As Europe’s only SEAD fighter squadron, the 480th FS is assigned 28 F-16 Fighting Falcons to provide expeditionary combat capability in SEAD, as well as close air support, air interdiction and counter air.
Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper announced on Jul. 29, 2020 that the Pentagon will begin winding down US operations at Germany’s Spangdahlem Air Base, pulling out US Air Force (USAF) F-16s and canceling plans to move tankers and special-operations forces there.
As reported by Air Force Magazine, if completed, the plan would shrink the US mission in Germany, which has been a key strategic location for American military operations since the end of World War II. Currently, 75 years after the war’s end, Germany hosts one of the largest contingents of US troops in the world.
The Defense Department will move 11,900 people out of American military installations across Germany, Esper said, including 6,400 whose jobs would return to the U.S. The remainder would be relocated elsewhere in Europe.
According to Air Forces Europe, moving F-16s from the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem to 31stFighter Wing at Aviano, Italy will “better increase security along NATO’s eastern flank and help preserve peace.”
Details for the planned move are still in the works.
The last major downsize at Spangdahlem came in 2013 with the departure of the last A-10 unit based in Europe, the 81st Fighter Squadron. In 2010, the 22nd and 23rd Fighter Squadrons were merged to form the 480th Fighter Squadron.
As Europe’s only Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) fighter squadron, the 480th FS is assigned 28 F-16 Fighting Falcons to provide expeditionary combat capability in SEAD, as well as close air support, air interdiction and counter air. Finally, the wing continues to support the US Air Force’s Theater Security Package deployments to Europe.
The 52nd Fighter Wing, which has one squadron plus a medical group, mission support group, munitions maintenance group, operations group, and other agencies, totals about 5,000 personnel. The Air Force did not provide details on how such a move would impact force support at the base.
Meanwhile both the 100th Air Refueling Wing and the 352nd Special Operations Wing, which were scheduled to move to Spangdahlem, will remain at Mildenhall in the United Kingdom.
Ramstein Air Base is unaffected, DOD officials said. A total 24,000 U.S. military personnel will remain in Germany.
Esper said force changes could start to take place within weeks, with the 52nd Civil Engineering Squadron that could “move soonest, at a time to be determined,” bound for Italy.
Esper estimated the cost to be “several billion dollars,” but did not provide a formal estimate. Costs would include military construction and permanent change of station moves for Airmen and their families.
Photo credit: Master Sgt. Dave Ahlschwede / U.S. Air Force