November 13, 2008 (by Joachim Jacob) - The Pentagon says the 148th Fighter Wing, the Minnesota Air National Guard at Duluth IAP and their 179th Fighter Squadron "Bulldogs" will keep flying for at least another 10 years.
USAF F-16C block 25 #83-1155 from the 148th FS sporting the newly applied Wing bird markings at Duluth, Minnesota on August 4th, 2007. [USAF photo by SrA. Donald Acton]
As the Duluth News Tribune reported yesterday, the 148th Fighter Wing will replace its older block 25
F-16Cs with newer block 40
F-16Cs in 2013 and they will remain in service until 2018, according to a letter on Monday from Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England to U.S. Senator Norm Coleman. The Block 40s previously were set to be phased out in 2015.
In a September 30th letter to England, Coleman requested block 50
F-16Cs at the earliest possible date and F-35 Lightning II
Joint Strike Fighters for the long term.
England said the U.S. Air Force is also processing alternatives to keep the 148th Fighter Wing flying F-16Cs until 2020.
The 148th Fighter Wing is currently one of 40 bases across the United States as potential destinations for the F-35 program. Receiving the F-35s would ensure that the 148th Fighter Wing, which employs more than 1,000 people, exists beyond 2040.
England replied that no decisions have been made on F-35 destinations.
Some of the unit's aircraft are currently deployed for Operation Iraqi Freedom to the 332nd Air Expeditionary Wing at Joint Base Balad, Iraq