US & Canada

Budget-grounded US combat planes back in the air

The US Air Force Thunderbirds perform at the Indianapolis Air Show on 22 June 2012
Image caption The Thunderbirds demonstration team will be among units back in action

The US Air Force says combat units that were grounded in April over deep budget cuts will return to flight.

Air Combat Command said affected planes in the US, Europe and the Pacific, about a third of all combat aircraft, would be airborne again on Monday.

The Thunderbirds demonstration team, the equivalent of the British Red Arrows, will also start flying again.

The move comes after Congress allowed the Pentagon to shift $1.8bn (£1.1bn) from lower priority accounts.

The cuts are part of the series of deficit reduction measures that began to take effect on 1 March.

About $85bn in across-the-board cuts for the fiscal year were divided roughly in half between military and domestic programmes.

It is unclear, however, if the affected planes will be grounded again after 1 October, the beginning of a new fiscal year.

Air Force General Mike Hostage said in a statement: "This decision gets us through the next several months, but not the next several years."

Previously, Gen Hostage said aircraft would be grounded on a rotating basis to focus on "fulfilling critical missions".

Earlier this year, the Pentagon announced layoffs of 46,000 temporary employees in response to the budget pressures.

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