Federal budget cuts have forced the U.S. Air Force to ground about a third of its active-duty force of combat planes and the U.S. Navy to cancel the rest of the popular Blue Angels aerobatic team's 2013 season.
The Air Force has not yet released a list of the specific units and bases
that would be affected on Tuesday, but it said it would cover fighters, bombers, and airborne warning and control aircraft in U.S., Europe, and the Pacific, according to CBS News.
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The cuts, which automatically went into effect on March 1, will allow the Air Force to focus its budget on supporting major missions, like the war in Afghanistan, while other units stand down on a rotating basis, a top leader said.
"The current situation means we're accepting the risk that combat airpower may not be ready to respond immediately to new contingencies as they occur," Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, said in a statement.
The affected units will focus on ground missions.
"Even a six-month stand down of units will have significant long-term, multi-year impacts on our operational readiness," Air Combat Command spokesman Maj. Brandon Lingle said
in an email to The Associated Press.
As for the Blue Angels, the aerobatics team's May 27th Naval Academy graduation performance, where President Obama will speak, has been canceled. The six-person pilot team, which has canceled events earlier this year, will maintain minimal hours going forward.
Business owners and residents of the coastal enclave where the Blue Angels are based expressed disappointment with the situation.
"I just think it's sad that there are political games being played. I doubt the Blue Angels are even half of 1 percent of the entire Navy budget," Lloyd Proctor, co-owner of Blue Angel Hot Tubs in Pensacola, told CBS.
The Navy must slash its budget by $4 billion, its share of the $85 billion the military is cutting as a whole. Canceling the Blue Angels' regular season will save the branch an estimated $28 million. The entire Blue Angels program costs about $40 million a year.
Thousands of fans flocks to Pensacola Beach each July to watch the team fly over the white sand and turquoise surf, and the region enjoys a jolt in tourism revenue each year.
Since 1946, the Blue Angels and their acrobatic, high-speed stunts have wowed crowds and helped the Navy with its recruiting.
"Beyond the multimillion-dollar economic impact of their two annual flight shows in Pensacola, the Blue Angels are a fundamental and beloved part of the fabric of our city, and the loss that we feel as a community is beyond measure," Pensacola Mayor Ashton Hayward told Reuters.
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