F-16s replace departing Apache helo unit
January 15, 2009
SEOUL — Military officials announced Tuesday that F-16 jets, not A-10s, will replace a departing fleet of Apache helicopters in March.
During a news conference at South Korea’s Ministry of National Defense, 7th Air Force chief of staff Col. Mike Chandler said the change of plans is due to a structural issue with the A-10’s airframe.
Chandler said the A-10s are undergoing inspections to ensure they are airworthy, but using the F-16s in their place would not hamper USFK’s close-air-support capabilities.
"The air-to-ground mission and the close-air-support mission are primarily to support the soldiers on the ground," Chandler said. "Helicopters, the A-10 platform and the F-16 platform are all capable of performing that mission."
In November, U.S. Forces Korea officials said A-10s would take over the close-air and air-to-ground functions filled by Wonju-based helicopters with the 1st Battalion, 2nd Aviation Regiment as the unit moves to Fort Carson, Colo.
The move, they said, would allow the unit to rotate through deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan.
Chandler said the move does not affect USFK’s commitment to keep troop levels constant at about 28,500.
According to the U.S. Air Force Web site, the F-16 is a multi-role fighter that is "highly maneuverable and has proven itself in air-to-air combat and air-to-surface attack."
The A-10, the site said, is known for its "excellent maneuverability at low air speeds and altitude, and ... can loiter near battle areas for extended periods of time and operate under 1,000-foot ceilings."
Both aircraft, Chandler said, have been widely used in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Asked whether the A-10 or F-16 was the better aircraft, he said he couldn’t choose.
"It would be very difficult," Chandler said. "Like choosing a favorite son or daughter for me."