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New mission

  • Published
  • By Maj. Lindsay Logsdon
  • 178 FW/PA
The 178th Fighter Wing, Springfield, Ohio will no longer be an F-16 Fighting Falcon training base. As announced May 7 the U.S. Department of Defense and the Air Force have decided to assign the base new missions as a ground control station for the MQ-1 Predator and an extension of the intelligence analysis mission from the National Air and Space Intelligence Center.

The 2005 BRAC Commission removed the flying training mission from the 178 FW and declared the mission to end no later than 2010. In the interim, through the Foreign Military Sales program, the base was able to obtain another training mission with the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Knowing the American training mission would be ending soon, the base pursued another foreign military training mission with the Singapore air force. However in 2009 it became apparent that mission would not be coming to Springfield due to economic limitations.

"There is much to be happy about," said Maj. Gen Gregory L. Wayt, Ohio adjutant general. "In 2005, the Air Force and the Base Realignment and Closure Commission nearly shut down this base, and now, we are establishing cutting-edge missions that should ensure the viability of this base long into the future."

On May 14, following the announcement of the new missions, a coalition of political delegates who championed bringing the new missions to the wing gathered to celebrate with the base. Those present were General Wayt, Governor of Ohio Ted Strickland, U.S. Rep Steve Austria, former U.S. Rep. Dave Hobson, State Sen. Chris Widener, Ohio Rep. Robert Hackett, Ohio Rep. Ross McGregor, Springfield Mayor Warren Copeland, as well as numerous other area representatives.

General Wayt stated, "This is the beginning of a new era for the 178th. These new missions you're receiving are solid missions."

In his address to the 178 FW, Governor Strickland thanked the coalition of political advocates for their efforts for the base.

"With the future of the base uncertain, federal, state and military officials along with area business leaders and political leaders worked side-by-side in pursuit of a new mission," said Governor Strickland.

Congressman Austria seconded the governor's accolades of the delegation stating it was a team effort.

"This has been an effort from the White House to your house," he said.

"After so much uncertainty it is good to be able to finally move forward knowing that we have a long-term and relevant mission here," said Col. Mike Roberts, 178 FW commander. "The 178th has had an awesome history flying single-seat single-engine fighters for 60 plus years."

For those pilots remaining at the 178 FW, they will convert to fly the MQ-1. Maintainers of the F-16 and other positions affected by the change in mission will have to retrain into one of the other Predator system positions or into intelligence in support of the NASIC mission.

Retraining for the new missions will begin this summer. Training locations and duration will vary depending on the position requirements. The equipment involved in accomplishing the MQ-1 mission is expected to be delivered to the base some time in 2012.

The MQ-1 Predator is not merely an unmanned aircraft but a complete system. An operational MQ-1 system consists of four aircraft with sensors, a ground control station, a Predator Primary Satellite link along with operations and maintenance crews. The 178 FW has been assigned the role of the ground control station within the MQ-1 system. From the base, a Predator crew consisting of a pilot, sensor operator and mission intelligence coordinator, will conduct interdiction or armed reconnaissance missions in other countries via an extended communication link. The actual aircraft will be flown and maintained at another location.

"From this very soil decisions will be made, aircraft will be guided that will transform what is happening in the warzone in a way that will keep our soldiers safer, will make our military even more effective and it's possible because of the work you will be doing at this facility," said Governor Strickland.

According to the U.S. Air Force Remotely Piloted Aircraft and Unmanned Aerial Vehicle Strategic Vision document, The MQ-1 Predator, armed with the AGM-114 Hellfire missile continues to be one of the military's most requested systems, assisting in the execution of the global war on terror by finding, fixing, tracking, targeting, engaging, and assessing suspected terrorist locations.

"All relevant organizations must adapt to new realities; and here, the reality is an insatiable demand for UAS-borne [unmanned aerial system] capabilities, and an evolving relationship between people, machines, and the sky," said General Norton Swartz, Chief of Staff of the Air Force, at the UAS Beta test class graduation Sept. 25, 2009, Creech Air Force Base, NV.

"The MQ-1 is a very relevant mission right now," said Lt. Col. Joe Schulz, 306th Detachment commander. "As a training mission we've had an indirect contribution to the war because we were training other people to go and we were not deploying ourselves. This new mission will be a more direct operational contribution to the war for us."
In addition to the MQ-1 mission the 178 FW will also be supporting an extension of the NASIC mission. NASIC is headquartered at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base not far from the Springfield base and the wing already has an intelligence squadron working with the center.

"They [Springfield Guardsmen] will work with NASIC in creating intelligence to make sure the nation is at the cutting edge of understanding foreign threats to US Air and Space operations," said James Lunsford, chief of Public Affairs for NASIC.
According to Mr. Lunsford NASIC intelligence products span air, space and cyberspace domains and are in use every day. The President, members of Congress and the most senior military leaders rely on NASIC analysis to form US defense policy decisions.
"NASIC products are used in places like Iraq and Afghanistan to make military operations safer and more effective and are used to prepare the nation to combat future air and space threats," said Mr. Lunsford.

"The combatant commanders on the ground are dependent on what's going on inside of NASIC," said General Wayt. "[178 FW members] are going to be saving lives of those on the ground in Iraq and Afghanistan because you're going to be the eyes and ears for those commanders on the ground."

"From the P-51 to the F-16 this unit's outstanding work has marked it as one of the top fighter units in the country," said Colonel Roberts. "We're going to take on the new mission with the same professionalism dedication and patriotism that we have everything else we've done in the past. "