F-16 Fighting Falcon News

F-16 Fighting Falcon may become endangered species at Hill AFB

September 27, 2004 (by Lieven Dewitte) - Air Force officals are drafting plans to retire as many as half of the approximately 1,200 F-16s in use by the US. It's too early to speculate, but Hill AFB is virtually a parking lot of aging F-16 that would be among the first to go.
The active duty 388th Fighter Wing is composed of 72 block 40 F-16s, built from 1989 to 1991. The Air Force Reserve 419th Fighter Wing flies 15 older block 30 F-16s built between 1986 and 1989.

Several active Air Force wings have the later block 50 models, while the newest F-16s coming off the Lockheed Martin assembly line, block 60, are all being bought by the United Arab Emirates Air Force.

Of course, replacement has to take place at some time and when the times come a fighter wing could replace the 388th with the multirole F-35 Joint Strike Fighter.

The F-35 and the stealth F/A-22 Raptor are the next generation fighter jets. The first training squadron of Raptor pilots recently started in Florida, while the F-35 won't be ready for a test flight until 2006.

Plans to begin phasing out old F-16s have started a political scavenger hunt to find new missions for rusty Falcon units. Besides active and reserve F-16 wings, some state Air Guard units - which traditionally fly the oldest warbirds - have joined a crowded field vying for a piece of the nation's shrinking airpower inventory.

Several factors are driving the retirement plan. Older planes cost more to maintain and money saved by retiring the earliest F-16s could be spent on upgrading newer Falcons.

The F-16 made its combat-operational debut at Hill in 1979.