Grounded Air Forces planes OK'd to fly again after budget cuts halted training

Third of combat craft had been pulled earlier due to budget cuts
2013-07-16T00:00:00Z Grounded Air Forces planes OK'd to fly again after budget cuts halted trainingStaff and wire reports Arizona Daily Star
July 16, 2013 12:00 am  • 

Grounded since April because of budget cuts, many of the Air Force's combat aircraft, including some at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, started flying again as the military reshuffled its spending priorities to get its pilots additional training.

The grounding affected about one-third of active-duty combat craft, including squadrons of fighters, bombers, and airborne warning and control craft.

Among those grounded were 24 A-10C Thunderbolt aircraft with the 354th Fighter Squadron stationed at the Tucson base. Base officials said Monday the planes will resume flying today.

Officials at Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia said the order affects planes in the U.S., Europe and the Pacific.

"Since April we've been in a precipitous decline with regard to combat readiness," Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command, said in a statement. "Returning to flying is an important first step, but what we have ahead of us is a measured climb to recovery."

The Air Force has said it generally takes 60 to 90 days to conduct the training needed to return air crews to mission-ready status. For the past several months, many pilots have been using simulators to try to keep their skills sharp.

The grounding affected A-10, B-1, E-3, F-15, F-16 and F-22 aircraft, as well as various Aggressor and test aircraft. In the U.S., the affected aircraft were stationed at bases in Alaska, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Utah and Virginia.

The popular Thunderbirds demonstration team, which flies F-16s, also will resume training flights, but all 2013 shows will remain canceled, said Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis, an Air Combat Command spokesman.

The ability for the Air Force to get its planes airborne again comes after the Defense Department was authorized by Congress to shift about $7.5 billion from lower priority accounts to more vital operations.

The Air Force said the restored flying hours represent about $208 million of that allocation authorized by Congress. In part, that funding comes reducing spending on modernizing the fleet.

Some Republicans applauded the move by the Air Force while accusing the president of playing politics with the defense budget.

"If recent reprogramming measures can put our pilots back in the air, I fully expect the Air Force can also find a way to also end furloughs for this fiscal year," U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., said in a statement. "Today's announcement proves the military's pain from sequester could have been mitigated all along had my bill to give flexibility to the Department of Defense been rightfully considered."

The restoration of flying hours will last through Oct. 1, when the new federal budget year begins.

"This decision gets us through the next several months but not the next several years," Hostage said. "Budget uncertainly makes it difficult to determine whether we'll be able to sustain a fully combat-ready force."

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Activate
Get weekly ads via e-mail

Follow the Arizona Daily Star

Deals, offers & events

View more...

Crystal Clean Estimates

Call today for an estimate!

Restore that million dollar view

Call Crystal Clean today!