F-16 Fighting Falcon News

USAF proposal aims to eliminate 250 fighter jets

May 20, 2009 (by Kent Harris) - Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany would lose 18 F-16s and possibly one of its three fighter squadrons in a plan the Air Force announced Tuesday to eliminate about 250 fighter jets from its inventory.

USAF Spangdahlem based F-16C block 50s in formation [USAF photo]

The move, tied to the service’s desire to free up more money for next-generation aircraft and unmanned aerial vehicle operations, would save $355 million in fiscal 2010 and $3.5 billion over the next five years, according to an Air Force news release.

"We have a strategic window of opportunity to do some important things with fighter aircraft restructuring," Secretary of the Air Force Michael B. Donley was quoted as stating in the release. "By accepting some short-term risk, we can convert our inventory of legacy fighters and F-22s into a smaller, more flexible and lethal bridge to fifth-generation fighters like the F-35."

The service would retire 112 F-15s, 134 F-16s and three A-10s under the Combat Air Forces proposal. Five additional fighter aircraft already had been designated to go out of service in the next fiscal year, which begins in October.

The Air Force has three bases with fighter squadrons in Europe: Spangdahlem, Aviano in Italy and RAF Lakenheath in England. Aviano was not listed among bases that would lose aircraft under the proposal, but Lakenheath would have six fewer F-15s.

The 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem currently has about 42 F-16CJs, according to information provided in the release. The 81st Fighter Squadron flies A-10 Thunderbolt IIs. The F-16s are flown by the 22nd Fighter Squadron and 23rd Fighter Squadron. A loss of 43 percent of the jets might indicate the loss of one of the squadrons. But 2nd Lt. Kathleen Polesnak, chief of public affairs for the wing, said that’s speculation.

"At this point, we really don’t know [what the picture] will be like," she said, noting that there are a number of variables that could come into play if the proposal becomes reality.

Lakenheath has three fighter squadrons: the 492nd, 493rd and 494th. The 493rd flies F-15Cs and the other two F-15Es. The 493rd would lose six of its F-15Cs under the proposal, and retain 18 jets. The other two squadrons would not be affected.

"We would not lose a squadron," said Capt. Alysia Harvey, a 48th Fighter Wing spokeswoman.

Spangdahlem wouldn’t be taking the biggest hit around the globe under the proposal. Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida would lose 48 F-15s — about two-thirds of its force. Hill Air Force Base in Utah and Elmendorf Air Force Base in Alaska would lose two dozen aircraft as well. Elmendorf is in line to receive 36 F-22s, though, and Hill is seen as a candidate for the other next-generation fighter, the F-35.

In total, the moves could free up 4,000 personnel slots that the service could shift to operations such as unmanned aerial vehicles and nuclear deterrence, according to the release. The Air Force would also establish a fourth active-duty B-52 squadron and invest in upgraded systems and munitions for its remaining fleets.

Proposed changes:

Barksdale AFB, LA-3 A-10s Retains 21 aircraft
Barnes ANGB, MANone Receives upgrades to 18 F-15s
Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ-6 A-10s Retains 72 aircraft
Eglin AFB, FL-2 F-15sRetains 5 F-15s; identified as F-35 joint training base
Elmendorf AFB, AK-24 F-15sReceives 36 F-22s
Ft Wayne ANGB, IN-18 F-16s, +18 A-10sReceives 18 A-10s
Hickam AFB, HI-15 F-15sReceives 18 F-22s
Hill AFB, UT-24 F-16sRetains 48 aircraft, F-35 candidate
Jacksonville ANGB, FLNoneReceives upgrades to 18 F-15s
Kirtland AFB, NM-18 F-16sRetains 34 aircraft of multiple types, future mission sets to be determined
RAF Lakenheath, UK-6 F-15C'sRetains 18 aircraft F-15C's
Langley AFB, VA-18 F-15sReceives 36 F-22s
Luke AFB, AZ-28 F-16sRetains 96 aircraft, F-35 candidate
Moody AFB, GA-6 A-10sRetains 42 aircraft
Nellis AFB, NV-10 F-15s, -6 F-16sRetains 75 aircraft and receives 10 F-22s
New Orleans ANGB, LANoneReceives upgrades to 18 F-15s
Osan AB, ROK-3 A-10sRetains 45 aircraft and receives upgrades to 24 F-16s
Portland ANGB, ORNoneReceives upgrades to 18 F-15s
Spangdahlem AB, GE-18 F-16sRetains 24 aircraft
Tyndall AFB, FL-48 F-15sRetains 28 F-22s
Whiteman AFB, MO-3 A-10sRetains 21 aircraft

Published on May 20th, 2009 in the European edition of Stars and Stripes.
Used with permission from Stars and Stripes, a DoD publication.
© 2009 Stars and Stripes.

Additional images:

USAF F-16D block 50 #90-0843 from the 22nd FS starts a mission from Spangdahlem AB on April 30th, 2008. [Photo by Mike Schoenmaker]

USAF F-16C block 50 #96-0080 from the 23rd FS at Spangdahlem AB is seen taxiing out for another mission with other F-16s at Konya AB during Exercise Anatolian Eagle 05/4 on November 15th, 2005. [TuAF photo]