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SANTA FE – The Pentagon plans to shut down the proud New Mexico Air National Guard. The fighter pilots of the Air Guard have served the nation honorably in wars since the 1950s.
But as methods of warfare have changed, fighter planes are no longer needed to the extent they once were. Air-to-air combat is nearly a thing of the past as our enemies have little or no air forces.
Air support for troop movements still is needed but not to the extent it once was.
So the “Tacos” are scheduled to lose their 21 aging F-16 Fighting Falcons next year in a Pentagon early retirement program. The next-generation F-35 Lightning II joint strike fighters won’t be available to guard units until seven years later.
Meanwhile, the unit must have a mission or it will be shut down completely. That means about 1,100 jobs located at Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque. The fighter wing currently pumps about $25 million into the local economy.
Other missions are available such as C130 cargo planes, CV 22 helicopters, unmanned aerial vehicles, intelligence, cyber warfare and teaching the Iraqi Air Force to fly turboprop Beechcrafts. The Air Force is said to desperately need Guard units to take those missions.
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