187th Fighter Wing bids farewell to F-16 jets

Published: Apr. 21, 2023 at 7:30 PM CDT
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - The 187th Fighter Wing, Alabama’s Air National Guard unit at Dannelly Field in Montgomery, is honoring the 35-year legacy of the F-16 Fighting Falcon as the last jets departed from the base Friday.

The Fighter Wing is divesting its F-16 jets as it prepares to field the F-35A Lightning II later this year.

“The Alabama National Guard has flown the F-16 out of Dannelly Field longer than any other jet in our history combined,” said Alabama National Guard Maj. Gen. Sheryl Gordon.

A farewell flyaway ceremony held Friday paid tribute to the airmen and technical crew who helped put in 80,000 flight hours in the aircraft through missions around the world.

“From Iraq to Afghanistan, to Korea to Kuwait, Qatar, Romania, Ukraine, this wing has represented our nation with professionalism and pride,” said Alabama National Guard Brigadier General William Sparrow.

A crowd of past and present service members watched the aircraft as it left the runway at Dannelly Field for the last time.

“It’s a bittersweet moment,” said Maj. Bart Smith who flew the F-16 for about seven years.

“It’s kind of sad. It brings a little tear to your eye because these are awesome jets,” he said.

The F-16s will now be transitioned to other bases across the country for continued use.

“They’ve taken some up north to other guard units. They’ve taken some out to Alaska to fly with the aggressors, which is an upgrade for them. They’ve taken some to Las Vegas, Nevada, to fly with those aggressors,” Smith said.

Now it’s the start of a new era at the 187th Fighter Wing as they prepare for the arrival of the F-35. The Fighter Wing does not have any of the new aircraft yet but is expected to get 20 of them beginning in December 2023.

“As war evolves, as the 187th mission evolves, that’s what we have to have to go into the future,” Smith says, pointing at the F-35 jet on display at the ceremony.

Smith is among the next generation of pilots soaring the red tails into the future.

“It’s cutting-edge technology. It’s the best fighter that the world has yet produced, and it’s just a joy to get up there and fly,” he said.

The decision to place the jets at Dannelly Field is expected to create more than a thousand jobs in the River Region.

The 187th Fighter Wing is just one of two bases in the country to be selected as an Air National Guard F-35A Lightening II location. Also selected as a location for the jets was Truax Field in Wisconsin.

Not reading this story on the WSFA News App? Get news alerts FASTER and FREE in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store!