Since the F/A-18 has been tasked with so many missions, it should come as no surprise that the aircraft are aging at a faster rate than originally projected. This is one facet of what Lieutenant Commander Victor Glover calls the "gray threat." High operations tempo and lack of spare parts are the main culprits here. But he also attributes it to aircrew complacency caused by fatigue and war-weariness. These make for a dangerous combination that can lead to fatal mishaps for even the most experienced aviators. His solution? Get back to the basics—aviate, navigate, communicate.
While many Navy airframes are graying, one community is getting an infusion of youth. Lieutenant Commander Todd Copeland explains that the ancient P-3C Orion fleet is welcoming some new members into the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) fold. With the arrival of the Broad-Area Maritime Surveillance unmanned aerial vehicle and the P-8A Poseidon, the Orion and its variant, the EP-3 Aries, are now part of an officially designated Family of Systems—and naval aviation's ISR capabilities are getting a significant boost.
Meanwhile, Commander Philip Walker suggests a new role for naval aviation. One way to fend off those who might be looking to trim the community's budget would be to create naval aviation partnerships with other nations. This would support a key tenet of A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower , allow naval aviation to expand its mission, and augment its relevance all while maintaining its current strengths.
While there have been reforms to the military health care system in the wake of the 2007 Walter Reed Army Medical Center scandal, problems persist. When in April Noel Koch was suddenly forced to resign his post as Deputy Under Secretary of Defense for Wounded Warrior Care and Transition Policy, we decided to ask him to write about what he saw during his 11 months in that job. His article pulls no punches. In "No More Walter Reeds," Mr. Koch details the flaws in the Defense Department's Warrior Transition Units and makes a connection between their dysfunction and the much larger problem of the quality of the all-volunteer force (AVF). A post-Vietnam War creation, the AVF was not designed to fight two long wars such as Iraq and Afghanistan, and the author says the strain is showing. Although the last U.S. combat units symbolically left Iraq as this issue went to press, the future of Afghanistan remains uncertain. Is a new draft or some other form of selective service the answer? We'll leave that to you, our readers, to debate in the open forum.