Symptoms of Old Age: Gen John Corley, head of Air Combat Command, carries in his hip pocket a list of age-related ills affecting his fleet. Talking with reporters March 27 in Washington D.C., Corley rattled off a litany of problems and restrictions. His F-15s, for example, are prohibited from exceeding 660 knots or Mach 1.5 (whichever comes first) because of a weakness in the vertical control surfaces. These aircraft were designed to be able to dash at speeds beyond Mach 3. Further, some 63 of his F-16s are flying with cracked bulkheads. His A-10s have a nosegear weight-bearing problem that won’t allow the Hogs to operate at more than 46,000 pounds, when they’re designed for 51,000 pounds. His B-1s can’t open their speed brakes above Mach .9 because of a hinge problem, and his B-2s can’t climb faster than 280 knots indicated airspeed because of cracks propagating from bolt holes in the windshield. The glitches are just some of the problems affecting operations, to say nothing of vanishing parts vendors or lengthening maintenance hours per flying hour. Corley said that $0.86 on the dollar of his procurement budget goes to keeping his machines flying, versus $0.14 that goes toward buying new capability.
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