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GAO Examines Sustainment Costs, Mission Capable Rates of Military Aircraft

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The Government Accountability Office analyzed 49 types of military planes and found that only four types of aircraft achieved their annual mission readiness goals between fiscal year 2011 and FY 2021.

Those four types are the B-2 heavy strategic bomber, RC-135S-W reconnaissance aircraft and the UH-1N helicopter of the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Navy’s EP-3 reconnaissance aircraft, according to a GAO report published Thursday.

The report showed that 26 types of aircraft failed to meet in any fiscal year their mission capable rate or the percentage of total time when a plane can carry out at least one mission.

Of those 49 aircraft, only two reached the service-established mission capable goal in FY 2021.

Program officials told GAO that many of the examined aircraft are facing at least one sustainment challenges that have an impact on mission capable rates. Those challenges include maintenance problems, aging planes and parts shortage and delay.

In FY 2020, operating and support costs hit approximately $54 billion, reflecting a decline of about $2.9 billion since FY 2011. Maintenance costs, which are part of the total O&S costs, have increased by $1.2 billion since FY 2011.

According to the report, O&S costs of Air Force and Army aircraft have dropped, while those of the Navy and Marine Corps have climbed “driven by changes in the size of aircraft inventory and reduced flying hours.”