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Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Sequester Grounds a Third of U.S. Air Force Combat Aircraft

By Woodrow Bellamy III

U.S. Air Force officials are grounding about one-third of active-duty combat aircraft as a result of the automatic federal budget cuts known as sequestration implemented in March.

(B1-B Lancer. Photo, courtesy of Boeing.)

The spending cuts will reduce the Air Combat Command's (ACC) operations and maintenance accounts by about 45,000 flying hours, according to the Air Force News Service. The aircraft impacted by the cuts include those assigned to fighter, bomber, aggressor and airborne warning and control squadrons stationed in the U.S., Europe and the Pacific.

ACC Commander Mike Hostage said that only the units preparing to deploy in support of "major operations like Afghanistan" will be fully mission capable. Units that are currently deployed, such as A-10 Thunderbolt lls, B-1 Lancers and F-22 Raptors will stop flying when they return from their deployments.

"Historically, the Air Force has not operated under a tiered readiness construct because of the need to respond to any crisis within a matter of hours or days," said Hostage. "The current situation means we're accepting the risk that combat airpower may not be ready to respond immediately to new contingencies as they occur."

Aircrews that are currently assigned to the Air National Guard A-10 and F-16 squadrons will also stop flying. The grounding of the aircraft will remain in effect for the remainder of fiscal year 2013, which concludes Sept. 30.

Related: Sequestration News: FAA Delays ATC Tower Closings

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