April 8, 2010 (by Kent Harris) - The 480th Fighter Squadron will soon be flying again in the skies over Europe.
480th FS patch [Ronald Zuiderwijk Collection]
Faced with the loss of nearly one-half its F-16s due to Air Force cost-saving measures, Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, plans to inactivate the 22nd and 23rd Fighter Squadrons and create a single, larger squadron, according to 2nd Lt. Kathleen Polesnak, a 52nd Fighter Wing spokeswoman.
That squadron will be the 480th — dubbed the Warhawks — whose exploits in Europe date back to World War I.
The 81st Fighter Squadron, which flies A-10s, will also remain on base. In all, 18 of the base’s 42 F-16s will depart.
The first F-16s are set to leave April 15, with the remainder likely gone by the end of May, Polesnak said.
The move is part of an Air Force initiative announced last May in which the service plans to retire 250 fighters around the globe and save $3.5 billion over the next six years. The plan is supposed to free up more money to purchase next-generation fighter jets: the F-22 and F-35.
Retiring 134 F-16s, 112 F-15s and a handful of A-10s would also allow the service to stand up another B-52 bomber wing and upgrade remaining fighters with newer technology. About 4,000 airmen around the globe are expected to be affected by the moves.
Polesnak said about 500 airmen at Spangdahlem would be shifted to other units on base or head to other bases. The base population isn’t expected to shrink much, because other airmen would be brought in to fill vacant positions in various organizations, she said.
The F-16s leaving Spangdahlem will join the 148th Fighter Wing of the Air National Guard in Duluth, Minn. Jets that are currently based there are older and will be retired.
Five F-15Cs based at RAF Lakenheath, England, are headed to Montana as part of the Air Force plan. Capt. Alysia Harvey said two were set to leave Wednesday, with the others departing in May.