PENTAGON: The head of Marine aviation is talking with Boeing about costs and ways to upgrade more than half of the service’s 239 V-22 Ospreys to improve readiness.
The basic plan would be to improve all 131 of the A and B models of the V-22 to the C level, Lt. Gen. Jon Davis, told me in an interview at his Pentagon office. Davis, who has made improving readiness his top priority, told me Monday he was heading to Boeing “to see how much it would cost to upgrade all our aircraft.” This would not take place right away, Davis made clear. It would take years to accomplish.
Why the upgrades? The C models in the elite unit that flies the president and those who travel with him boast higher readiness rates than do any regular Marine units, by a factor of three, Davis said. The Naval Air Systems Command shop offers this breakdown of the Osprey fleet:
Now, some Marines I’ve spoken with about this say it’s no wonder that the HMX-1 unit has high readiness rates. After all, presidential fleets get whatever they need whenever they need it. I put that to Davis and he brushed it aside. Instead of assuming regular units won’t have the same resources, Davis said he’s looking at “what are they doing that we can imitate.” He also noted that the HMX-1 squadron is comprised of C models.
The C models boast a new weather radar system to improve navigation in bad weather, a redesigned Environmental Conditioning System for a more comfortable flight, and.an improved electronic warfare suite to handle both air to air and ground to air threats. The C models also have improved cockpit displays.
I pinged Boeing and they said it’s too early to tell how much this might cost or how long it might take.
Davis also discussed the F-35B fleet, which outgoing Commandant Gen. Joseph Dunford, just declared ready for Initial Operating Capability. As he has made clear for much of this year, Davis’ greatest worry about the Marines’ new war planes is keeping them ready to fly. Currently the fleet is budgeted to maintain a 70-74 percent readiness rate. Congress has approved enough money to buy spares to maintain that rate. But Davis said he’s been hitting the Hill, asking for more money to boost the readiness rates.
“Frankly, for me, who said 75 percent is good enough? What airline resources for 75 percent readiness?” he asked rhetorically. Given that rate, he noted, three of every 10 airplanes “won’t have parts and that’s not OK.” Will the Hill come up with more money? Will we have a Continuing Resolution? Will the Budget Control Act be amended? Tune in.