Planes flying out of McEntire will be protecting the skies over the southern U.S.
A ribbon-cutting ceremony was held at McEntire Joint National Guard Base on Friday as South Carolina’s Air National Guard F-16 unit officially assumed responsibility for what’s called Air Sovereignty Alert missions that had previously been assigned to Shaw Air Force Base.
Brig. Gen. Scott Williams says the mission they have is the most complicated, complex mission in the Air Force, the suppression and destruction of enemy air defense.
Shaw picked up the mission, five, six, seven years ago, but the operational tempo for the 20th Fighter Wing increased over time. Rarely will you ever find all three of their squadrons at home, and that makes it very difficult for them to train and plan for the next war doing that SEAD (Suppression of Enemy Air Defense) DEAD (Destruction of Enemy Air Defense) mission. They were doing the Air Sovereignty Alert, and it was a better fit to migrate that mission over to McEntire.
Gen. Williams says there are a lot of good reasons for the mission to migrate from Shaw to McEntire’s facility.
It’s a good fit for our capabilities here, and with the cooperation of the 20th Fighter Wing, 9th Air Force, 1st Air Force and Air Combat Command and those at the National Guard Bureau we’re able to move it over here and do it penny’s on the dollar. It cost us very little for us to move this over. This day and age of budget cuts, we’ve got to adaptively re-use what we have instead of just buying all new stuff.
Gen. Williams says the military option there is an important part of the last line of defense. “We’ve just joined an elaborate network of sensors, command and control, shooters, radars, and so on and so forth, a layered defense to defend our nation against any possible threat.”
Friday’s ceremony marked the opening of the newest alert site as the South Carolina Air National Guard assumes the homeland defense mission. The site has a newly constructed hanger and taxiway and the alert crew is housed at a renovated building where there are sleeping areas, a kitchen and offices for pilots on alert.
The unit at McEntire Joint National Guard Base operates about two dozen F-16 Fighting Falcons.