Posted: Sep 25, 2012 10:34 AM by Jen Hollenbach - MTN News
Updated: Sep 25, 2012 10:52 AM
GREAT FALLS- The U.S. The Department of Defense will upgrade the airframe of 300 F-16 fighter jets, which could impact proposed aircraft transfers across the nation.
The Service Life Extension Program of the "Fighting Falcon" could benefit the Montana Air National Guard in Great Falls.
The upgrades are slated to begin in 2018; changes to the F-16s will include new radar and advancements to the software and airframe.
"I think they figured the F-22s and the F-35s would already be in the air performing the missions, and they're not. So they have to extend the life of what works," Ed Buttrey of Citizens For Montana's Military said.
The U.S. Air Force has chosen select makes of the F-16 to be eligible for the Service Life Extension Program.
"Block 42" aircraft at Arizona's Air National Guard were originally slated for the boneyard, which led to transferring Fresno's jets to Arizona, and the 144th in Fresno taking Montana's F-15s, and then possibly Texas' C-130s replacing the Eagles at MT ANG.
But extending the life of Arizona's aircrafts could put a stop to the moves.
"In the end, the net effect is the aircraft in Fresno could stay and leave our aircraft alone," Buttrey noted.
He says updating the structure to the Fighting Falcons will keep our skies protected, and could possibly save millions of dollars if it stops the transfers.
"Costs close to 1/2 billion dollars just to move the mission out of Great Falls - and there are a lot of things not considered. The actual cost to move a mission into Great Falls, the cost to mitigate the issues like noise in Fresno - those have never been added into the equation," Buttrey said.
He added that the upgrades are a cost-effective way to maintain our national security while the Department of Defense works out the issues with the next generation of fighter jets.