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F-16 set to relocate to Wright-Patt

Toledo-based F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter jets are expected to call Wright-Patterson home temporarily this summer while crews repave a runway, part of an $11 million project at Toledo Express Airport, according to military and civilian authorities.

The Ohio Air National Guard’s 180th Fighter Wing needs to relocate to a base that can support an around-the-clock air sovereignty alert status to defend North American airspace when the jets land at Wright-Patterson, officials said. Some member of the unit, which has 1,050 personnel, would tentatively fly to the Miami Valley in mid-to-late August and depart in September after a stay of about three weeks, officials said.

“There will be a number of personnel who work down there,” said Maj. Gary Bentley, wing executive officer. “We have been working with Wright-Patterson for several months just making plans in the event this does take place.”

The Air Force has cut flying hours, canceled military exercises, halted construction on all but emergency maintenance, and plans 14-day furloughs for civilian workers because of automatic budget cuts. But the project at the civilian airport in Swanton near Toledo relies on Federal Aviation Administration and local dollars to repave a 10,599-foot-long airstrip, according to Paul L. Toth, president and chief executive officer of the Toledo-Lucas County Port Authority. The runway is resurfaced every 15 to 20 years.

Bentley said the F-16 unit has not had to curtail flying hours. “As of right now, we are still flying our normal missions everyday,” he said.

Wright-Patterson expected a second visiting squadron this summer, the Air Force Reserve 434th Air Refueling Wing which flies KC-135 Stratotanker aerial refuelers at Grissom Air Reserve Base, Ind., but those plans were on hold, according to wing spokesman Lt. Col. Gary Lockard.

A contract to repave the Indiana base’s runway has not been signed. “Right now, that still is in negotiations,” Lockard said.

The F-16s will share the flight line with at least one unit.

Wright-Patterson is home to the Air Force Reserve 445th Airlift Wing, which flies nine C-17 Globemaster III cargo jets on missions around the world. The 906th Fighter Group, the last permanent F-16 fighter squadron at the base, deactivated in 1994.

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