An Air Force F-15E Strike Eagle taxis to the runway at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, in July. Air Combat Command announced Wednesday that it's grounding some of its fleet because of the government shutdown. (Airman 1st Class Brittany A. Chase / Air Force)
Air Combat Command is grounding aircraft that are not immediately training to deploy, officials said Wednesday. The stand down is because of the government shutdown, the command said.
About 75 percent of the command’s civilian employees have been furloughed, and so the 25 percent remaining are focusing on missions that absolutely need to be accomplished, ACC spokesman Lt. Col. Tadd Sholtis said.
The aircrews will fly “if you need to prepare to deploy,” Sholtis said. That means crews preparing to deploy between now and mid-January “need to be training at full, combat mission ready levels,” he said.
ACC does not have a set list yet of all the squadrons affected by the stand down. All bases will continue to have one squadron flying, except for Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, which will only see foreign jets flying during the stand down while one of its F-15E squadrons is deployed.
The stand down order comes about three months after ACC lifted the grounding of 17 combat-coded squadrons due to sequestration. That stand down similarly allowed only squadrons about to deploy to keep flying at a full mission capable rate.
ACC has not said if additional squadrons would fly at a reduced rate under the current guidance.
In addition, ACC said that flying training units whose students are needed immediately for “operational taskings” — F-22, MC-12 Liberty and remotely piloted aircraft squadrons — are still flying, Sholtis said.
ACC has 7,500 civilians furloughed, with the remaining 2,500 exempt.
“There continues to be a high demand for combat airpower during the shutdown, and unfortunately we have fewer people supporting only moderately reduced operations,” Sholtis said in an e-mail. “Should the current shutdown persist, we may need to bring additional personnel back to work in order to continue to support operational requirements.”
The grounding was first reported by Foreign Policy.