122nd To Get F-16s (VIDEO)

By Corinne Rose - 21Alive

March 4, 2014 Updated Mar 4, 2014 at 7:38 PM EDT

FORT WAYNE, Ind. (21Alive) – Members of the 122nd Fighter Wing learned today the Air Force will replace the unit's A-10s with a new version of the F-16 fighter jet.

It was a hard-fought, two-year lobbying effort to continue the 122nd's 70-year history as a fighter wing, after learning the current A-10s would be eliminated.

"In the Guard, we try to be the most cost-effective benefit to help defend our nation. And I think with the challenges that our nation has and all the budget issues, we are the solution for them,” says Maj. Gen. Martin Umbarger, the Adjutant General for Indiana.

While the A-10 is an air-to-ground fighter jet used in close combat, the Block 40 generation of the F-16s is used for air-to-ground and air-to-air combat.

The supersonic jet also has the capability to take out an enemy's surface-to-air defense system.

And Maj. Gen. Umbarger says being able to maintain its usefulness as a true fighter wing positions the 122nd to lobby for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighters ten years from now.

"Try to build a business case to the Air Force that this is the best value for you to put that modern, fifth-generation aircraft here at Baer Field, at Fort Wayne," Umbarger says.

The fighter wing's commander says if the 122nd had not been awarded the F-16s, it would have lost about 50% of its airmen, meaning a potential loss of up to $15 million to the local economy.

"It's a huge relief because if you can imagine our airmen, they want to know their future. And if there wasn't any future given to us today as this budget gets rolled out, imagine the coffee table talks tonight about where we're going as a wing. And so I think our airmen have a clear vision. We're going to keep fighters here, it's a fighter they're used to, and I think it's exciting," says Col. David Augustine.

Commanders expect to get a message from the Air Force next week outlining how many of these next generation F-16s will arrive and when.

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