Budget Cuts Ground Combat Aircraft and Blue Angels, Thunderbirds Demo Teams

Mike O'Brien

About a third of the U.S. Air Force’s active-duty combat aircraft were grounded on Tuesday because of automatic spending cuts.

The announcement came as the Navy said it was canceling all the air shows its Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron had scheduled for 2013.

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The Air Force did not specify what bases and units would be affected, but said the grounding involves fighters, bombers and airborne warning and control craft.

Some units began the stand down on Tuesday, while units that include F-16s, F-22s, A-10s and B-1s will be grounded after they return home from their deployments.

Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, said: "We must implement a tiered readiness concept where only the units preparing to deploy in support of major operations like Afghanistan are fully mission capable.

"Units will stand down on a rotating basis so our limited resources can be focused on fulfilling critical missions."

The stand down will affect units stationed in the U.S., Europe and the Pacific, the Associated Press reports.

The Air Force says it must reduce its flying by about 45,000 fewer training hours by Oct. 1 than previously thought necessary.

Gen. Hostage said: "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."

The move follows the Air Force's April 1 announcement that its Thunderbirds display team would not perform again this year.

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In announcing the Navy’s grounding of the Blue Angels Flight Demonstration Squadron, the office of the Commander Naval Air Forces in San Diego said: "Recognizing budget realities, current Defense policy states that outreach events can only be supported with local assets at no cost to the government.

"This is one of many steps the Navy is taking to ensure resources are in place to support forces operating forward now and those training to relieve them."

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