Sun, Apr 01, 2012
Lower Operating Costs, Plenty Of Firepower Make For Significant Savings
ANN April 1st Special Edition
The Pentagon on April 1st announced that it has initiated a program to buy up vintage warbirds as part of its effort to comply with mandatory budget cuts imposed by the Obama administration.
The military has set aside an undisclosed sum for the purchase of as many P-51 Mustangs, P-38 Lightnings, and F4-U Corsairs as it can find, and bring them back to military standards. "Even with the cost of purchasing and upgrading the aircraft, the cost is significantly lower than the development of a new airplane," said Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta. "We can operate squadrons of these airplanes for the cost of a single F-35. In most places in the world, they still would be the most capable fighters in the air, and the reduction in maintenance costs will save the U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars."
The move has sparked a surge of applicants to both the Air Force and Navy's aviation program, as pilots line up to get a chance to fly the airplanes they've always dreamed about. "Fly a P-51 or a P-38! Where do I sign up?" said one potential pilot waiting in a line at an Air Force recruiting office that extended around the block. The 50-year-old pilot candidate did admit that he might be a little long in the tooth to be considered, but "I just have to try."
But the applicants also include younger pilots whose fathers and grandfathers flew the airplanes during their time in the service. Pentagon officials said they hoped that the private owners of the aircraft would be willing to sell them back to the government as a patriotic gesture, but they were willing to take them by eminent domain. "This is a matter of national security, as well as a way to get our fiscal house in order," Panetta said. "We'll buy what we can, and take what we have to."
Some owners have reportedly begun quietly moving their vintage warbirds offshore as a way to protect them from the re-acquisition program. Other aircraft targeted for purchase include P-40 Warhawks and UH-1 Huey helicopters.
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