Outrageous EXCLUSIVE: Air Force Losing Pilots and Planes to Cuts, Scrounging for Spare Parts
U.S. Air Force squadrons playing very key roles in the fight against ISIS are struggling amid budget cuts that have left them short on parts and manpower.
National Security Correspondent Jennifer Griffin visited the B-1 Bomber squadron at Ellsworth Air Force Base in South Dakota this week and found a "shocking amount of wear and tear on the force."
Griffin reported that out of 20 B-1 bombers at the base, only nine could fly. Pilots are doing administrative work because the civilians who used to do it were fired under recent budget cuts, even though the B-1 is central to the fight against ISIS.
"It's not only the personnel that are tired, it's the aircraft that are tired as well," Master Sgt. Bruce Pfrommer said.
The scarcity of available parts for the B-1 unit has gotten so desperate that maintenance squadrons have had to scavenge spare parts from a desert aircraft graveyard or museums.
Griffin told Shepard Smith Reporting that budget cuts have left the Air Force short 4,000 maintainers and 700 pilots, as they face poaching by commercial airlines.
The 20th Fighter Wing at the Shaw Air Force Base in South Carolina is facing similar problems with its F-16 squadron. Less than half of the base's 79 jets are fit for deployment, and exhausted maintainers are forced to resort to cannibalizing other jets to fly them out on missions.
"When I was young coming into the Air Force in the early '90s, we used to make fun of foreign air forces for flying at such a low rate, and we're slowly but surely walking ourselves into the same problem," Col. Gentry Boswell said.
Watch the report on Special Report above and read more here.