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Minnesota National Guard
Duluth Air National Guard base may get $4.2 million for new maintenance hangar

Duluth’s 148th Fighter Wing may receive money for a major construction project

The US House’s Armed Services and Military Construction bill includes $42 million to build a fuel systems maintenance hangar and shop at the air base, the office of Rep James Oberstar, D-Minn, said Thursday afternoon

Getting $42 million in upgrades could improve the odds for the long-term survival of the base The base’s future has been in doubt since it was announced that the F-16, its main aircraft, would be phased out in a decade or so

The Fighter Wing is pleased by the news of the possible funding, 148th spokeswoman Capt Audra Flanagan said

“This is a big deal for us It is definitely a step for our long-term viability, our long-term missions,” she said

Money for the new maintenance facilities could be appropriated next year, said John Schadl, Oberstar’s communications director The new facility would allow the wing to maintain its planes in full compliance with federal standards

In January, the Air Force released a long-term plan that considers Duluth and 40 other bases around the nation as potential homes for the F-35 Lightning II fighter Thirty-three of the bases, including Duluth, will be considered only for the F-35 The remaining bases will be considered for either the F-35 or the F-22 Raptor

Receiving F-35s could ensure that the 148th, which employs about 465 people full time and more than 1,000 total, would exist past 2040

Flanagan doesn’t know if securing the new hangar and shop would improve the unit’s chances of receiving F-35s

“But it can’t hurt at all — it’s great news,” she said “It puts us in the right direction in that we will have the state-of-the-art fuel facilities that other bases have Currently, the one we have does not meet all the goals for today’s fighter aircraft”

The 148th flies Block 25 F-16 fighters from the early 1980s, which are the oldest F-16s in the US Air Force arsenal Oberstar is working to help to secure for the 148th a newer model of F-16 to serve as a bridge to the Lightning

The Air Force is scheduled to begin operating its first F-35s in 2013 In January, an Air Force spokesman said he didn’t know how many bases will be selected to receive F-35s, or when they will be picked

Lockheed Martin is developing three models of the F-35, a supersonic, multi-role, stealth fighter designed to replace a number of existing aircraft models The F-35A, built for conventional takeoffs and landings, began flight tests in December 2006 The F-35B, capable of short takeoffs and vertical landings, is scheduled to make its first flight by midyear And the F-35C, designed for carrier takeoffs and landings, is scheduled to make its first flight in 2009

Steve Kuchera Duluth News Tribune
Published Friday, May 09, 2008
Article source: www.duluthnewstribune.com



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Posted: 2018-06-08  11:59 AM
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