FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) The United States Air Force announced Tuesday morning that the Fort Wayne Air National Guard Base will be getting 18 F-16 Fighting Falcons to replace the A-10C Thunderbolt jets currently flown there.
The announcement was made Tuesday morning during a news conference held at the headquarters of the 122nd Fighter Wing.
The news conference addressed concerns related to Defense Secretary’s Chuck Hagel’s proposal last month that would eliminate the A-10 as a means of trimming the defense budget.
That proposal called for the A-10s to be replaced by F-35 Joint Strike fighters.
The Air Force on Tuesday proposed replacing the A-10s with F-16s.
The wing will receive 18 F-16s, plus a spare. They should arrive sometime in the next three to five years.
Last month, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel proposed eliminating the A-10 aircraft, U-2 spy planes, shrinking the army to its smallest size in 74 years and reducing some military benefits. This would save about $75 billion over the next two years.
“With the president’s budget and the return of the F-16s to Fort Wayne Air Guard Base, I’m relieved,” said Congressman Marlin Stutzman.
It’s too soon to tell whether military benefits will be affected. However, according to Adjutant Major General Martin Umbarger, with many of its airmen working around the world and returning on the weekends, this base is the most cost-effective.
“We are the solution if you will for the challenges that our nation has to be able to maintain the capacity to defend our nation against all these threats but also at an affordable cost,” said Major General Umbarger.
The 122nd Fighter Wing previously flew the F-16 at Fort Wayne from 1991 until 2010 when it was replaced by the A-10C.
Returning to the F-16 allows the 122nd to remain in fighters until the unit can vie for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. Col. David Augustine, 122nd Fighter Wing Commander, said, “Our strategic goal remains to bring the JSF to Fort Wayne. Although we’ll hate to see our A-10s depart, this is the right mission at the right time to bridge us to the Joint Strike Fighter! Our rich history in the F-16 will once again return.”
The base hopes to eventually fly the F-35s in about ten years.