Maintenance Shortage Limits PACAF B-1 Sorties

US Pacific Air Forces wanted two B-1 Lancers to participate in a bilateral exercise related to the North Korean threat this week, but only one bomber was ready to fly. The B-1, deployed to Andersen AFB, Guam, as part of the continuous bomber presence mission, conducted a training sortie Tuesday with fighters from the Republic of Korea near Japan. Rep. Joe Wilson (R-S.C.) questioned Maj. Gen. Scott West, director of current operations, on the shortfall Wednesday during a hearing of the House Armed Services readiness subcommittee. “I understand that just this morning two B-1 aircraft were scheduled to respond to a clear and present danger in North Korea, yet only one aircraft was able to be successfully launched,” Wilson said. West responded, saying “the age of the aircraft” and a “shortage of maintainers” meant that PACAF was unable “to generate sorties to improve our readiness and enable us to train for full-spectrum operations.” Wilson had asked the question in the context of a USAF report on “aircraft availability numbers,” which had been submitted to the committee and showed “how many aircraft are fully mission capable and available to be flown.” He said the report showed that “all but one aircraft type failed to meet that requirement in the last quarter.”