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Crapo, Hickenlooper Lead Bill to Preserve Air Force Fighter Force Structure

Washington, D.C.--To preserve military readiness, U.S. Senators Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) and John Hickenlooper (D-Colorado) introduced the Fighter Force Preservation and Recapitalization Act.  This legislation prevents the closure of Air National Guard (ANG) fighter squadrons at a time when pilot and maintenance manning are at critically low levels.  Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Chris Van Hollen (D-Maryland) joined as original co-sponsors.

“Preserving and protecting National Guard fighter squadrons is a priority amid increasing national security threats,” said Crapo.  “On average, the pilots and maintainers in the ANG are twice as experienced as their active duty counterparts.  This legislation protects squadrons--such as the Idaho Air National Guard’s 190th Fighter Squadron--from force reductions that leave Americans at risk to the threat of bad actors who wish to do us harm at home and abroad.”

“The Buckley-based 140th Wing of the Colorado Air National Guard is a critical national security asset, defending combatant commands and major military installations and supporting global combat operations,” said Hickenlooper.  “If we don’t have a strategy to secure the future of the 140th Wing—along with Air National Guard Units across the country—we’ll lose experienced pilots and jeopardize the strength of our fighting force. Our bill ensures this won’t happen.”

Since 1987, the Air Force fighter fleet has been reduced by 60 percent.   The ANG represents 27 percent of the Air Force fighter force and is responsible for 94 percent of homeland defense missions.  Unfortunately, the Air Force is moving to divest many of the ANG legacy equipment, including A-10s, F-15Cs and older F-16s, without a plan to recapitalize them with advanced aircraft.  The Fighter Force Preservation and Recapitalization Act will ensure the Air Force maintains 25 ANG fighter squadrons across 22 states, ready to protect Americans at home and abroad.

“The Idaho Air National Guard has been home to fighter aircraft for more than 75 years,” said Maj. Gen. Michael Garshak, adjutant general of Idaho.  “Throughout our history, we have always answered when called upon to deploy around the world in support of combat operations and U.S. national interests.  Idaho’s 10,000 square miles of technologically advanced training ranges provide unmatched capability, producing the highest levels of fighter aircraft readiness in support of the Air Force and our National Defense Strategy.”

“America’s military readiness is pivotal to protecting our homeland,” said Risch.  “The Fighter Force Preservation and Recapitalization Act will protect Air National Guard fighter squadrons from closure and maintain the essential pilots and crews that serve in them.”

“The 175th Wing of Maryland’s Air National Guard plays an integral role in keeping our nation safe,” said Van Hollen.  “This bipartisan legislation will ensure we maintain a well-trained and well-equipped Air National Guard force that can remain at the ready to protect and defend our country.  I will continue working to support the Maryland National Guard and its fighter flying mission – they have our backs, and we should have theirs.” 

Representative Don Bacon (R-Nebraska) has introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Full text is available HERE.