Battleland

Grounded: Blue Angels and Thunderbirds

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Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson / USAF

You knew that was coming, right? Just didn’t think the Navy and Air Force would have enough sense of humor about it to make it effective April 1.

The Air Force Thunderbirds, here, are the precision flyboys who put their F-16s through amazing maneuvers and thrill aviation fans around the country each year. The Navy’s Blue Angels, here, do the same thing in their F-18s. (Somehow, it’s just not gonna be the same in a decade when they’re both flying F-35s…assuming the Air Force can’t spare some F-22s).

Alas, it also costs about $10 million annually to keep the Thunderbirds flying – money the Air Force says it doesn’t have, seeing as the military has to cut $43 billion – about 8% — from its budget between now and Oct 1. And that $10 million doesn’t include salaries and the cost of flying (the Air Force says it does include “airlift, travel, marketing, life support, and other operating expenses”).

“The implementation of across-the-board cuts in federal spending has caused the curtailment of the Thunderbirds 2013 show schedule,” the Thunderbirds say on their website. “Effective April 1, all of the team’s performances have been cancelled.”

The Thunderbirds planned to fly at more than 60 demonstrations at 38 locations between March and November. Lieutenant Colonel Greg Moseley, chief Thunderbirder, says the squadron’s mission will continue, even though the 130-person team will not be travelling after March.

“Sequestration temporarily limits our ability to travel, but it doesn’t stop us from reaching out within our community to tell the Air Force story,” he told his public-affairs officer, Major Darrick Lee. “We still have an obligation to educate people about our great Air Force and the incredible things our Airmen do.”

Both precision flying teams are nifty recruiting tools, even if only a fraction of a sliver of a slice of Air Force and Navy personnel actually pilot aircraft.

But grounding the six-plane Thunderbird fleet does free up 1,520 flights for combat training, Air Force officials say. It takes 36 such flights to make a garden-variety basic pilot combat-ready.

Bottom line: 42 more Air Force pilots good to go to war because of the Thunderbird grounding.

6 comments
dodgegirl69
dodgegirl69

Savings for sequestering Thunderbirds $10 million

Price for Obamas Africa vacation..$100 million.

I didn't vote for him.

richard40
richard40

Its all part of Obamas cynical and dishonest anti sequester plan, a variation of the Washington Monument strategy.  Make sure anything the public sees and likes is cut first, so they can continue to hide the waste that the public does not see, and does not want.  There is no way the USAF could not find some waste somewhere to cut instead of a program that is enjoyed and loved by thousands of citizens.  When I stop hearing about massive contractor fraud, gov employees going on expensive trips, viewing porn on gov time, having "training" sessions that indoctrinate gov employees in leftist identity politics, and expensive gov movie studios making star trek paradies, then and only then will I buy that the thunderbirds are the only thing left we can cut.

bell.paul
bell.paul

Secretary of State John Kerry announced Sunday that the United States would provide $250 million in assistance to Egypt after Egypt's president promised to move ahead with negotiations with the International Monetary Fund over economic reforms.

pcandreva
pcandreva

Two questions:

Can the USN or USAF definitively say how many new recruits were signed up as a consequence of their flight demonstration teams and what the cost per recruit is compared to other recruiting devices?

Do Blue Angels or Thunderbird pilots distinguish themselves in aerial combat at rates higher than the rest of the service's pilots?

If the answers to those two questions are not overwhelming, I have to ask why we keep them.

Don_Bacon
Don_Bacon

So sequestration is increasing military readiness, in this case.

jkappel1014
jkappel1014

Realistically, it won't be that different in a few years. Both the Blue Angels and Thunderbirds flew the F-4 Phantoms for years. Not to nitpick just saying. 

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