While the Navy spent big over the past 20 years on experimental mine hunting technology that may never work, it stopped investing in its mine-hunting Sea Dragon helicopters, which have spent the better part of a year grounded due to mechanical problems after a series of deadly accidents. Now the service is trying to play catch-up. The Sea Dragon's troubles are a symptom of a much larger problem: America's military aircraft have been flown hard during 15 years of combat in the Middle East, and nearly all of their next-generation replacements are years behind schedule and millions over budget. The result: Much of the nation's fleet is flying far longer than planned and in need of critical maintenance to keep them going. Their investigation found that the United State's Marine and Navy aircraft fleet has dismal readiness rates, as evidenced in an internal report obtained by the IRP and Virginian-Pilot. They examine what effect this has on our military's ability to counter the threat of sea mines.