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Air Force combat aircraft return to skies

NORFOLK, Va. -- Grounded since April because of budget cuts, many of the Air Force's combat aircraft started flying again yesterday as the military reshuffled its spending priorities to get its pilots additional training.

About a third of active-duty combat craft were grounded, including fighters, bombers and airborne warning and control craft. Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia said the order affects planes in the United States, Europe and the Pacific.

"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."

The grounding affected A-10, B-1, E-3, F-15, F-16 and F-22 aircraft, as well as Aggressor and test aircraft. The F-16s of the popular Thunderbirds demonstration team will resume training flights, but all 2013 shows will remain canceled, Air Combat Command said. -- AP

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