January 4, 2008 (by Asif Shamim) - While on a visit to Minnesotas Duluth ANG air base on Thursday, Senator Amy Klobuchar focused on the issues facing the base in relation to the replacement of the F-16s of the 148th FW.
Two USAF F-16A ADFs assigned to the 148th FW fly a refueling mission in support of Operation Noble Eagle on May 15th, 2002.
"As you know, there are concerns about the planes being phased out and whether they’ll be replaced," she told an audience of mostly veterans in Duluth. "We continue to press the Air Force to maintain the readiness of the air base. It’s important that we keep that base and maintain that base."
Klobuchar went on to say she and Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman had held meetings with the Air National Guard to discuss the future of the aircraft.
"We did at least get some commitment for some planes coming in, but we want an even bigger commitment and we’ll continue working on that through the year," she said.
A spokesperson from the airbase Audra Flanagan said senator Klobuchar was hoping to secure new aircraft for the base before 2014. It's been a challenge to get new planes to the base because of their availability, Flanagan said.
Back in May 2007, a joint statement issued via the senators said the Air Force had agreed to upgrade the base's block 25
F-16 fighter jets to block 40
F-16s by 2013.
"While we were assured the 148th Fighter Wing is on track to receive upgraded aircraft, I still have concerns about the Block 40 F-16 representing a long-term solution," said Coleman. "In 2013, we cannot be put into a situation where we need yet another upgrade."
Getting new planes is crucial to the base's viability, Flanagan said. Without them, "we would ultimately close. That's what we do. We fly and maintain aircraft." She went on to say a lot of other states are also competing for the same aircraft.