Congress Restores Funding for Combat Flights

Air Force squadrons, grounded by sequester since April, are back in the skies ... for now.

Rich Smith
Rich Smith
Jul 15, 2013 at 10:40PM

At long last, America is flying CAP again.

Air Force and Navy fighter jets returned to the skies Monday, as $1.8 billion in overseas contingency operations funding from Congress restored $423 million needed to pay for aerial operations.

F-22 Raptors training over Wake Island, Source: Air Combat Command

In a statement, Air Combat Command clarified that the funds in question had been previously been cut from its budget because of sequestration. Air Combat Commander Gen. Mike Hostage noted that as a result of these cuts, "since April we've been in a precipitous decline with regard to combat readiness."

The return of funding "reinstates critical training and test operations for the [combat air forces] fleet across the Air Force for the remainder of FY13. This impacts not just Air Combat Command units, but also CAF units assigned to United States Air Forces Europe and Pacific Air Forces." Funding has also been restored for the Air Warfare Center's Weapons School, for Aggressors (U.S. squadrons trained to play the role of "the bad guys" in training missions) and the Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team.

Air Combat Command did not say whether the funds released Monday were related to the $2.3 billion in jet fuel supply contracts awarded to ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM) and other major oil suppliers, announced by the Department of Defense in June. In any event, funds authorized by Congress to reinstate these flight missions will only pay for flights through October 1. After that, and absent new funding, flight time will have to be cut again.