Costs of war on terror causing pilots to reduce flying hours


RAF MILDENHALL, England — Pilots in U.S. Air Forces in Europe will be flying fewer hours as the command cuts costs to help pay for the global war on terror.

Capt. Alisen Iversen, a deputy public affairs chief for USAFE at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, acknowledged the cut, but gave no details.

“We have made the decision to cut flying hours,” she said in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes, “but the amount will depend on other efficiencies in both our flying program and other [operations and maintenance] programs.”

The Air Force has asked USAFE to absorb $100 million in the current fiscal year for the global war on terror, Iversen wrote. The command has said previously it would reach that goal by cutting communication costs, eliminating unnecessary travel and taking other measures.

Gen. Robert H. “Doc” Foglesong, USAFE commander, was unavailable for an interview to discuss the flying hours issue, Iversen said. No other USAFE officials were available to discuss the reduction of flying hours either, she said.

On the other side of the world, pilots in the Pacific theater are dealing with a $50 million cut in the flight-training program, Gen. Paul Hester told Stars and Stripes recently for a story in the newspaper’s Pacific edition.

“Every command in our Air Force that flies airplanes is taking money out of its flying hour program,” said Hester, Pacific Air Forces commander.

Hester expressed concern that fewer flying hours would degrade pilot skills and affect readiness.

“Obviously, when ... you start taking down specific training flights, you are, in fact, starting to eat away into readiness,” he said in an interview last week in Washington, D.C.

For example, he said, pilots at Misawa Air Base in Japan have lost at least 625 training hours. To reduce the effect of the cuts, he said, priority will be given to PACAF pilots training for “very, very specific” missions — namely, pilots preparing to deploy to Iraq or Afghanistan.

USAFE has yet to specify how it will adjust to reductions.

“We are carefully studying this decision from a readiness and safety standpoint to find the smart way ahead to meet our target savings and yet not reduce the readiness levels of our pilots and aircrews from their ability to perform their assigned missions and to remain combat ready,” Iversen wrote in the e-mail.

“Flight safety will not be affected — safety is always our foremost consideration in all we do.”

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