FORT WAYNE – The switch from Falcons to Warthogs is finished for the Blacksnakes.
The Air National Guards 122nd Fighter Wing announced Thursday it has completed its conversion to A-10 Thunderbolt II combat jets, nicknamed Warthogs.
The Air Force-mandated swap of F-16 jets – known as Fighting Falcons – for A-10s began in early 2009.
The Ferguson Road air base is now at operational capability – meaning the A-10 jets can be deployed overseas by the unit, whose members are called Blacksnakes.
All personnel are trained and ready to go to combat in the A-10, said Capt. Rebecca Metzger, public affairs officer at the base.
Metzger said the 20 planes went through rigorous inspections. In the meantime, hundreds of members of the 122nd Fighter Wing have filled vacancies in other A-10 units sent overseas for missions.
We have not deployed our aircraft. They have been flying for training purposes, Metzger said.
No deployments are scheduled.
The base had flown F-16s since the early 1990s. The A-10 is a plane used by the Air Force since the 1970s to support ground troops, and the Warthog built a reputation as a tank buster. Its weapons include missiles, bombs and a machine-gun cannon.
The conversion was completed ahead of schedule, wing commander Col. David Augustine said in a written statement.
This is yet another example of why we are one of the finest fighter wings in the country and need to remain in fighters, Augustine said.
Until recently, it appeared the A-10 would be short-lived at the base. As part of a nationwide cost-cutting plan, the Air Force decided to retire the local jets and replace them with about 10 MC-12W propeller planes used for surveillance and gathering intelligence.
The move would have eliminated 152 jobs at the Fort Wayne operation, where 1,200 people work.
Governors and members of Congress objected to that and numerous other proposed realignments at Air National Guard bases around the country.
The Republican House voted May 18 to freeze aircraft and personnel assignments during fiscal year 2013, and the Democratic Senates Armed Forces Committee did likewise a week later.
Were still an A-10 fighter wing, Metzger said. Were optimistic about the future.
Officials have said the 122nd Fighter Wing ultimately hopes to fly the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter under development.