Having operated the venerable A-10C Thunderbolt II since 2010, the Indiana Air National Guard’s 122nd Fighter Wing (FW) ‘Blacksnakes’ will bid a fond farewell to the type after it recently announced it had formally been approved to convert to the F-16C/D Fighting Falcon.
The wing – which is based at Fort Wayne ANGB – took to social media to announce that approval had been given for it to transition to the F-16C/D on January 26. At that time, ten of the 21 A-10Cs assigned to the ‘Blacksnakes’ were deployed to MacDill AFB, Florida, and Moody AFB, Georgia, to participate in Exercise Guardian Blitz – a two week joint training exercise, which included Agile Combat Employment forward deployments, air-to-air refuelling and training alongside US Navy-operated rotary assets and Joint Terminal Attack Controllers.
During the exercise, the 122nd FW A-10Cs took advantage of opportunities to practice close air support, forward air control and combat search and rescue training with other units. These ‘Warthogs’ returned to Fort Wayne just over a week after the 122nd formally announced it was transitioning to the F-16, and given the pace at which this conversion is expected to happen, the wing confirmed that Guardian Blitz was to be the last training exercise that the unit takes part in with the A-10C.
Having gained fame and notoriety for the nose art applied to its A-10Cs, the ‘Blacksnakes’ are already very familiar with the F-16. While it has now employed the ‘Warthog’ for 13 years, the wing actually operated the Fighting Falcon for almost two decades prior to their previous conversion. A switch back to the F-16C/D has been in the works for more than five years. It has been reported that, while a timeline has yet to be established for the upcoming transition, many of the departing A-10Cs are expected to join other units rather than being sent to Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, to be placed into long-term storage with the 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (AMARG).
While the USAF has proposed the divestment of its A-10C fleet for a number of years, this move has met stiff resistance from the US Congress. However, in its FY23 budget request, the air arm instead wanted to replace 21 A-10Cs on a one-for-one basis, a proposal that Congress approved under its FY23 National Defense Authorisation Act. As a result, the USAF will be able to reduce its ‘Warthog’ fleet from 171 aircraft to 153.
In a statement, Col Joshua C Waggoner – commander of the 122nd FW – said: “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. 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.”