“The A-10 had unrivaled capabilities for the wars of the last 40 years but to win future conflicts, we need new aircraft that provide different effects on the battlefield,” Col. Joshua C. Waggoner, 122nd Fighter Wing Blacksnakes Commander.
According to Indiana Capital Chronicle, the unit in fact has been officially approved for conversion to the F-16 under passage of the National Defense Authorization Act.
“We look forward to transitioning to the F-16 aircraft at the 122nd Fighter Wing. This newer more versatile aircraft will provide for an increase in combat capability against growing threats. The men and women of the 122nd Fighter Wing are experts at supporting, maintaining and operating fighter aircraft,” said Brig. Gen. Michael Stohler, commander of the Indiana Air National Guard. “This transition will provide them with longevity and the high probability to later upgrade to the future generation of fighter aircraft.”
“Conversion to the F-16 will allow the 122nd to build upon past successes and continue to pass the trials of the national defense strategy in new ways, long into the future,” said Col. Joshua C. Waggoner, 122nd Fighter Wing Commander. “Since conversion to the F-16 was first proposed more than five years ago the 122nd has continuously worked to be poised and ready when given the opportunity. There will be a lot of changes and challenges, but our professional Airmen are prepared.”
“The F-16 will increase the combat capability for the Blacksnakes of the 122nd, ensure that we stay in the fight further into the future and give our Airmen the knowledge, skills, and capabilities for an easier transition to the more complex missions and weapons systems needed to dominate modern threats,” Waggoner added. “The A-10 had unrivaled capabilities for the wars of the last 40 years and our record as Blacksnakes proves that point. To win future conflicts, we need new aircraft that provide different effects on the battlefield. The F-16 will prepare the men and women of the 122nd to find the same success in the future that we established as our standard in the past.”
The A-10 Thunderbolt II has played an important role in the long-standing Blacksnake tradition of keeping “Fighters in the Fort” and they will not be soon forgotten as the 122nd FW passes the torch to other units where they will continue to support national defense initiatives.
“Although some of the oldest planes will be retired, most of our A-10s will be transferred to other units and continue to provide decisive fire power to combatant commanders around the globe,” said Waggoner.
It isn’t the first time F-16’s come to Fort Wayne. The 122nd Fighter Wing flew the F-16 Fighting Falcon for nearly two decades, including multiple overseas and combat deployments. They were a familiar sight at the Fort Wayne Air National Guard base and in the skies above Fort Wayne from 1991 to 2010.
In 2008, after having flown for 17 years with the block 25 aircraft, these F-16s were nearing the end of their planned operational lifespans. The aircraft the 122nd received were only somewhat newer; Block 30 F-16C/Ds, manufactured between 1987 and 1989. These models were provided by the Michigan Air National Guard 107th Fighter Squadron, which was then transitioning to the A-10 Thunderbolt II at the time. With the upgrade to the Block 30 aircraft, the tail code of the 163rd was changed from “FW” (Fort Wayne) to “IN” (Indiana) in 2009 when the 181st Fighter Wing at Hulman Field became a non-flying unit. However, only a few of the F-16s were re-coded.
In 2009 – the year the unit honored its predecessor unit – the 358th FG – with a heritage jet – it was decided that the squadron was to retire their 20-year-old F-16s and become an A-10 Thunderbolt II squadron. The conversion happened in 2010.
Photo credit: U.S. Air National Guard