Navy Cancels Super Hornet Demonstration Amid Aviation Budget Shortfall

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An F/A-18 Hornet from the East Coast Super Hornet Demonstration Team assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 takes off at the 2011 Naval Air Station Oceana Air Show. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Antonio P. Turretto Ramos)
An F/A-18 Hornet from the East Coast Super Hornet Demonstration Team assigned to Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 106 takes off at the 2011 Naval Air Station Oceana Air Show. (U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Antonio P. Turretto Ramos)

The Navy's F/A-18 Super Hornet Demonstration Team is pulling out of a scheduled air show performance that was set to kick off this weekend as the service grapples with an aviation budget shortfall.

Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA-)106 won't perform at the National Cherry Festival Air Show in Traverse City, Michigan, which starts on Saturday and runs through July 6. The event was one of at least five performances the demonstration squadron was scheduled to fly in through fiscal year 2019, which ends on Sept. 30.

"Naval aviation faces a budget shortfall, and is considering mitigation options to address it," Cmdr. Ron Flanders, a spokesman for Naval Air Forces, told Military.com. "... The rest of the schedule is up for consideration until we make our final determination."

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On Wednesday, the squadron announced on its Facebook page that all remaining 2019 demonstrations would be canceled, citing the need to train the next generation of Super Hornet pilots.

"As the East Coast Super Hornet Fleet Replacement Squadron, the mission of VFA-106 is to provide the fleet with superbly trained replacement aircrew to support fleet readiness," the post states. "This mission will always take priority over displaying the remarkable Super Hornet across the country.

"... We appreciate all the support that you have shown us this year," it adds. "We remain optimistic that we will return to the air show circuit in 2020."

But Flanders said no shows other than the National Cherry Festival Air Show performance have officially been canceled.

"Nothing has been decided at this juncture," he said. "The Navy continues to consider options to best manage our resources and costs for the remainder of the fiscal year."

USNI News reported this week that naval aviation faces a budget shortfall of at least $100 million, and could lead to Navy officials cutting flight hours, shutting down an air wing, reducing helicopter operations, and stopping additional flyovers.

A Navy official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity since budget reviews are ongoing, said the service's priorities are often reevaluated at the end of each fiscal year.

"This sort of thing is an every-year type thing where, due to operational tempo or unforeseen things, the Navy has to kind of take a mid-year review and ... often times reshuffle and balance out these things," the official said.

Flanders stressed that naval aviation -- including its strike-fighter community -- remains at its highest readiness levels in more than a decade. The aviation community is meeting its operational requirements, he added.

"We constantly look for ways to deliver on that," Flanders said, "and we continue to consider specific steps to best manage our resources and costs."

VFA-106 is scheduled for four more performances this fiscal year, according to the website AirshowStuff. That includes a July 13 performance in Toledo, Ohio; one in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, on Aug. 17; a show in Cleveland on Aug. 31; and one at Naval Air Station Oceana, Virginia, on Sept. 21.

-- Gina Harkins can be reached at gina.harkins@military.com. Follow her on Twitter @ginaaharkins.

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