US Air Force combat aircraft no longer grounded

An F-16 fighter jet flies just 50 feet off the tail of a KC-135 Stratotanker plane from the 22nd Air Refueling Wing at McConnell Air Force Base. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

NORFOLK, Va. (AP) — The U.S. Air Force says many of its combat air forces will start flying again after being grounded since April because of budget cuts.

The grounding affected about one-third of the Air Force’s active-duty combat aircraft, including squadrons of fighters, bombers, and airborne warning and control craft.

Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia said planes in the U.S., Europe and the Pacific would become airborne again starting Monday. The popular Thunderbirds demonstration team will also start flying again.

The Defense Department received authority from Congress to shift about $7.5 billion from lower priority accounts to more vital operations. The Air Force says the restored flying hours represent about $208 million of that allocation authorized by Congress.

The restoration of flying hours will last through Oct. 1.

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