The Thunderbirds demonstration team will likely not perform again until early 2014 because of budget cuts that have grounded pilots since April.
Many Air Force combat aircraft that have been grounded since April because of budget cuts will soon begin flying again, the military announced Monday.
The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and 16 Air Force squadrons will begin training flights, military officials announced.
Still the Thunderbirds' popular aerial demonstrations remain canceled for all of 2013. An Air Force official told NBC News the team is “not show-ready.”
The Air Force says it can take up to six months for some air units to be mission- or show-ready. The resumption of training means shows may be able to begin in early 2014.
Military officials also hope the 16 squadrons grounded by the budget cuts will be combat ready by the end of this year or the early part of 2014.
"Since April we've been in a precipitous decline with regard to combat readiness," Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command, said in a statement. "Returning to flying is an important first step, but what we have ahead of us is a measured climb to recovery."
About one-third of active-duty aircraft were grounded by the so-called sequester cuts, including fighter jets, bombers and reconnaissance aircraft.
Officials at Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis in Virginia said in a statement that Monday’s announcement affects planes in the U.S., Europe and the Pacific.
With flights grounded, pilots have struggled to maintain proficiency levels that would allow them to maintain mission-ready status. With the resumption of training missions, Air Force officials hope to reverse course and begin to get more pilots prepared for military action.
And like the Thunderbirds, the Navy's Pensacola, Fla.-based Blue Angels will likely not resume air shows in 2013, according to a Navy official.
Pilots have been flying to maintain a minimum level of proficiency, the official said.
First published July 15 2013, 4:09 PM