FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – For 69 years, fighter jets have flown out of the 122nd Air National Guard base in Fort Wayne. Over the years, ten different kinds of planes have been stationed there and right now the base is transitioning back to the F-16.
Two of the 21 planes coming to Fort Wayne arrived last month.
It’s a return to Fort Wayne for the sleek fighter jets. The base flew F-16s prior to the the A-10 Thunderbolts, which had been at the base for more than a decade.
The F-16 is powerful.
“You’re sitting on a rocket,” Col. Scott Boatright said. “By the end of the runway, we can be going 450 mph if we wanted. It will pull 9 Gs. So nine times your body weight is the force on the seat.”
Col. Boatright flew F-16s when he first became a fighter pilot 20 years ago and is excited to be back in the planes.
“It was my first plane out of training and my first plane to be deployed combat in,” he said.
He’s been stationed mostly in Fort Wayne since 2007 and flew the A-10s when they were at the base too.
“You’ve probably seen the A-10s fly over Fort Wayne. This one you’ll hear us more than you see us because we come back at a higher altitude so it’s not as noisy,” Boatright said.
Above video: A U.S. Air Force pilot with the Indiana Air National Guard, performs a Close Air Support (CAS) mission in an A-10C Thunderbolt II aircraft during Operation Guardian Blitz Jan. 31, 2018, at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla. Operation Guardian Blitz provided training opportunities to practice the core skills of CAS, forward air control and combat search and rescue in a joint environment. (U.S. Air National Guard video by Staff Sgt. William Hopper)
The military mission is slightly different with the F-16 planes.
“You fight your way in air-to-air then drop your precision guided bombs and fight your way back out air-to-air so that multi role capability is what this airplane brings that the A-10 didn’t have,” Boatright said.
But, the mission for the city is steadfast.
“Fighters in Fort Wayne,” Boatright said. “We knew the A-10 was going away. We saw the writing on the wall and we struggled to get the F-16 here for quite a while and we finally did.”
Above video: U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft assigned to the 122nd Fighter Wing (FW), drop flares, taxi, bank and take off in historical footage Jan. 5, 2023, at the Fort Wayne Air National Guard base. F-16 Fighting Falcons were flown by the 122nd FW from 1992 to 2010 before converting to A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft. (U.S. Air National Guard video by Master Sgt. William Hopper)
Around a thousand people total come to work at the Air National Guard base and around 300 of them are there full time. The base is estimated to have an economic impact on the region of around $100 million a year.
“This is Fort Wayne’s Air Force,” Boatright said. “There are a lot of bases that don’t have the support we do in Fort Wayne and we try to give a little support back from what we receive.”
The planes may be different, but the 122nd Fighter Wing will always be known as the Blacksnakes.
“That’s from “Mad” Anthony Wayne,” Boatright explained. “General Wayne was referred to as a blacksnake because of the way he used to fight, so that’s while you’ll see Blacksnakes on the planes. The neat thing about this airplane is it will bridge the gap to a fifth-gen airplane so we can keep flying fighters out of Fort Wayne and I’m sure we’ll be called the Blacksnakes from now until then.”
Most of the F-16s are coming from an Air Force base in Arizona. They’ll still be arriving over the next year, but the base hopes to be back doing drills again in the spring.
There is also an air show at the fighter wing every three years. The next one will be in 2025.