The three-star admiral in charge of Naval Air Forces says while he's facing challenges, naval aviation is not in crisis.
Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Vice Adm. Mike Shoemaker said despite a series of high-profile crashes, well-publicized readiness problems and delays in replacing older aircraft with new F-35s, the trends are in the right direction.
"The needles are moving, they are moving slowly, not fast as I would like, but I think we have the problem bounded," he said.
Shoemaker said that, unlike the Air Force, the Navy is not facing a shortage of pilots, even though it does face the same competition from airlines, and low morale in units stuck in maintenance with fewer flying hours.
"We don't have a shortage right now," Shoemaker said. "We're seeing the take rate on the bonuses that will keep guys around ... trending down slightly, but we're still in a good spot."
Shoemaker said the Navy has gone through two-thirds of the year with only one major aviation accident, and then suffered three crashes in an eight-day period.
"As I look back at those, and the last couple of years, trying to make a tie to readiness or proficiency, in every case, that's not there," Shoemaker said. "So I wouldn't characterize it as a crisis."
Shoemaker described the future of naval aviation on an aircraft carrier as a combination of F-35 joint strike fighters, F/A-18 Super Hornets and unmanned MQ-25 Stingrays, with the drones taking over the aerial refueling role.
In addition, CMV-22 Osprey tilt-rotor aircraft will take over the mission of ferrying passengers and cargo to the carriers.
While the V-22 can't carry quite as much cargo as the C-2 Greyhounds now in use, it can be unloaded and relaunched in a much shorter time with far fewer crew, and can also conduct night re-supply missions, which the C-2 was not rated for.