Budget cuts ground Air Force combat aircraft

Virginia Beach, Va. – The United States Air Force announced Tuesday that they have begun standing down active duty combat units as a result of cuts to the command’s operations and maintenance account.

The decision affects about one-third of the active-duty Combat Air Forces aircraft, including those assigned to fighter, bomber, aggressor and airborne warning and control squadrons stationed in the United States, Europe and the Pacific.

According to the USAF, the cuts must be implemented in part by flying approximately 45,000 fewer training hours than scheduled between now and the end of fiscal year 2013 on October 1st, barring any changes in funding.

While most units began standing down immediately on Tuesday, some units that are currently deployed, including A-10s, B-1s, F-16s and F-22s, will stand down following their deployments.

Active-duty aircrews assigned to Air Force Reserve or Air National Guard A-10 or F-16 squadrons under an arrangement known as “active associations,” will also stop flying.

Units standing down will shift their focus to ground training, using flight simulators to the extent possible within academic contracts, and conducting academic training to maintain basic skills and knowledge of their aircraft.

“This will have a significant and multi-year impact on our operational readiness, but right now, there is no other acceptable way to implement these cuts,” said Gen. Mike Hostage, ACC commander, in a statement released by the Air Force on Tuesday.

The Air Force says it generally takes 60 to 90 days to conduct the training needed to return aircrews to mission-ready status, and the time and cost associated with retraining increases the longer crews stay on the ground.

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