Extending Duluth, a Bit

According to a Duluth News Tribune report, Deputy Defense Secretary Gordon England has told Sen. Norm Coleman (R-Minn.) that the Minnesota Air National Guard’s 148th Fighter Wing will receive Block 40 F-16s to replace its current Block 25 Vipers. And, the newer aircraft will remain in service through 2018 instead of their earlier phase-out date of 2013. That puts the 148th in better position to await the new F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, but England made no promises that the wing would get the F-35. The Duluth-based Air Guard unit is on the list of potential F-35 locations. England also said USAF was working on a plan to extend the 148th FW F-16s for another two years, through 2020. The Minnesota Congressional delegation has been fretting the aircraft gap facing the 148th since the BRAC 2005 commissioners spared the unit against Pentagon wishes.