Only F/A-18Ds conduct FAC(A) and TAC(A), and we are much less likely to conduct offensive anti-air warfare missions than our single-seat counterparts. However, at a T&R Manual review conference that I attended in 1995, the guidance from the Training and Education Division, Marine Corps Combat Development Command, was that the manual will continue to be the same for both aircraft models. MAWTS-I and VMFAT-101, the F/A-18 T&R manager, proposed changes that only addressed the CRP values-not the actual missions flown. These parties indirectly acknowledged the difference in mission priorities through the changes in CRP values and flight refly factors. The numbers were massaged to minimize the effect of not flying some of the missions on either community's CRP. This statistical manipulation does nothing to improve either community's combat readiness.
Another difficulty is that, in the eyes of group- and wing-level commanders, a squadron's performance is almost entirely based on such statistical data as CRP and flight-hour goals. The new aviation campaign may relieve the requirement to fly an exact number of flight hours during a fiscal year, but the campaign plan does not directly address the issue of CRP. At present, CRP, which is derived from sorties flown per the T&R Manual, drives squadron operations; however, squadron operations do not always improve combat readiness. The F/A-18 T&R Manual contains so many sorties and missions that a Hornet squadron's CRP is normally much lower than that of other aviation communities. The solution from the general-officer level was to increase the CRP that a Hornet aircrew attains at the Fleet Readiness Squadron by 10%. This does not solve, or even address the real problems involved; it only makes the numbers appear more even across the board.
Instead of appeasing higher echelon commands with numbers, squadron operations and commanding officers must strive for better training to improve overall combat effectiveness. Having completed three unit deployments to the Western Pacific, mostly working in the operations department, I saw the politics of CRP first hand. The primary goal of all three operations officers was to raise CRP as much as possible. On my third deployment, the Group required all squadrons to provide a weekly training report that reflected the squadron's CRP. The interest was not in better preparing the aircrew for combat; it was to increase the CRP value. As a training officer and schedule writer, I was pressured to be unrealistically imaginative. The end result was that we put training codes on the schedule that would increase CRP-not necessarily increase combat readiness-even when the sorties could not be completed correctly.
The leadership must come to grips with the employment of the F/A-18D and how it differs from the F/A-18A/C. We must train to the anticipated combat tasking-not just the capabilities of the aircraft. Apparently, no one is willing to delete missions from the F/A-18D's mission statement. Until someone takes charge and directs the training priorities correctly, we never will attain the F/A-18D's maximum combat effectiveness.