NAVAL AIR STATION OCEANA, Virginia — The vice chief of naval operations had to see the issues for himself.

Years of flying the jets in combat missions over Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria have put an enormous strain on the Navy’s tactical aircraft, the fleet’s main battle axe in the war on terror. Years of shortages have taken their toll: shortages in spare parts, shortages in personnel, shortages in flight training hours for pilots when they return from deployment.

The result: Today only one in three of the Navy’s F/A-18 Hornets are fully mission capable and ready to fly in combat. Naval aviation is either at or close to its readiness nadir.

What the sailors here told Adm. Bill Moran during a February visit would sound familiar to those who have followed the issue: long waits for spare parts, contracting delays, and the increasingly complex problems associated with maintaining aircraft that have well exceeded their planned flying hours.

The maintainers have been putting processes into place that have been translating into faster turnaround times, but the essential facts have remained static. The Navy will have a hard time making significant headway on readiness until the money from budget plus-ups in 2017, 2018 and a budget deal in 2019 and 2020 start translating into more parts and more up jets.