Wing Commanders Talk F-16s on Capitol Hill

Washington Report

(February 13, 2018) Congressional staffers were told last week of the need for F-16 modernization from men who lead some of the 13 F-16 wings in the Air National Guard. The commanders described the pitfalls of not updating the aircraft during a Capitol Hill breakfast sponsored by the National Guard Educational Foundation.

“Let’s get this thing modernized in the next three to five years so that we are able to provide the defense not only to our nation,” said Col. Nicholas Gentile, the commander of the 169th Fighter Wing in South Carolina, “but to take the fight to the enemy and be capable against their current electronic attack.”

Gentile and others at the breakfast meeting are members of the F-16 Weapons System Council, which is composed of weapons officers and commanders of squadrons and wings, said Col. Erik Peterson, the council chairman and the commander of the 115th Fighter Wing in Wisconsin.

Peterson describes the council as a “unified front for what is most important to make the F-16 lethal and capable in today’s fight and future fights. . . . We also try to tie that into our resolutions to NGAUS annually.”

The improvements would not only make the aircraft more effective, but allow it to better share airspace with more advanced fifth-generation aircraft.

Matt Pincus, the NGAUS deputy legislative director, said having the commanders speak directly to Congressional staffers adds weight to the issue of weapon modernization.

“While NGAUS efforts are important on Capitol Hill, it’s a lot more meaningful for them to hear weapons systems priorities from the warfighters,” he said. “For us, events like this provide invaluable information and credibility in our lobbying efforts.”

The most critical requirement is the Active Electronically Scanned Array Radar, or AESA, which would be much less susceptible to an electronic attack and provides significant capability for the Air Guard F-16s that perform the homeland defense mission of American airspace.

“We need every Air National Guard F-16 to have this new radar,” Gentile said. “This radar will allow us to compete in almost all the arenas around the world right now.”

The aircraft also needs an updated central display unit that would have a larger screen with greater resolution and provide 20 times more computing power. Another priority is a tactical data link to increase the amount of data the jet could transmit and receive.