Support: French Fighters Falter From Frequent Failures

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December 29, 2017: Over the last five years France has made a major effort to improve the readiness rate for its military aircraft. Despite that it was recently revealed that the overall readiness rate was only 44 percent. It varies by aircraft type and where it is based. Thus the readiness rate is 80 percent for French warplanes in combat zones while that rate plummets to 30 percent for military aircraft in France. French military transports are in particularly bad shape with overall readiness rates closer to 20 percent. Another annoying factor is that in 2000 the overall readiness rate was 55 percent and a lot of the problems appear related to bureaucracy and more paperwork required to do repairs to day versus two decades ago.

So now the Defense Ministry is taking a closer look at how maintenance is carried out, especially compared to other nations with large fleets of modern military aircraft. Britain, for example, has a better readiness rate, but not by much and it was recently revealed that the readiness rate for British Typhoon fighters was about 35 percent.

This is not just a French problem but is typical of all West European armed forces. Britain has been more successful at improving readiness rates while Germany has not. For example in 2014 a German Defense Ministry readiness report was leaked. The report showed that only 8 percent of 109 Eurofighters (similar to the U.S. F-15), 11 percent of 67 CH-53 transport helicopters, and 10 percent of 33 NH90 helicopters were fully operational (not sidelined for upgrades, repairs or other problems.) However 38 percent of 56 C-160 twin turboprop transports were available.

Normally a combat ready military has at least half, and more normally over 70 percent of its warplanes and transports ready to go. While this situation shocked many, those who have followed European military trends since the 1980s were not surprised. The problems began developing in the 1990s and no one in or out of the government felt any compulsion to make an issue of it. It is common in European nations for the Defense Ministry to eventually discover that a shortage of spare parts and years of poor management practices led to the parts shortage and the low readiness levels. A new Defense Minister will often come in and promise to make it all better. That may be possible once there is general agreement that there is a problem.

 


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