After several months of sequestration-mandated budget cuts ground many of their planes, the Air Force has found a way for most of its combat units to resume flying. Since, you know, they're called the Air Force.
Among the units that are returning to the skies this week are the Thunderbirds, the aerial demonstration team that was forced to cancel several public appearances this summer, after mandatory budget cuts forced the military (and all federal departments) to cut back on spending.
The problem, of course, is that pilots and air crews need practice and all the simulators in the world can't duplicate the training that goes on in the skies. Top Air Force generals had been complaining for weeks that readiness was suffering because of the sequestration, which forced 33 air squadrons, including "combat-coded fighter and intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance units," to stand down back in April. Air Force Chief of Staff Mark Welsh III said in June that, "We can't just all of a sudden accelerate training and catch up. It costs up to 2 1/2 times as much to retrain a squadron as it does to keep it trained." Fortunately, the service found a way to divert funds from less essential accounts so the planes could get off the ground again. Unfortunately, it will still take many more weeks before the affected units are at full strength and readiness once again.