First F-16s Depart Hancock

The New York Air National Guard’s 174th Fighter Wing yesterday started its 18-month transition from the F-16 fighter to the MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle with the departure of the first two F-16s for good from the wing’s home at Hancock Field ANG Base, near Syracuse. These F-16s are headed for a new assignment at Edwards AFB, Calif., and represent the beginning of the end of the 174th’s F-16 mission, according to a release by the New York State division of Military and Naval Affairs. Col. Charles Dorsey, the wing’s vice commander, said it was “bittersweet” to see the first F-16s go, as the unit has been flying Vipers since 1988. But added that the unit is “excited to open a new chapter of combat aviation” with the coming MQ-9 mission. More F-16s will depart Hancock as the transition progresses, and wing members are supposed to begin training with MQ-9s in 2010. Nearly 200 of the wing’s airmen and 14 of its F-16s returned home in August from the unit’s eighth and final rotational deployment to Southwest Asia with F-16s.