PENSACOLA NAVAL AIR STATION, Fla. - The U.S. Air Force plans to ground about a third of its active-duty force of combat planes and the U.S. Navy cancelled the rest of the popular Blue Angels' aerobatic team's season because of automatic federal budget cuts.
The Air Force didn't immediately release a list of the specific units and bases that would be affected on Tuesday, but it said it would cover fighters, bombers and airborne warning and control aircraft in U.S., Europe and the Pacific.
A top Air Force leader said the branch would focus its budget and resources on units supporting major missions, like the war in Afghanistan, while other units stand down on a rotating basis.
In a May 29, 2012 file photo, a formation of U.S. Navy Blue Angel fighter jets perform a flyover above graduating Midshipmen during the United States Naval Academy graduation and commissioning ceremonies in Annapolis, Md. The commander of Naval air forces announced on Tuesday that the U.S. Navy has canceled the remainder of the elite Blue Angels demonstration team's 2013 season because of federal cuts.
"The current situation means we're accepting the risk that combat airpower may not be ready to respond immediately to new contingencies as they occur," Gen. Mike Hostage, commander of Air Combat Command at Joint Base Langley-Eustis, said in a statement.
As news trickled out that the Navy had cancelled the remainder of Blue Angels' season, business owners and residents of the coastal enclave where the team is based expressed resignation and disappointment.
"I just think it's sad that there are political games being played. I doubt the Blue Angels are even half of 1 percent of the entire Navy budget," said Lloyd Proctor, co-owner of Blue Angel Hot Tubs in Pensacola. Proctor and his wife named their business after the team 10 years ago.
"They have national name recognition and they are loved by people everywhere," Proctor said Tuesday.