The end of the fighter mission at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, doesn’t mean the end of the base, 52nd Fighter Wing officials said, as uncertainty over the installation’s future lingers after the Pentagon’s proposed restructuring in Europe was announced July 29.
Defense Department and U.S. European Command leaders announced that as part of an overall reduction of forces in Germany, the 480th Fighter Squadron and other parts of the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem would move to Italy. The F-16 squadron is the base’s only flying unit, and U.S. Air Forces in Europe’s only Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses fighter squadron.
In addition to the 480th FS and related components, EUCOM boss Gen. Tod D. Wolters said Spangdahlem’s 52nd Civil Engineer Squadron also would be among the first to go to Italy at a time to be determined, indicating that units not directly flying and maintaining the F-16s will also leave the base.
The announcement took many at the German base by surprise, with Airmen and other community members expressing confusion about their future.
“We know that many of you are concerned about yesterday’s announcement, but please be reassured that these changes are not immediate, and from the highest levels of our military, leaders are keeping families in mind and working to ensure any decisions for moves are made in advance so members and their families have time to prepare,” the base said in a Facebook statement.
“Spangdahlem Air Base is not projected to close. Elements of the base will be relocating, but the base itself will remain,” base officials said in response to concerns about the future of the installation.
Outside of the 52nd Fighter Wing’s main F-16 mission, the wing’s other missions include:
- Providing credible deterrence for NATO
- Joint reception, staging, onward movement, and integration
- Facilitating inter-theater airlift
- Building partnership capacity
The “majority” of the Airmen at the base support these missions, which fall outside of the F-16s, and will not leave the base, a Spangdahlem official said in a statement. DOD has not said how many Airmen might be impacted by the move, nor has it provided a breakdown of specific units at Spangdahlem that will remain.