February 26, 2010 (by Asif Shamim) - According to FOX 21 News Duluth's 148th FW will get the first of its replacement block 50 F-16s in April securing the Fighter Wings future.
USAF F-16C block 25 #84-1244 from the 179th FS is caught during a two week deployment to Nellis AFB on October 22nd, 2009 to spend time flying with aggressors. [Photo by EOR]
The existing block 25
airframes are on there way out. The 179th Fighter Squadron having been flying the oldest active F-16s in the country and was one of the Wings considered for closure 5 years ago as part of the BRAC
The F-16s will be transferred to the 148th from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany making the Duluth based fighter wing the first Air National Guard Wing to convert to the block 50
aircraft from active duty Air Force.
The conversion will take approximately 18 to 24 months to be completed.
Now with the updated jets the bases future is secured to 2025 by which time they hope to have upgraded again, to F-35 fighters.
"Approximately 20 of the upgraded F-16s will be delivered to Duluth starting in April," Wing Commander Col. Frank Stokes said.
The Block 50 is a significant upgrade over the 25 in terms of thrust and avionics . But one pilot here who's familiar with both says the biggest difference in the 50 isn't its mechanics, but its mission.
"This airplane we have now, the 25, drops bombs and does air–to–air," said Lt. Col. James Cleet. "The 50 drops bombs, does air–to–air, but also does suppression of enemy air defenses: that's hunting down enemy surface–to–air missiles."
U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar was quoted to have said "The 148th represents an annual 95 million dollar economic benefit to Duluth and the Arrowhead," .
Beyond that, it's recognition for a unit with multiple deployments over the past several years and exemplary service.