December 21, 2010 (by 115 FW) - On October 26, 2010, five pilots from the 176th Fighter Squadron departed the Lockheed Martin factory in Fort Worth, Texas, with five brand-new F-16 block 52 fighters, bound for Pakistan.
Maj. Bart Van Roo, Lt. Col. Doug Read and Maj. Chris Hansen (back row, center), pose with officials from the Pakistani Air Force after delivering three new F-16s to Shahbaz AB on October 30th, 2010. [USAF photo]
They were the second batch of new F-16s being delivered as part of an order of 18 in the Peace Drive program of 2006.
Lt. Col. Doug Read led the five-ship flight, joined by Lt. Col. Charlie Merkel, Majors Chris Hansen and Bart Van Roo, and Captain Jon Hullsiek. Approaching the East Coast, Merkel's jet developed a problem and he and Hullsiek diverted to Burlington, Vermont.
The remaining three aircraft pressed on to Lajes Air Base, Azores, Portugal
, then continued over the next few days to Souda Bay NAS
, Crete, Greece
, and arrived at Shahbaz AB, Pakistan
on October 30. The two diverted jets were eventually returned to Fort Worth for more maintenance and will be delivered with the next two cells.
A large diplomatic gathering met the pilots as they landed at Shahbaz, including Air Marshal Mohammad Hassan, PAF
Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Brig. Gen. Michael Nagata, Deputy Commander of the Office of the Defense Representative to Pakistan.
There was a festive atmosphere for the arrival, complete with a large tent and welcoming party that, according to Lt. Col. Read, "...was a really big deal!" The new Pakistani squadron commander met the Americans and introduced them to the VIPs. A banquet ensued with the Badger pilots sitting at the head table. An official hand-over ceremony for the F-16s followed.
After the banquet, the pilots were airlifted by the Pakistani Air Force to Islamabad for their trip home.
Flight lead Read said he got to know the chief of Flight Operation at DCMA Lockheed when Read made two deliveries to Greece in 2009. When the opportunity came up to deliver these new jets to Pakistan, Read volunteered and had no trouble finding 176 FS
pilots who wanted to join him. Major Van Roo had made one of the trips to Greece, as well.
The trips overseas to deliver new F-16s to our allies certainly give the opportunity to show our friends abroad the capabilities of the Air National Guard, the proficiency and professionalism of our pilots, and some good "face time", as we never know when our respective countries and fighter units may be called upon to serve side-by-side in combat.