Spangdahlem AB stands to lose F-16 squadron
January 7, 2010
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany stands to lose 450 personnel and one of its two F-16 fighter jet squadrons if Congress approves an Air Force plan to retire early about 250 fighter jets.
But that approval, if it comes at all, has been delayed, as Congress wants more details from the Air Force before deciding whether to authorize the moves.
In a routine visit to Spangdahlem last week, Gen. Roger Brady, U.S. Air Forces in Europe commander, laid out what the reductions could look like if the so-called Combat Air Forces restructuring is approved.
"What it amounts to is basically a squadron of F-16 Fighting Falcons out of Spangdahlem," Brady was quoted this week in a USAFE news release.
Rather than having two F-16 squadrons of 21 "primary assigned aircraft," the base would have one squadron of 24 jets, in addition to the A-10 Thunderbolt II squadron, Brady said.
Spangdahlem might also lose about 450 "manpower authorizations," Brady said, according to the release.
The proposed Spangdahlem cuts are part of broader reductions eyed by the Air Force to free up more money to modernize its force.
The service’s plan calls for retiring 112 F-15s, 134 F-16s and three A-10s. Elsewhere in Europe, RAF Lakenheath, England, could lose six of its F-15Cs and retain 18 jets under the proposal.
In total, the changes could free up 4,000 personnel slots for other duties, and save the Air Force $355 million in fiscal 2010 and $3.5 billion over the next five years, the Air Force said in May when announcing the plan.
But Congress has told the Air Force not so fast. Under the 2010 Department of Defense Appropriations Act, signed by President Barack Obama late last year, the Air Force is prohibited from retiring any tactical aircraft until it provides congressional defense committees with more information.
Among other reports, Congress is asking for a detailed plan on how the secretary of the Air Force will fill the resulting force structure and capability gaps, and an explanation of the criteria used for selecting the bases and aircraft impacted by the plan.
Air Force officials said Tuesday they would not be able to discuss what action the service is taking to complete these reports until Jan. 27.
USAFE spokesman Mike Kucharek said the Air Force has notified community leaders in Spangdahlem about the potential changes, with the understanding that "this is a possibility" and no direction has yet to come down from the Air Force on how to proceed.
"We are happy with Spangdahlem Air Base and we certainly would not like to see" the reduction of personnel at the base, said Spangdahlem Mayor Klaus Rodens on Wednesday.
F-16s have been stationed at the base since 1987, when the 23rd Fighter Squadron replaced its F-4E and F-4G "Wild Weasels" with F-16C Fighting Falcons, according to base spokeswoman Air Force 2nd Lt. Kate Polesnak.
The 22nd Fighter Squadron acquired F-16s in 1994, replacing the squadron’s F-15 Eagle fleet.
Stars and Stripes’ Marcus Klöckner contributed to this story.