Six ANG fighter wings to lose 3 F-16s each

The Air Force will move 18 Air National Guard F-16s to backup status in fiscal 2012 — a move that the association that advocates for the National Guard says represents “a further effort to chip away at the Air Guard’s flying mission.”

The decision affects three fighters each at six wings across the country, three of which fly air-sovereignty missions.

“The Air Force remains committed to ensuring the health of its Total Force fighter fleet across the active, reserve and guard components,” service spokesman Lt. Col. Todd Vician wrote in an e-mail.

The Air Force and the National Guard Association of the U.S. disagree on how many airmen will be affected. The post on the association’s website said each wing will lose seven full-time and 106 drill-status maintainers. The Air Force said the result will be a loss of one full-time technician and 76 drill-status guardsmen.

The affected units are the 187th Fighter Wing in Alabama, the 114th Fighter Wing in South Dakota, the 132nd Fighter Wing in Iowa, the 158th Fighter Wing in Vermont, the 140th Tactical Fighter Wing in Colorado and the 115th Fighter Wing in Wisconsin.

National Guard Association of the U.S. spokesman John Goheen said the moves could push out some of the Air Force’s more experienced pilots and maintainers.

“We have the most experienced pilots in the Air Force,” Goheen said in a telephone interview. “We have the most experienced maintainers in the Air Force. We’re cost-effective. So we need to ask the question: Why not rely on us more?”

The affected wings in Colorado, Wisconsin and Vermont fly air-sovereignty missions, intercepting unknown aircraft as they enter American airspace.

“These missions aren’t going away,” Goheen said. “The threat to a nation hasn’t gone away. But how do we perform these missions with fewer aircraft?”

But Vician said the air-sovereignty mission was one of an array of factors the National Guard Bureau considered. Relegating three F-16 aircraft at six bases to backup status was the National Guard Bureau’s preferred course of action, Vician wrote, and the moves shouldn’t affect the ability to use the aircraft in war.



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