F-16s will, potentially, soar again at the 122nd Fighter Wing
FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WPTA) - The skies over Fort Wayne is expected to sound a little different in the coming years thanks, in part, to Congressman Jim Banks.
Banks, the only Indiana representative on the House Armed Services Committee, says he’s made it a priority to help the 122nd Fighter Wing transition from the A-10 Thunderbolt to F-16 Fighting Falcon.
Banks says, “I’ve heard from the leadership in Fort Wayne for the last six years about how important this is to the long-term stability of the 122nd Fighter Wing. So, each and every year of those six years, this has been my top priority to see this through and finally we’re getting it done.”
The National Defense Authorization Act authorizes Department of Defense activities and programs from the upcoming fiscal year, and the upcoming NDAA includes language to retire 21 A-10s at the Fort Wayne base to be replaced with F-16s.
So why did it take six years? Banks says the answer is simple. Politics.
“This has been tied up because of politics around the country. In Arizona, they have an A-10 base, so they’ve been reluctant to allow the Air Force to retire an A-10s and that’s held up the transition in Fort Wayne. So, what’s important to note about this is the language specifically calls out Fort Wayne, it’s the only place in the country where the A-10s will be retired and transitioned to a different platform, in this case to the F-16s,” he explained.
Banks called the A-10s “an antiquated platform” saying the F-16s will provide a stable future for the base and would help keep the base in Fort Wayne.
So, through conversations and negations, the committee passed the language in an overnight session to allow this transitions to happen, but only in Fort Wayne.
And banks says he confident this time, it’ll happen.
“I’m very optimistic that the language will survive and it’ll end up on President Biden’s desk, and he will sign it into law. Then the process will begin with the next fiscal year, October 1st, that’s when the NDAA will take effect and then the work will begin in Fort Wayne to transition to the new platform.”
Banks says if and when the bill is signed, he believes the transition will take more than a year to complete as facility upgrades and personnel training will be needed.
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