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Beyond the problem of rising maintenance/logistics costs and insufficient resources for modernization is the fundamental issue of combat and mobility readiness.

The Air Force reports that mission-capable rates for its aircraft have declined by 10 percentage points—from 83 percent to 73 percent— since 1991. And rates of cannibalization (a measure of how often maintenance crews must take a part off one aircraft to maintain another) increased by 78 percent between 1995 and 1998, indicating a shortage of spare parts (CBO, 2000).

These data are illustrated in Figure 2-5 . Although the committee does not have specific data linking the decline in readiness to aging avionics, the fact that avionics maintenance accounts for approximately one-third of total aircraft maintenance costs supports this conclusion. Air Force officials from the Air Combat Command and Air Mobility Command interviewed by committee members confirmed the linkage (personal communications with Brig. Gen. Randolph Bigum, director of requirements, Air Combat Command; and Maj. Gen. Michael Wooley, commander, Tanker Air-Lift Control Center, Air Mobility Command, September 26, 2000).

The magnitude of the Air Force's aging avionics problem cannot be fully comprehended without considering the diversity of types of aircraft flown (68 in the Air Force, 11 in the Air Force Reserve, and 17 in the Air National Guard), the small fleets of some types of aircraft (e.g., only 1 CT-43A), the multiple versions of the same aircraft (e.g., F-15 A, B, C, D, and E), and multiple users of the same aircraft (e.g., A-10 used by Air Force, Air Force Reserve, and Air National Guard). In light of these data ( Table 2.2 ), the committee concluded that the magnitude of the aging avionics problem is large and is growing. This urgent problem must be addressed by Air Force management through enterprise management supported by informed program management.

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