The US Navy’s commander of Naval Air Forces is sending a dire warning to Congress this week over the rampant cannibalisation of its fighter fleet could threaten the service’s ability to go to war.

In order to get its fighter squadrons to carriers, the navy is transferring hundreds of parts from its non-deployed squadrons, decreasing those aircraft’s ability to respond to the call of duty if needed.

"At the beginning of October, in our Super Hornet community alone, only half of our total inventory of 542 aircraft were flyable, or mission capable,” Vice Adm Mike Shoemaker states in a written testimony to lawmakers this week. “Only 170 or 31% of the total inventory were fully mission capable and ready to 'fight tonight.'"

Half of the navy’s Super Hornets were mission capable, meaning the aircraft were not ready for full combat but could perform some missions such as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, a navy spokesman tells FlightGlobal. Only 31% were fully mission capable and could perform any mission, including combat.

The problem is most acute with the navy’s Super Hornet and Hornet inventory. While the service’s EA-18G Growlers have the same airframe, the aircraft are newer than the F/A-18s and require fewer parts replacements at this time, a spokesman says.