STATEMENT OF LIEUTENANT GENERAL FRED MCCORKLE
DEPUTY CHIEF OF STAFF FOR AVIATION
Mr. Chairman and distinguished members of the Subcommittee, thank you for this opportunity to discuss Marine Corps aviation. We are committed to our charter to be the nation's "Force in Readiness" as prescribed many years ago by your predecessors. We are extremely proud that we continue to maintain a high state of operational readiness, and recognize that our success is also your success. We remain "most ready when the nation is least ready" not only through the dedicated efforts of your Marines, but also through the unflagging support from and leadership of the United States Congress.
Nothing about the historic closing of the Cold War altered the enduring wisdom of the 82nd Congress. Although we now enjoy a climate free from competitive superpower tensions, our former bi-polar existence has been transformed into a multi-polar one. In many ways, as the only remaining superpower, our global role as a nation has become more complicated. We have witnessed widespread violence associated with the disintegration of the Former Soviet Republics and Yugoslavia, the intricacies of Somalia and Haiti, the tragedies in the Horn of Africa and Rwanda, and conflict in Liberia. The Quadrennial Defense Review and the National Defense Panel characterized the next century as one of crisis, conflict, and chaos in the littorals to include: rapid economic growth, increased competition for limited resources, terrorism, nationalism, ethnic and religious strife, and ready access to Weapons of Mass Destruction. Both the Quadrennial Defense Review and National Defense Panel validated the traditional role of the Marine Corps in this fluid environment and also pointed out that your Marine Corps was already developing the capabilities through leap-ahead technologies needed to prevail in this fluid environment.
The United States has been, and will continue to be, the world's critical guarantor of stability through its forward deployment of credible combat power. Recognizing this and the changing global environment, we remain committed to continuing our ongoing modernization efforts toward the realization of the Marine Corps' operational concept, called Operational Maneuver From The Sea or OMFTS. This concept, in turn, will enhance our role as an integral part of the Marine Air Ground Task Force or MAGTF team and evolve our power projection capability and combat power potential in the littoral environments of the 21st century.
Our goal is to face the uncertain battlefields of the next century with a credible fighting force of advanced technological systems. This OMFTS fighting force will be capable of delivering CinC-relevant capabilities to the MAGTF while sustaining combat readiness in our legacy systems through the transition. To achieve this goal we continue the strategy we have been following for years that reduces the number of type/model/series aircraft in the Marine Corps inventory (Figures 1 and 2). This "neckdown strategy" is being accomplished through the prudent procurement of new weapons systems, by upgrading existing platforms with modern technology equipment and retiring obsolete systems.
Marine Corps aviation is healthy and ready to meet our evolving expeditionary mission requirements. We continue to provide operationally ready, well trained, highly spirited and versatile forces. Operating alone, or as a Marine component of a naval force, we support a continuous and substantial forward deployed presence and work closely with our Navy brethren in developing efficiencies to achieve the proper balance between our readiness requirements and resources accounts. But, these efficiencies are becoming more and more difficult to sustain because of the high life-cycle costs associated with some of our legacy aircraft weapons systems. This is due in large part to the "procurement pause" of the mid-90's. As a result, we will be relying heavily on some of our legacy weapons systems much longer and we expect their operating and maintenance costs to rise.
Maintenance costs for our aging fleet of aircraft are rising dramatically. Between FY96 and FY98, the cost per flight hour rose 43%, from $2,341 to $3,337. This is due to the increasing cost for components and the decreasing mean time between failures. The amount of time our fixed wing aircraft are down while awaiting maintenance has increased from nine percent in FY 1994 to fourteen percent in FY 1998. The amount of time they remained down awaiting parts has increased from nine percent to fifteen percent during the same time period. Although they are not as dramatic, we are seeing the same trends with our rotary wing aircraft. The Marine Corps Fixed-wing Mission Capable rates of aircraft have been on a consistent decline from eighty-one percent in FY94 down to seventy percent in the FY98. Rotary-wing Mission Capable rates have declined slightly from seventy-seven percent in FY94 to seventy-five percent in FY98. The absence of competitors to keep the price of spare parts down is creating a situation wherein obtaining spare parts is rapidly becoming cost prohibitive. This results in reduced readiness and reduced availability for proficiency training.
Topline constraints and requirements to fund near-term readiness in recent years have resulted in diminished procurement accounts. As you know, we buy our aircraft through the Navy via the "Aviation Procurement Navy" or APN account. Navy procurement accounts have suffered the same shortfalls over the past few years as our Marine Corps ground procurement account. Therefore, we have been unable to procure major aviation platforms in the most efficient and economic manner. Our greatest fiscal challenge is balancing the expenditure of finite resources for legacy programs and near-term readiness with accelerating modernization programs and safeguarding long-term readiness.
True to this point, General Krulak has expressed his concern that the current debate over readiness is missing the central point. The focus on today's degraded readiness symptoms, and the "quick fix" of additional funds into our Operations and Maintenance accounts, amounts to "scraping off the skin cancer" of near-term readiness. All the while, the long-term readiness cancer continues to metastasize. If we don't soon address the cause-lack of modernization funding-the problems we now face will continue to grow, and affect ultimately the readiness of our forces in the 2000-2010 time frame.
As this budget was being prepared, Marine Corps aviation had over a $5
Billion shortfall across the F.Y.D.P. While the Administration's topline increase provided
some relief, there still remains a greater than $3 Billion shortfall. These remaining
funds are needed to allow us to ramp up to the most economic rate of 36 V-22s per year, to
buy KC-130Js at a reasonable rate, to accelerate the buy of the UH-1Y and AH-1Z, and to
fund needed engineering changes to our existing F/A-18 inventory. Resolving these funding
issues is important and will enable a smooth, cost effective means to execute our aviation
neckdown strategy. Our neckdown strategy is based upon a sound operational vision, an
emphasis on maintaining combat relevancy with our legacy systems, and a well-defined
The MV-22 is the keystone system for executing operations in the OMFTS environment; its capabilities pale those of the primary aircraft it is replacing, the CH-46E (Figure 3). Even with a Service Life Extension Program, our CH-46E Sea Knight medium troop transport aircraft has already met its extended programmed service life. Our CH-53D also is being replaced by the MV-22. Its average age is twenty-eight years, exceeding its projected service life by eight years (Figure 4). The MV-22 will not reach its full operational capability until FY 2014, stretching the life of its weary predecessors another fifteen years. The V-22 procurement schedule has been accelerated to thirty aircraft per year starting in FY 2003, however, this adjusted schedule still fails to replace the aging CH-46E and CH-53D helicopters before they are no longer economically maintainable or before they encounter possible safety of flight problems. This thirty aircraft per year plan also fails to achieve the production economies which would result from a higher procurement rate. A procurement rate of the 36 aircraft per year would allow us to achieve those economies and full operational capability approximately two years earlier.
The KC-130 Service Life Assessment Program center wing fatigue life data indicates that a KC-130 shortfall (15 aircraft) may occur as early as 2001 unless action is taken to replace or repair these aircraft. By 2009, all active KC-130Fs and Rs (49 aircraft, average age 37 and 22 years respectively) are projected to exceed 125% of Fatigue Life Expended. Continued procurement of modern KC-130Js is needed to replace these aircraft. Thanks to Congressional support during FY97 through FY99, we have five KC-130Js on contract with initial delivery slated for late FY00 and hope to have another two on contract in April 1999. As part of the Administration's topline increase, an additional two KC-130Js have been programmed, one in FY03 and one in FY05. The Marine Corps desires to fund the KC-130J in FY01 and continue annual procurement to replace our aged fleet of KC-130s. The KC-130J tanker, with its increased range and speed, night vision systems compatible lighting, and improved air refueling system will provide the Marine Corps with a state of the art refueler/transport necessary to support the MAGTF in the more challenging environment we now face.
Benefits of our neckdown strategy have already been seen in common
aircraft spare parts, simplified technical specifications and reduced support equipment
variations as well as improvements in capabilities and combat power. Representative of
this is the approximately 30% commonality of our current UH-1N and AH-1W aircraft. But,
the UH-1N, which we will upgrade with the UH-1Y/AH-1Z program, will be 34 years old and
will have served 14 years beyond its planned service life by the time we complete the
upgrade program (Figure 4). The UH-1Y/AH-1Z program remanufactures the current inventory of UH-1N and AH-1W.
The UH-1Y and AH-1Z variants have 85% common components to include engines, drive train,
rotor head and avionics and provide major performance improvements that support
Operational Maneuver from the Sea and Urban Warfare with versatility that far surpasses
our aging assault support aircraft. The UH-1Y/AH-1Z Program recently completed its
Critical Design Review and expects to commence developmental flight operations in October
1999. Combining the expanded capabilities of the UH-1Y and AH-1Z with the MV-22 and
CH-53E, our forward deployed Amphibious Readiness Groups will be able to answer the
"911" calls of the future.
TRANSITION TO THE JOINT STRIKE FIGHTER
A major element in our neckdown strategy is the enhancement of our AV-8B Harrier and F/A-18 Hornet aircraft. These enhancements represent the most cost effective way to ensure combat relevancy of those platforms through the transition to the Short Take-Off Vertical Landing Joint Strike Fighter (JSF). The JSF will bring the Marine Corps enhanced readiness, expeditionary and combined arms capabilities. In addition to the achievement of the Marine Corps long-term goal of one type/model/series of tactical fighter/attack aircraft, the JSF brings: tremendous shipboard basing capability, both amphibious deck and carrier deck; potential infrastructure savings due to basing flexibility; tremendous operational flexibility. Delivery of the Marine Corps JSF is scheduled to begin in 2008 and will bring us the superior capability required for the 21st century battlespace.
The Harrier Review Panel was established by direction of the Commandant of the Marine Corps on 7 November 1997 to develop a strategy to reduce the AV-8B Harrier mishap rate by 50% while maintaining combat relevancy through the transition to JSF. The panel, including participation by multi-discipline experts from industry, government and military agencies, provided sixty short and long-term specific conclusions for achieving those goals. As a result, $133 Million of the Administration's topline increase has been identified to immediately address the highest priority and most effective solutions for safety and real time readiness.
We are also continuing our efforts to remanufacture AV-8B Day Attack aircraft into Radar Night Attack configuration. We entered contract negotiations for the AV-8B Remanufacture Program in December 1998 and expect to complete these negotiations by March 1999. This contract is expected to procure all of the remaining 32 aircraft of the Multi-Year Procurement. This program coupled with the Harrier Review Panel initiatives ensures the Harrier will continue to provide the powerful and unique Short Take-Off Vertical Landing capability to the MAGTF through the transition to JSF.
Today, Marine Aviation operates the F/A-18A/B/C/D aircraft. As we look to the future, we will need every one of them to bridge to the JSF. To get to the JSF, we will need to bring older F/A-18A aircraft into parity with our most capable F/A-18Cs by incorporating the engineering change, ECP-583. This change consists primarily of avionics hardware upgrades, which allows F/A-18As to process and utilize the updated versions of the F/A-18C software and accessories. The modified "A" aircraft will have the very same capabilities as a Lot 17 F/A-18C aircraft; an aircraft 8 years newer. The change will enable the upgraded "A" aircraft to employ all current and future weapons the Marine Corps is scheduled to procure, will enhance significantly commonality between the "C" and the older "A", and solves obsolescence and interoperability issues.
The primary factor driving the F/A-18A upgrade is the mitigation of the current F/A-18C/D inventory shortfall that becomes almost unmanageable beyond 2006. ECP-583 is, therefore, an outstanding value for the capability provided. At approximately $4.5 Million per installation, when compared to the procurement costs of new F/A-18Cs, the savings are significant. ECP-583 is important to ensuring combat relevancy through the transition to the Marine Corps' Joint Strike Fighter.
The Administration's topline increase marks the beginning of a long overdue reversal of declining resources allocated to modernization funding. However, this increase is only a first step toward providing the resources needed to fully recover from the "procurement pause". Aviation modernization requirements must receive adequate investment in order to guarantee the future readiness of your Marine Corps. While this budget represents a good beginning, it is absolutely critical that the increases projected be sustained over the entire Future Years Defense Plan, not just in FY00. With your continued support, Marine Aviation will remain the ready, relevant, and capable force multiplier that makes your Marine Corps a proven model of efficiency and effectiveness.
On behalf of your Marines and our Commandant, I thank you again Mr. Chairman, for permitting me to speak to you today and for the steadfast faith your committee places in us.