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Continued Support for New Aircraft for 148th Fighter Wing

Updated: May 14, 2019 07:15 PM

The 148th Fighter Wing is proud to fly their F-16 fighter jets. And they've had a busy year already, with some important overseas training exercises. But they continue to lobby to receive the next generation aircraft, the F-35 Lightning.

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Col. Rob Troy, Maintenance Group Commander, addressed the St. Louis County Board on Tuesday. He explained that the biggest difference between their current F-16s and the F-35 is stealth capability. He noted that the current jets were designed in 80s, and the F-35s were designed in the 2010s.

Next week, a group from the Duluth Chamber's Military Affairs Committee will head out to Washington, D.C., to make the case for the 148th.

The St. Louis County Board unanimously approved a resolution of support. 

Itasca County also passed a resolution supporting the wing back in April.

In December of 2017, the Air Force chose the 115th Fighter Wing, which is based in Madison, to be the next base to receive the F-35s.

Also on Tuesday, the 148th invited the media to check out their large training exercise called Northern Lightning. Duluth is hosting Navy EA-18G Growlers from the 209th Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron from Whidbey Island, Washington, along with F-16s from the 114th Fighter Wing in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Col. Troy Havener explained more. "It's a rare opportunity to have an advanced training exercise like this, to execute the suppression of enemy air defense missions. And it's the first time we've been able to host, and we hope to do it more often."

Captain Jason Bright, another pilot, added, "It's been quite unique, flying off of our own ramp. We all have different perceptions, even if we all fly."

Some different aircraft we hadn't seen before here were the Navy EA-18G Growlers. In each aircraft, there are two people, one is the pilot and the other is electronic warfare operator. They have a different mission. "It's an electronic attack," LCDR Cristine Plecki explained. "It's about radar jamming and deception."

She and LCDR Dan Sherman are with the VAQ 209, based out of Washington. "This air space is great," Sherman said. "This is a dry run of what we are going to do when we are forward deployed."

Northern Lightning runs through the 17th.

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