The last F-16 will fly off the ramp at Cannon AFB, N.M. by the end of the month, according to Col. Tim Leahy, the commander of the 27th Special Operations Wing, the new boss at Cannon. The base is undergoing modification and construction of new facilities to support its new Air Force Special Operations Command missions. The first full AFSOC squadron scheduled to take up residence is the 73rd Special Operations Squadron, which flies the MC-130W Combat Spear. While only one of the aircraft was on the ramp as of early December, the squadron is planning to move the converted aircraft out to New Mexico, beginning in February;the Warner Robins Air Logistics Center in Georgia has been modifying standard C-130H models into the special ops version. In the summertime, AFSOC’s dedicated unmanned aerial vehicle squadron—the 3rd SOS—will be picking up and moving down from Creech AFB, Nev. Currently construction is proceeding on pads and ground stations for Predator operators at Cannon, as well as conversion of simulation facilities and squadron operations office space.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.