The last two A-10C ground-attack airplanes assigned to the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 188th Fighter Wing left Fort Smith for good, ending the wing’s manned flying mission, and ushering in its new mission, which includes operating MQ-9 remotely piloted aircraft. “Seeing a manned airplane leave, knowing it was for the last time, was kind of hard to watch,” said 188th FW Vice Commander Col. Peter Gauger at the unit’s conversion ceremony on June 7 at Ebbing ANG Base, reported KFSM News of Fort Smith. “I was a little emotional and sad, to be honest with you,” he added. During the ceremony, the 188th FW got a new designation: the 188th Wing, and officials inactivated the wing’s former maintenance and operations units. The wing simultaneously redesignated the 184th Fighter Squadron the 184th Attack Squadron, for transition to operating the RPAs. Officials likewise christened the new 188th Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance Group, 153rd Intelligence Squadron, 223rd Intelligence Support Squadron, and 288th Operations Support Squadron to support the new mission set. (See also the unit’s June 7 Facebook posting.)
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.