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The Bombers Are Back

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B1 Bombers are again taking to the skies over the Black Hills after the budget sequester grounded most training flights.

Air force officials say a move by congress made peacetime dollars available for training operations.

But military officials add that the funding picture is still unclear for the next fiscal year which begins in October.

Major Carrie Kessler  at Air Combat Command in Virginia says the grounding of B1’s that happened during the sequester was not an effort to save money.  Rather it was an attempt by the Air Force to keep from going into debt.

“The money just wasn’t there to be able to fly.  But, now do to some re-programming of money from different areas we were able to buy back some of those hours to get back to our combat readiness,” says Kessler.

B1 crews need to fly a minimum number of training hours to maintain combat ready status.

Major Kessler says now that crews are back in full force it will still take time to make up for lost training hours. 

“Combat readiness is not a light switch that we can turn on and off.  And, reversing that degradation of readiness over the past three months will certainly require considerable time, a lot of effort and expense,” says Kessler.

Base officials say B1’s fly an average of 180 training hours per month.  At a cost of $43,000 per flight hour that amounts to a potential savings of more than $23-million dollars during the three months Ellsworth B1’s stayed on the ground.

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