October 25, 2007 (by Asif Shamim) - The Great Falls Tribune recently interviewed a commander with the 120th FW’s Montana's Air National Guard (MANG) who praised the F-16 as having "great manoeuvrability and reliability."
Col. Mike McDonald
Tail detail of USAF F-16C block 30 #86-0321 with markings of the 120th FW. [Photo by Jake Melampy
, an MANG F-16 pilot with the 120th Fighter Wing said the jet was the USAFs "workhorse" in Iraq
flying the vast majority of tactical missions over the battlefield.
Historically and in the current theatre of war, he said, "the F-16 has an excellent safety record given the demanding missions in which it is flown every day" by air forces of the United States and other nations.
The MANG started flying the F-16A/B block 5
models in 1987 until 2000. These airframes were built between 1980 and 1982 and were updated to the ADF
variant in 1991. From 2000 onwards they converted to the block 30
big mouth 'C/D' model airframes which were built between 1987 & 1988.
The 'C' models had 10 percent more thrust, better computer systems and more modern "precision-guided munitions," or bombs that can be guided by optics, laser or infrared, MANG officials said at the time. The changes improved targeting and allowed the MANG unit to be put on a regular rotation of units pulling front-line alerts around the world.
Montana Air Guard officials have been quoted to have said the F-16 is a challenging and rewarding plane to fly; they've even compared its manoeuvrability to that of a fancy sports car. And they've said flying the F-16 has been a big plus in recruiting commercial pilots and retiring active-duty pilots and to join the Guard for part-time flying.
As part of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC
) the Montana Air Guard will convert to the F-15 Eagle when they receive 18 jets from the Missouri Air Guard. The F-16s from the MANG will go to other Guard units. Original plans from the Pentagon before the BRAC reversal was for the unit to lose its flying mission all together. The conversion to the Eagle will allow the MANG to continue to fly till 2025.