The Blacksnakes of Indiana Air National Guard will go “Brrrt” only a little while longer, as the 122nd Fighter Wing prepares to say goodbye to its A-10s.
On. Jan. 26, the wing announced on social media it had officially been approved for a conversion from A-10s to F-16s. A little more than a week later, 10 of the wing’s 21 aircraft returned to Fort Wayne Air National Guard Base from Guardian Blitz, a training exercise that will be the unit’s last before converting to the F-16, the wing said.
The Air Force first proposed replacing all 21 A-10s on a one-for-one basis in its fiscal 2023 budget request, and after years of resisting the divestment of any A-10 aircraft, Congress agreed as part of the fiscal 2023 National Defense Authorization Act to let the Air Force reduce the A-10 fleet from 171 to 153.
“Conversion to the F-16 will allow the 122nd to build upon past successes and continue to pass the trials of the National Defense Strategy in new ways, long into the future,” Col. Joshua C. Waggoner, 122nd Fighter Wing commander, said in a statement. “Since conversion to the F-16 was first proposed more than five years ago, the 122nd has continuously worked to be poised and ready when given the opportunity. There will be a lot of changes and challenges, but our professional Airmen are prepared.”
Air Force leaders have repeatedly said the close air support aircraft will not be relevant to future fights and needs to be retired to free up funds for modernization efforts. Yet the A-10, famed for its 30mm cannon that can fire 3,900 rounds per minute and its four decades of service in support of ground troops in the Middle East, has consistently dodged divestment efforts thanks to fierce support from influential lawmakers.
The 122nd Fighter Wing has flown the A-10 since 2010, gaining notoriety for its jets’ nose art inspired by the unit’s “Blacksnakes” nickname. But the unit actually flew F-16s for the better part of two decades leading up to a 2010 switch. The last exercise for the 122nd’s A-10s was Guardian Blitz, which concluded Feb. 6 at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., and Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The exercise practiced having small teams of Airmen and aircraft deploying to remote locations on short notice.
“You can’t afford to take people from every shop, from every specialty,” Chief Master Sgt. Kyle D. Hoopingarner, 122nd Fighter Wing command chief, said in a release. “Some of them need to be able to cross over and learn about another shop’s job so that they can do their primary job and they can help out with a secondary job as well.”
A spokesman for the 122nd Fighter Wing told Air & Space Forces Magazine there is not yet an established timeline for the unit’s F-16s to arrive or for its A-10s to depart. Many of the departing aircraft will be redistributed to other units rather than sent to the Boneyard.