In the last three weeks, six military aviation crashes have killed 16 pilots or crew — a tragic development that has cast a spotlight on a growing crisis: Accident rates have soared over the last five years for most of the military’s manned warplanes.
Through a six-month investigation, the independent US media Military Times found that accidents involving all of the military’s manned fighter, bomber, helicopter, and cargo warplanes rose nearly 40 percent from fiscal years 2013 to 2017. It’s doubled for some aircraft, like the Navy and Marine Corps’ F/A-18 Hornets and Super Hornets. At least 133 service members were killed in those fiscal year 2013-2017 mishaps, according to data obtained by Military Times.
The rise is tied, in part, to the massive congressional budget cuts of 2013. Since then, it’s been intensified by non-stop deployments of warplanes and their crews, an exodus of maintenance personnel and deep cuts to pilots’ flight-training hours.
“We are reaping the benefits — or the tragedies — that we got into back in sequestration,” the site quoted retired Air Force Gen. Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, as saying in reference to the 2013 cuts.
The sharp increase in mishap rates is “actually a lagging indicator. By the time you’re having accidents, and the accident rates are increasing, then you’ve already gone down a path,” said Carlisle, who led Air Combat Command until 2017.
“If we stay on the current track … there is the potential to lose lives.”