This Air Force Is Replacing All Of This Unit’s Jets With Unmanned Drones

132nd Fighter Wing

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The end of the fighter pilot, and nearly a century of military fighter planes, is an idea that garners a lot of attention lately and this report out of Nebraska is a prime example why.Andrew Nelson at the World-Herald writes that all 21 F-16s at the Iowa National Guard’s 132nd Fighter Wing will be replaced with an unnamed type of pilotless drone.

From the World-Herald:

Under a budget deal set for approval this week, the Iowa National Guard’s 132nd Fighter Wing will lose the jets. The decision comes after months of wrangling between Iowa’s congressional delegation and the Air Force. The 132nd has flown F-16s on missions in Afghanistan in recent years.

Now, after 70 years of flying manned aircraft, the wing will fly remote-controlled unmanned planes, according to the proposal. The aircraft will be based elsewhere, possibly overseas. U.S. House and Senate negotiators agreed to a deal this week that will mean the removal of all 21 jets from the Des Moines Air National Guard Base. The House could approve the defence spending bill as soon as today and the Senate on Friday. President Barack Obama is expected to sign it.

The move will be a blow to the local economy and its fighter support jobs, but that’s part of a drone’s appeal, it’s cheaper and easier to maintain than a piloted jet.

The 132nd’s F-16’s were largely scheduled for retirement between 2018 and 2020, but with almost 70 years of fighter piloting tradition behind it, the move appears to be a surprise to legislators and local residents.

The unit’s jets flew more than 800 combat missions, and 3,200 hours since 1992.