4th Fighter Wing officially confirms stand down
By Kenneth Fine
Published in News on April 12, 2013 1:46 PM
The 4th Fighter Wing confirmed this morning that the 336th Fighter Squadron was ordered to stand down in accordance with Air Combat Command's Tiered Readiness Plan.
And the wing's commander, Col. Jeannie Leavitt, said the move would have "a significant impact on the wing's overall operational readiness and ability to support contingencies around the world."
"Combat skills and proficiency are perishable and take time to be regained," she said. "Fighter aviation is a highly demanding endeavor and there is no room for error."
On average, fighter crews lose that proficiency after 60 days of not flying.
But when an entire squadron stops flying, it takes approximately 90 days of training to return it to combat mission ready status.
"Although the simulators are good training devices, they cannot replace real world flying," Leavitt said. "Aircrews must fly actual missions in the air to build their experience and increase their combat skills. Simulators alone cannot produce combat mission ready aircrew."
According to a news release from the 4th, the stand down will remain in effect for the remainder of the year, barring any changes to current levels of funding.
It had been widely speculated for the last several weeks that the 4th Fighter Wing's two operational fighter squadrons, the 335th Chiefs and 336th Rocketeers, would be hit hard when the branch reduced flying hours across the board to save money under the recent budget cuts forced upon them by the government-wide quagmire that began in March.
But it was not until late Tuesday evening that Air Combat Command's top officer made the grounding of the 336th official.
ACC Commander Gen. Mike Hostage, the man charged with managing the flying-hour programs for four major commands, said the decision to stand down or curtail operations would affect about one-third of the active-duty "CAF aircraft" -- those assigned to fighter, bomber, aggressor and airborne warning and control squadrons -- stationed in the United States, Europe and the Pacific.
And he admitted that such drastic measures are, quite simply, unprecedented -- that they could weaken the nation's ability to respond to new threats as they emerge across the world.