US Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps pilots and aircrew have all found themselves struggling to maintain a level of proficiency required to perform their duties in war zones, reports Business Insider.
The U.S. military’s fleet of fighter jets is among the most heavily armored in the world.
But even those aircraft have proven to be highly vulnerable to attacks, and parts of their engines have been found to be corroded or even melted in the field.
Now, the Air Force is asking its pilots and pilots-in-training to use their new engine to help maintain its warfighters, and its been hailed as a victory for pilots who need to keep up their training.
The Air Force says that if the military pilots and instructors are unable to maintain their training, the military will consider replacing the aircraft engines with newer models.
But the Air Chiefs say that the decision will require the help of the civilian sector, which is already facing a shortage of aircraft parts.
“I’ve been on the ground in the Middle East, in Syria, Yemen, Iraq, Somalia and other places, and it’s a pretty serious problem, and the military is not going to be able to solve it,” said Air Chief Michael Collins, who heads the National Guard and who is spearheading the program.
The pilot in charge of the program, Capt. Greg Smith, says that the Air Corps wants to find out how much the civilian industry can help with the task of rebuilding its fleet.
Smith says the Air Forces needs to look at the commercial aviation industry, which has been hit hard by the war in the region, to find a way to support their efforts.
“We’re going to look very closely at what’s available,” Smith said.
“There’s an opportunity for the commercial sector to come in and help with this effort.”
Collins said that he would like to see the U.N. and the Pentagon help in the effort, but he noted that the government’s already been working on ways to improve military aircraft parts, including a new fuel additive that can be used to replace existing engines.
The Army, Air Force and Navy have all taken steps to develop and test their own engines, and Collins said he hoped that other government agencies would step in to provide assistance.
“The government is the one that needs to do this, and they need to do it in a way that’s consistent with the way they use their own resources,” Collins said.
The Pentagon will provide about $3.6 billion in funding over the next decade for the program to help the Airforce and Air Force-Navy rebuild their fleets, and to provide the AirForce with the fuel additive.
The program is also a way for the military to support the contractors who are making the engines, said Collins.
The Defense Department has put up $1 billion for the effort so far, but the Air Department says it needs to get a bigger chunk of that money.