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Murkowski: Will F-16 Proposal Diminish the 168th Refueling Wing’s Capabilities?

Senator Murkowski today continued to question the broader implications of the proposed F-16 Aggressor squadron move from Eielson Air Force Base to Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson, by asking the Air National Guard Director whether the United States Air Force’s proposal would undercut the 168th Air Refueling Wing’s ability to fulfill its mission.  If the proposal moves forward, the 168th would reduce its current continuous operations to “effectively, a 12 hour/day, 5 day/week schedule” – in a key area of the world as the Pentagon shifts its focus to the Asia Pacific region.

In a Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee hearing, Senator Murkowski pointed out that “with this proposal, it may result in operations being diminished … [the decreased hours of operation are] certainly not the hours that are presently required of this incredibly intensive refueling wing.”

Air National Guard Director Lt. Gen. Harry Wyatt responded that the 168th’s location is of key importance in the Pacific theater, and her question was among of the first questions he himself had asked when the proposal was announced.

Senator Murkowski drilled down, asking, “If you go to the reduced hours of operation, could you do the mission you believe you have to do in the Arctic and North Pacific?” General Wyatt responded that the risks involved would have to be seriously considered in such a move.

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