BY TOM BUSSELBERG
HILL AFB – The 4th Fighter Squadron at Hill AFB resumed flights Monday.
About 25 F-16 pilots started flying again, following a stand down due to sequestration that had idled pilots and others in April. In addition, several hundred mechanics and others have been re-activated, said Andrea Mason, of the 388th Fighter Wing public affairs.
The change follows Congressional action to approve $1.8 billion in overseas contingency operations reprogramming funds.
The action involves only federal fiscal year 2013, which ends Sept. 13. “There is still uncertainty in future budgets,” Mason said.
While the return to the sky means a return to crucial training and development for pilots, navigators, flight crews, mission crews and maintainers, the leader of the Air Force’s Combat Air Forces cautioned this is the beginning of a process Р not the end, an Air Force press release said.
“Since April we’ve been in a precipitous decline with regard to combat readiness,” said Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command.
“Returning to flying is an important first step, but what we have ahead of us is a measured climb to recovery,” he said.
The nation depends on the Air Force being there when needed, Hostage said.
“A fire department doesn’t have time to ‘spin up’ when a fire breaks out, and we don’t know where or when the next crisis will break out that will require an immediate Air Force response,” he said.
Budget uncertainty beyond Oct. 1 makes it hard to determine whether a fully combat-ready force can be maintained, Hostage said.
The restoration also means reduced investment in recapitalization and modernization of the combat fleet, he said.
“We can’t mortgage our future,” Hostage said. “America relies on the combat air power we provide and we need to be able to continue to deliver it.”