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The Michigan Air National Guard’s 107th Fighter Squadron flew its last F 16 sortie on Tuesday afternoon. Of the 15 F 16 jets stationed at the Harrison Township military facility in recent years, only three are left and those will be transferred to the Fort Wayne Air National Guard Base in Indiana by the end of the year.

The changes are the last of many at Selfridge following the dictates of a 2005 Pentagon base closings commission. The transition to the A 10 means a new mission for the Selfridge fighter pilots.

“The F 16 is a multipurpose aircraft. It can do many things. The A 10 is designed primarily for ‘close air support,'” said Major Brian Davis, a pilot with the 107th Fighter Squadron. “It was created to work and support the soldiers and Marines on the ground. If that is the mission that needs to be done and it is then that’s the mission we want to do.”

Beyond participating in the nation’s air security since the 9 11 terrorist attacks, the Selfridge F 16 squadron flew in the Gulf War, the northern no fly zone over Iraq following that conflict, and the Iraq war. F 16 unit stationed inside Iraq in 2004. The squadron played an instrumental role assisting the Marine ground forces in the Fallujah battles of 2004, and later that year the F 16s were sent to Kirkuk in northern Iraq.

“It was unprecedented to bring F 16s into that austere environment,” said Capt. David Wright, an intelligence officer with the unit. “But we went in there and on the very first day, we had planes in the air. All the training, all the money spent to make sure that we were ready, all the work preparing it all paid off. It was one of the most important things I have ever done in my life.”

In 2007, the 107th was deployed a second time, performing a significant role in the battle of An Najaf in January of that year.

The pilots and maintenance personnel are being trained for their conversion to the A 10s, which will arrive in May. The 24 new aircraft will be transferred here from Battle Creek and Willow Grove, Pa.

However, the training is taking place in Baltimore while some A 10s are sidelined with fatigue related wing cracks. In October, the Air Force ordered immediate inspections and repairs for about 130 of their 400 operational A 10s. The problem was discovered on the oldest A 10s with “thin skin” wings, manufactured in the 1970s.

The A 10, known as the “warthog,” has a reputation as a tank killing aircraft that clears the way for ground troops. In the Gulf War, the A 10s were credited with destroying more than 900 Iraqi tanks, 2,000 military vehicles and 1,200 artillery pieces.

But the A 10 is a much different aircraft than the F 16, with a wingspan of 57 feet and a 53 foot length. Compared to the smaller F 16 fighter plane, the A 10 has a top speed of 518 mph while the F 16 can reach 1,500 mph.

In the skies over the Mount Clemens area and other parts of Macomb County, often the F 16s were barely visible but created a roar that could rattle windows.

The 127th Wing, which oversees the 107th, and its predecessor units in the Michigan Air National Guard have been flying “F” designated aircraft since 1950, when local Guardsmen began flying the F 84 Republic Thunderjet. Since then, the 127th has flown the F 86, RF 84, F 89, F 100, RF 101, F 106, F 4 and F 16 aircraft.

The 107th first took possession of an F 16 aircraft in late 1989. The National Guard squadron was certified mission ready with the aircraft in early 1990. Prior to the upcoming transition mandated by the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure commission, Selfridge had 15 F 16 aircraft assigned.

This conversion is the last of the changes brought to the 127th by the BRAC process.

Earlier this year the 127th converted its airlift mission of C 130s to the KC 135 Stratotanker mid air refueling aircraft. The 127th also stepped away from its “Air Sovereignty Alert” mission in October, in preparation for the drawdown of the F 16s.
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