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​SSgt. Christopher Sauter, 325th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, inspects an F-22 Raptor after landing for the first time since Hurricane Michael at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., March 1, 2019. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Alexandre Montes.​

DAYTON, Ohio—The F-22 fleet is turning in a substantially better mission capable rate, but won’t hit the 80 percent level former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said must be met by the end of fiscal 2019.

Brig. Gen. Heath Collins, program executive officer for fighters and bombers, said he would not discuss the F-22’s MC rate numbers, as they are classified. However, “the MC numbers are higher than they’ve ever been,” he told reporters at USAF’s Life Cycle Industry Days here.

Helping the F-22’s rate is the fact that the fleet is flying fewer hours this year, driven both by its withdrawal from the Syria conflict, damage of a number of F-22s in Hurricane Michael at Tyndall AFB, Fla., and limits imposed by an earthquake at JB Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska. Those factors have reduced parts consumption, low observables remediation, and other maintenance needs, Collins noted.

However, the Air Force has also reprogrammed money from other accounts to fill F-22 parts bins and opened a “third bay” at Lockheed Martin’s Marietta, Ga., F-22 maintenance line “seven days a week.” Collins said other measures have been taken to bolster F-22 sustainment, but he did not elaborate.

“We clearly see the benefits” of the additional resources being applied, Collins said, though he could not “speculate” when the F-22 will reach the 80 percent MC mark.

Asked if the Air Force can get a waiver on the MC requirement, Collins said, “We’re in discussions with OSD [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] on the way forward” for F-22.