October 14, 2008 (by Lt. Greta Lewis) - The New York Air National Guard's 174th Fighter Wing said goodbye to two F-16 fighter jets as they left Hancock Field Air National Guard Base, today.
The first F-16C block 30 #85-1547 taxis out to the runway for takeoff from Hancock Field ANGB. Two F-16 fighter jets left Hancock Field, and will find a new home at Edwards AFB. This signifies the 174th FW's transition to the MQ-9 Reaper mission.
The jets head off to their new home at Edwards Air Force Base, California, as the unit began its transition to a new mission flying unmanned aircraft.
"It is a bittersweet day for the 174th Fighter Wing. We are sad to see the first departures of the F-16 fighter jets that we have loved flying for the past 19 years, but are excited to open a new chapter of combat aviation with the coming MQ-9 Reaper mission, said Col. Charles Dorsey, the wing's vice commander.
The takeoff of these two jets is the first significant step towards the 174th Fighter Wing's changeover to the new MQ-9 Reaper mission, Dorsey said.
The Reaper is an unmanned aerial vehicle, similar to the Predator in use in both Iraq and Afghanistan. While the Reaper is capable of gathering intelligence, and conducting surveillance and reconnaissance like the Predator, it also capable of attacking targets in a hunter-killer mode.
The transition from flying manned F-16Cs to operating the MQ-9 is expected to take 18 months. More aircraft will depart the base as the transition goes forward. The 174th has operated the F-16C since 1988. Fighters from Hancock Field Air National Guard Base flew missions during the 1991 Persian Gulf War and this summer provided air cover for troops in Iraq.
The 174th Fighter Wing deployed F-16C fighter jets to Southwest Asia in June of this year in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
The Wing recently deployed more than 190 personnel as part of an aviation package. The full 174th aviation package included support personnel and aircraft that as part of the Air Expeditionary Force (AEF
) cycle 3-4.
The 174th FW was formed on October 28, 1947 as the 138th Fighter Squadron. The 138th FS
was the first post-WWII Air National Guard flying unit in New York State. The unit flew P-47D Thunderbolts and was based at the former Army Air Force facilities at Hancock Field.