Of 5,500 aircraft accidents since 2013, almost 4,000 were generated by the military’s fleet of manned warplanes — bombers, fighters, cargo planes, refuelers, helicopters and tiltrotors. In 2013, those aircraft reported 656 accidents per year. By 2017, the rate had jumped to 909 per year, an increase of 39% according to Military Times. It’s doubled for the Navy and Marine Corps’ F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets. 133 service members were killed in those fiscal year 2013-2017 mishaps.
The rise in military aircraft incidents and deaths has been tied in part of the massive congressional budget cuts of 2013. Since then, non-stop deployments of warplanes and crews, a vacuum in maintenance personnel and deep cuts to pilots’ flight-training hours have been factors.
Former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who led the Pentagon in 2013 when defence budget cuts were enforced, said, “We stopped training, for months…Of course, all of that affected readiness. It’s had an impact on every part of our defense enterprise…And that means, surely, accidents.”
Wartime is the worst thing for defence budgets. 75% of a military budget is put toward wages, salaries, housing, education and healthcare. Then there is the operations and maintenance slice. This leaves little left over for the development and procurement side. Go to war and the easiest place to find cuts is to defer new purchases. The logistics of stationing 100,000 troops in a foreign country and maintaining tanks, feeding and housing them costs a fortune. So budget cuts lead to deferred servicing of equipment and lower preparedness. This data presented by the military comes as no surprise. The air force now leases aircraft on commercial terms to the defence contractors as a way to get new equipment and drop feed the payments.