After about three months on the ground, one-third of the Air Force’s combat fleet has received more funding and will start flying again.
Air Combat Command announced today that it has restored $208 million as part of a $1.8 billion reprogramming allocation authorized by Congress. This additional funding will re-instate training and test operations for squadrons in Air Combat Command, along with those assigned to U.S. Air Forces Europe and Pacific Air Forces, including the Air Warfare Center’s Weapons School, aggressors and the Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team, according to ACC.
The funding will only affect operations until the end of the fiscal year. Specific information on the squadrons affected and the amount of flying hours allocated has not yet been released.
“Since April we’ve been in a precipitous decline with regard to combat readiness,” ACC Commander Gen. Mike Hostage said in a release. “Returning to flying is an important first step, but what we have ahead of us is a measured climb to recovery.”
Hostage said that the funding for the return to flight will come at the expense of future capability. This will mean less money will be available to recapitalize and modernize the fleet.
“We are using investment dollars to pay current operational bills, and that approach is not without risk to our long-term effectiveness,” he said. “We can’t mortgage our future. America relies on the combat airpower we provide, and we need to be able to continue to deliver it.”
In April, Air Combat Command announced that 17 combat squadrons will be grounded due to sequestration, along with a drop in readiness for additional squadrons. Sequestration cut the Air Force’s budget for flying hours by $591 million, meaning that the service was forced to distribute 241,496 flying hours across all combat squadrons for the end of the fiscal year. The affected units stood down immediately in April, or on a rolling basis after returning from deployments.