Hill F-16s To Find New Life as Trainers

The Air Force this week announced new possible homes for the F-16s at Hill AFB, Utah, as the base moves to the F-35 and the service looks to fill a dramatic need for new fighter pilots. It’s the third possible move for the Hill Vipers, first expected to move on to replace A-10 units, then expected to stay through 2018. The Air Force on Thursday announced it will augment pilot training at up to two existing F-16 locations: Luke AFB, Ariz.; Holloman AFB, N.M.; JB San Antonio-Lackland’s Kelly Field Annex, Texas; or Tucson ANGB, Ariz., according to a news release. The service is beginning site surveys next week, and Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James said the service will select the locations by the end of the year. The Air Force in 2015 used the Hill F-16s to warn about the need for retiring A-10s. At the time, the service wanted to use the F-16s as a replacement mission for some A-10 units in the Air National Guard at Whiteman AFB, Mo., and Fort Wayne ANGB, Ind., and planned to send the F-16s to the boneyard if the the A-10s were kept flying. However, after Congress blocked that move, the service devised a new plan for the F-16s. As part of the Fiscal 2017 budget request, the service said it would keep them at Hill until at least 2018. Under the new plan, 45 total F-16s will transition from the Utah base before then, and there will be no manpower lost as a result of the move, Col. David B. Lyons, commander of the 388th Fighter Wing, said in a Hill release. (See also: Pilot Shortage Back With a Vengeance from the August 2016 issue of Air Force Magazine.)