On May 2nd, a Puerto Rico Air National Guard C-130 Hercules transport plane crashed on a highway outside Savannah, Georgia. Details of the accident are scarce, but it appears all
five nine people on board were killed.
That a C-130 crashed and likely led to multiple deaths is a tragedy, but it’s also not a shock. The C-130 has been flying since the late 1950’s, and has about a 5% attrition rate due to crashes and accidents. It’s a sturdy plane, but the frames are old, and the plane can be unwieldy to fly.
This crash is also part of a disturbing uptick in military aircraft accidents in general – one that’s become fodder for conspiracy theories and supposed plots regarding the “deep state.”
The spike in plane crashes has even gotten sucked into the Conspiracy Theory of Everything #QAnon, The person posting as Q has made several cryptic references to a spike in plane crashes being “targeted kills” of military members, and other references to ship accidents being “bigger than you know.”
To be clear, the increase in military aviation accidents is very real, and not a conspiracy theory. From 2013 to 2017, 133 aviators were killed in plane and helicopter crashes. The first third of 2018 has seen 8 accidents involving US military aircraft, including a spike in early April that saw 14 deaths in three weeks.
These accidents have involved planes of all type in every branch of the service. They’ve taken place on land and at sea, in the US and abroad, in standard training and during military operations.
So is this proof of a conspiracy? Is it a public battle for the soul of the military, being fought with sabotage and remote control of planes?
No, it’s not. What it is is proof of an aging military air fleet, a military that’s been on a war footing since 2001, and Congress’ inability to pass a budget.
The Military Times compiled data from every type of military aviation accident since 2011, and found a direct correlation between the Congressional budget war and crashes, writing that “manned warplane accidents have spiked nearly 40 percent since 2013, the year the mandated budget cuts known as sequestration took effect.”
The military classifies aircraft incidents in three classes, from Class A, which is a crash involving a fatality or total aircraft loss, to Class C, where the aircraft is slightly damaged.
Taking incidents of all three classes into account, the results are staggering. The Air Force has seen a seven year high in crashes, the Marine Corps has endured an 80% increase in aircraft incidents in the last five years, and the Navy’s air wing has seen a 108% spike in incidents of all kinds.
Sequestration and short-term funding bills have made it impossible for military planners to make budgets knowing what kind of resources they’ll have. This cuts flight training hours (which have plummeted since 2017), maintenance, parts, the availability of replacement airframes, and crew readiness. Experienced mechanics and technicians retired due to sequestration, and never were replaced.
Beyond that, every service had to massively cut its budget while simultaneously carrying out military action all over the world due to the effort to defeat ISIS, stabilize the Middle East, and respond to aggression in Ukraine, North Korea, and China.
Additionally, many of the mainstay planes of the US armed forces, such as the F/A 18, AH-64 helicopter, and the aforementioned C-130 transport have been in service since the heyday of the Cold War. These are old planes that are nearly the end of their useful life, and no amount of maintenance can turn back the clock on them.
Everyone from rank and file military members to high-ranking officers to members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have been open and public about the crisis that military aviation is facing.
Even so, none of these explanations hold any water to conspiracy theorists. Weaponized plane crashes meant to “take out” enemies of the cabal are a staple of the conspiracy movement, involving everything from the Malaysia Airlines crashes of 2014 to crashes of the Clinton years to the death of John F. Kennedy Jr. in a light plane crash in 1994.
So it’s part and parcel of how conspiracy theorists think to link the spike of military crashes to nefarious and unknown activities by the wealthy elite. They believe that the government is in a massive civil war between the “deep state” and “white hat patriots,” so why wouldn’t plane crashes be a weapon in this war?
But the evidence for that theory is scant, while the evidence for an aging military air fleet afflicted by budget cuts and endless conflict is extremely strong.
5/2 late edit
Military reporter Tara Copp revealed that the C-130 was over 50 years old, and making its last routine flight before being flown to Arizona for disposal.