Air Force’s Thunderbirds resuming training flights

The Air Force grounded one-third of its active-duty aircraft in April as it cut 45,000 training hours in order to grapple with budget shortfalls due to sequestration.

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The Pentagon’s $7.5 billion reprogramming request, which was approved with minor changes by the four congressional defense committees, added funds into the military’s operations and maintenance accounts that were facing the largest shortfalls.

The Air Force said that $208 million of the reprogramming request was going toward additional Air Force flying hours.

“Since April we’ve been in a precipitous decline with regard to combat readiness,” Gen. Mike Hostage, chief 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.”

Sachel Seabrook, a spokeswoman for Air Combat Command, said that 16 squadrons, including fighters, bombers and airborne warning and control aircraft, had been cleared to begin flying again after the reprogramming was approved.

The Pentagon has warned that military readiness is at risk if sequestration is not averted, pointing to the training cuts that have been made to deal with the cuts. In addition to the $37 billion cut to the 2013 defense budget, the Pentagon is facing a $52 billion reduction of its 2014 budget proposal. 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned in a letter to lawmakers last week that the cuts threaten "to leave the country without the ready forces needed to fight effectively."

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