deptula cited statistics on the Air Force 25 years later: 30 percent fewer troops, 40 percent fewer aircraft, 60 percent fewer “combat coded fighter squadrons,” and 25 percent fewer aircraft per squadron.

The discussion included Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, USMC, who spoke mostly about how his branch of the military is making the most of what resources it has.

Deptula talked about a “hollow force” military that is like it was in the 1970s before Ronald Reagan was elected president and pledged to rebuild it. He said because of spending issues and constant military engagement, those same conditions exist in the Air Force today.

“The bottom line is: We’re operating a geriatric Air Force,” said Deptula, who now serves as the dean of the Mitchell Institute for Aerospace Studies. “We have fighters that are 55 years old.

“Tankers that are just as old,” Deptula said. “We’re operating training aircraft that are 40 years old.

“Our fighters and helicopters are 30 years old,” he said.

Deptula called it “absurd” that the military has not been modernized over the past 25 years and that readiness is threatened today.

“So back then in the ‘70s – hollow force – half our military planes couldn’t fly, because there weren’t any spare parts or proper maintenance,” Deptula said. “Guess what folks? It’s just like that today.”

Deptula noted that when Reagan was president, the average age of the force was 12 years, and today it is 27. To put that into context, Deptula said the average age of a commercial aircraft is 10 years.

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