Friday, December 16, 2011

Chaffee Panel Plots 188th Fight

A squadron of 188th Fighter Wing A-10 Thunderbolts sit on the flightline Wednesday, July 20, 2011, after a recent inspection at Ebbing Air National Guard Base. (Photo by Corey S. Krasko, Times Record) Full size

Note: Pictured in the foreground is A-10C 78-0626 from the 184th Fighter Squadron.

By Wanda Freeman
Times Record
Posted: Tuesday, December 13, 2011 8:40 am

As the Defense Department grapples with $450 billion in possible budget cuts nationally, the case for keeping the 188th Fighter Wing and its current mission intact will center on cost-effectiveness, said community and military leaders Monday.

During a news conference of the 188th Fighter Wing/Fort Chaffee Community Council, Col. Tom Anderson, 188th commander, said the reason the wing can perform its training mission so economically is its location. The close proximity to Fort Chaffee Maneuver Training Center allows for short commutes and time for two training missions a day instead of one.

"When you count all the missions over a year, it adds up pretty quickly," he said.

Gen. Dwight Balch, commander of the Arkansas Air National Guard, said the best value for the country is to keep the A-10 Thunderbolt II in the military and specifically with the 188th in Fort Smith.

"The cost per flying hour for the A-10 is one of the cheapest," Balch said.

Although the Air Force continues to develop plans for the F-35 and F-22, Balch said those planes are more expensive to operate than the A-10, an older plane that is not in the Air Force's long-term vision.

"We would like to see the F-35 on that ramp," Balch said, gesturing toward a ramp just outside of the 188th headquarters building.

After the news conference, he said the F-35 is in the long-term plan for the 188th, and could certainly replace the A-10 if the A-10 mission were to end. Compared to the A-10, which performs air-to-ground support, he said, the F-35 does both air-to-ground and air-to-air work.

Col. Keith Klemmer, chief of staff for Maj. Gen. William D. Wofford, Arkansas Guard adjutant general, said Wofford was in Washington meeting with leaders on behalf of the 188th, the Arkansas National Guard and the entire reserve component of the military.

Dr. Jerry Stewart, president of the Community Council, said the current arena for discussion is within the military, but the more political arena will come into play when President Barack Obama presents the budget in February.

The Community Council steering committee recently formed to defend the 188th against budget cuts will meet with political leaders on Dec. 20. During that briefing, the committee will speak in detail with state legislators and elected leaders from municipal and county governments.

The 188th was home to a wing of F-16 fighters, known as the Fighting Falcons, until 2005, when the Base Closure and Realignment Commission approved moving the F-16s to the 144th Fighter Wing in California. In 2008, partly as a result of community support, the 188th transitioned to the A-10 Thunderbolt II.

Source (Please check this source for more related news stories)

See also:
PRESS RELEASE: Rumors addressed with Fort Smith's 188th Fighter Wing; A-10 units among discussion of Department of Defense budget cuts

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