"Pigs" Fly Over The 122nd Fighter Wing

By Brien McElhatten

June 30, 2010 Updated Jul 1, 2010 at 7:54 AM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (Indiana's NewsCenter) - They earned the nickname "warthog" for their large and ugly appearance, but these former cold war warriors are protecting troops and saving jobs.

Flying in formation, the gray attack planes whined as they flew over their new home in Fort Wayne, as the 122nd Fighter Wing switches out their F-16's for A-10's.

"The F-16's, as they run out of lifespan have very expensive upgrades to keep them in the air. With that, we were offered the opportunity to convert to the A-10. They have a longer lifespan at a cheaper rate," said Col. Chris Luithly, Vice Wing Commander for the 122nd.

The conversion to the A-10 saves 200-300 jobs, which would have been lost had the base transitioned to a non-flying mission once its F-16's are completely phased out over the summer.

Four planes from Moody Air Force Base in Georgia arrived at the base Wednesday, eventually, the wing will have about 20.

Meanwhile, pilots and ground crew members will train hard to master the temperament of the 'Warthog," which is vastly different from the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

"[The F-16] is fast, sleek and really good looking. Over here, we have big and ugly, but we love it," said Lt. Col. John Carroll who flew both the F-16 and the A-10.

"This aircraft was built around the gun. You can point, shoot and pretty much take care of business in a heartbeat," said Carroll.

The A-10 entered service with the Air Force in 1977. It was designed to destroy soviet tanks during the Cold War with its nose-mounted seven-barreled Gatling gun. The weapon shoots foot-long rounds made of depleted uranium. The plane also carries an assortment of guided munitions to carry out it's air-to-ground combat missions.

While the Cold War has thawed, the A-10's engines are staying hot as it protects ground troops in Afghanistan and roots out the Taliban from above.

The plane's important mission means the 122nd could deploy in the near future. But it will take months for the unit to receive all of its aircraft and become fully operational.

Meanwhile, pilots like Carroll are excited about their new mission and their unit's new lease on life.

The Guard Bureau thought it would be good to continue our life in another mission and that's what we did."

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