12/02/11 — SJAFB's F-15E Demo team cut

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SJAFB's F-15E Demo team cut

By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on December 2, 2011 1:46 PM

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News-Argus file photo

The F-15E Strike Eagle Demonstration Team, seen in this file photo taken at the 2009 Wings Over Wayne air show, was grounded for the 2012 season Thursday at the annual International Council of Air Shows convention in Las Vegas.

Their heavy metal intro has been silenced.

The pass they dedicate to the men and women currently fighting overseas will no longer unfold.

They won't be one of the acts children revere after looking skyward and seeing them streak by.

At least, not in 2012.

Air Force officials confirmed Thursday that the 4th Fighter Wing F-15E Strike Eagle Demonstration Team has been grounded for the upcoming air show season -- a decision made in light of continuing federal budget woes.

"We face significant fiscal constraints and are making tough decisions about the best ways to continue providing combat air power to warfighting commanders, which is what we do as the Air Force's primary force provider," reads a statement from Air Combat Command obtained by the News-Argus. "One decision we've made is to sponsor one single-ship demonstration team for the 2012 air show season, scaling back from the six teams we've historically sponsored."

Reducing the number of single-ship teams -- a single-ship team is a team that consists of only one aircraft displaying its capabilities -- will allow the Air Force to reallocate more than 900 sorties to its fighter wings, a move that will maximize flying hours for combat readiness training and provide an increase in more than 25 combat-ready fighter pilots.

"That's a very good thing for our nation and wise stewardship of our limited resources," the statement read.

The Seymour Johnson Air Force Base team is only one of those that has been cut.

The East and West Coast A-10 and F-16 teams were also put on the chopping block -- leaving only the F-22 Demonstration Team and Thunderbirds to represent -- and recruit for -- the Air Force.

And while countless fighter pilots and weapon systems officers who have spoken with the News-Argus over the years said going to an air show and watching jets fly was a turning point for them, that it sold them on a future in the skies, officials are not too concerned about what the cuts could do to recruiting efforts.

"The opportunity to showcase our aircrew at air shows around the country is important, and we're confident our Thunderbirds, F-22 Demonstration Team and the Air Force Heritage Flight Foundation will continue highlighting the extraordinary work of all our airmen," the statement read.