Availability and Use of Aircraft in the Air Force and Navy
CBO analyzes patterns in the availability and use of the Air Force’s and Department of the Navy’s aircraft since 2001. CBO also analyzes how the military aircraft have performed since the onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
In this report, the Congressional Budget Office analyzes patterns in the availability and use of military aircraft by the Air Force and the Department of the Navy (DoN, which encompasses both the Navy and the Marine Corps). CBO looks at availability—a measure of the percentage of time aircraft can be flown on training or missions—and flying hours per aircraft per year.
CBO finds that from 2001 through 2019:
Aircraft availability rates declined in both the Air Force and DoN, but the decline was more marked in DoN;
Driven by a marked decline in the availability of F/A-18C/D legacy Hornets, the availability rates of DoN’s fighters and attack aircraft fell considerably more than those of the Air Force’s fighters and attack aircraft; and
Flying hours per aircraft declined in both the Air Force and DoN.
CBO also finds that during the coronavirus pandemic:
Fleetwide availability rates increased in both the Air Force and DoN during the early months of the pandemic; and
Flying hours declined for both the Air Force and DoN, but the Air Force’s decline was proportionally greater.
The measure of the availability rate that CBO used in this analysis is typically lower than the Department of Defense’s (DoD’s) rate. CBO’s measure counts aircraft in depot-level maintenance or storage as being unavailable. In contrast, DoD measures only the availability of aircraft that are located with operating squadrons. DoD’s measure could be boosted by moving unflyable aircraft in the squadrons to depot status.