The average age of an aircraft in the Air Force’s inventory is now about 25 years, Gen. Donald Hoffman, Air Force Materiel Command boss, said Thursday. But just looking at that number actually understates the problem of old aircraft, Hoffman said in his address at AFA’s Air Warfare Symposium and Technology Exposition in Orlando, Fla. The fleet is “going to continue to grow older no matter how many Predators and Reapers and trainers we build,” he said. As a result of the fleet’s growing age, legacy airframes are entering depot “with more and more problems,” many of which haven’t been encountered before because aircraft haven’t been kept in service this long, noted Hoffman. Spare parts are particularly tough. “We get a lot of no-bids” on contracts because companies don’t make the spares anymore, or the cost of engineering a new old part is prohibitive, or the production run is too small to be worth it, he said. All this is driving sustainment costs higher.
The Air Force will begin its 71st annual Operation Christmas Drop on Dec. 4. The weeklong exercise is a yearly tradition that delivers supplies such as food, fishing equipment, school books, and clothes to remote islands in the Pacific. It is the longest-running Department of Defense humanitarian mission.