South Carolina Air National Guard fighter jets to fly over Columbia at night as part of training flights
The State July 18, 2022
(Tribune News Service) — It might be too dark to see them, but anyone near Columbia Metropolitan Airport should be able to hear the F-16 fighter jets flying over the Midlands at night this week.
The F-16 Falcon fighter jets are a part of the 169th Fighter Wing of the South Carolina Air National Guard, and will hold nighttime training flights near their temporary home at the airport, military officials said Monday in a news release.
The training flights will happen Monday through Thursday, according to the release.
Anyone who works or lives near the airport that’s in Lexington County might see and hear F-16 fighter jets taking off or landing until about midnight, the S.C. Air National Guard said.
The fighter jets can fly up to twice the speed of sound, officials said.
Military training flights normally take place during the day, but S.C. Air National Guard pilots and maintenance crews are required to conduct periodic nighttime missions as part of their preparations, according to the release.
Pilots will follow flightpaths designed to minimize noise to those who live and work near the airport, the S.C. Air National Guard said. In an effort to limit the noise, afterburner takeoffs will be reduced and kept to a minimum, officials said.
”We have taken every possible measure in our flight profiles to minimize noise generated from our training operations,” 169th Fighter Wing commander Col. Quaid Quadri said in the release. “We understand the impact to our neighbors and appreciate their support. We stand on the shoulders of giants in our community.”
The 169th Fighter Wing said it’s temporarily conducting flight training operations from Columbia Metropolitan Airport in support of its “24/7 homeland defense mission” because of renovations to the runway at McEntire Joint National Guard Base near Eastover, where the fighter jets are regularly based.
Between 200-300 members of the S.C. Air National Guard will be working at the airport on a daily basis, officials said.
The main runway at McEntire Joint National Guard Base closed on May 2, and improvements are expected to be completed by Oct. 31, according to the release.
Non-military flights at the Columbia Metropolitan Airport will not be disrupted, according to airport officials.
The construction at McEntire, which includes repaving the landing zone, installing new lighting and installing devices to aid in landing, is expected to cost $20 million, and will be paid for by the U.S. Department of Defense, Quadri told The State in March.
The improvements are expected to last 15 years and could help bring highly advanced jets such as the F-35 to McEntire, Quadri said in the previous interview.
The mission of the 169th Fighter Wing — also known as the Swamp Foxes — is to maintain wartime readiness and the ability to mobilize and deploy expeditiously to carry out tactical air missions or combat support activities in the event of a war or military emergency, officials said. It specializes in the suppression and destruction of enemy air defenses.
The S.C. Air National Guard will also respond to the South Carolina governor in the event of natural disaster or domestic disturbance.
Anyone interested in watching the F-16s take off and land in their temporary home can park at airport’s the cell phone waiting lot.
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