Fighter Units in Europe Feel Sequester’s Squeeze

Nearly half of the Air Force’s fighter squadrons in Europe halted flying operations last month as a result of budget sequestration’s funding cuts, announced US Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa officials. The cuts will last through the remainder of the fiscal year, states the command’s April 30 release. Flying hours for two-and-a-half squadrons were reduced to zero, leaving three-and-a-half squadrons to fulfill the command’s missions, according to the release. “Units preparing to deploy in support of major ongoing operations will remain fully mission capable,” said Lt. Gen. Tom Jones, USAFE-AFA vice commander. He added, “The risk we face is that combat airpower may not be ready to respond to unforeseen contingencies and crises when called upon.” Over time, the erosion of proficiency and currency of the fighter pilots, the weapons system operators, and the maintainers in these units is an additional concern, states the release. The standdown will also reduce Air Force participation in NATO missions. The command’s C-130 and KC-135 units are also affected, but to a lesser extent. (See also Active Duty Combat Units Begin Standdown.)