Air Force Seeks to Close Georgia Air Training Center | Military.com
Dozens of fighter jets from across the country gathered at a center on the Georgian coast this month for “Sentry Savannah,” the Air National Guard’s largest air combat training exercise.
At least 48 fighter jets took control of the runways at the Air Dominance Center, located at the Savannah Air National Guard Base, in an example of how Air Force planes, de the Navy and Marine Corps on active duty, as well as reserve units, use the space.
But President Joe Biden’s 2023 budget proposal cuts funding for the center, which could put 120 jobs at stake; rendering unnecessary a recent $25 million military construction project for a new hangar; and eventually closing one of the largest regional facilities for air combat exercises in the reserve.
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In response to possible budget cuts, a bipartisan group from the Georgian delegation in Washington wrote lawmakers late last month calling for $11.5 million in funding to be added for the Air Dominance Center, citing heightened tensions in Europe and Asia as reasons to keep the training institute alive.
“With Russia’s military aggression in Europe and China’s increased engagement in Asia and the Pacific threatening our allies and partners, we cannot compromise the combat readiness of our military,” the lawmakers wrote.
Georgia Democratic senses Jon Ossoff and Raphael Warnock, Republican Representatives Earl “Buddy” Carter and Austin Scott, and Democratic Representative Sanford Bishop signed the letter.
Their request asks for $3.45 million for air operations, $1.2 million for mission support, $350,000 for base support and $6.5 million for National Guard personnel. Aerial.
“As members of Congress, we recognize that budgets have limits and that tough decisions must be made to protect our nation’s bottom line,” the lawmakers wrote. “But our military’s ability to conduct realistic, live training sets us apart from our adversaries.”
Jared Downs, vice president of government affairs for the Savannah Chamber of Commerce, which lobbies for financial support for the city’s military community, said the $11.5 million is less than half of what Congress has already approved for an all-new hangar to house the F-35 Lightning. II and F-22 Raptor fighter jets.
“If they close the Air Dominance Center, it will cost $25 million,” Downs told Military.com. He said the project should be completed by September.
The Air National Guard has three other similar training centers. One is near Gulfport, Mississippi; the other two are in Alpena, Michigan, and Camp Douglas, Wisconsin.
Lawmakers say the Savannah training center is more modern and can accommodate more training events than the other three. Each year, it hosts about 2,000 training missions and 6,000 personnel for various exercises, according to the city’s chamber of commerce.
Lawmakers also argue it saves money because the Air Dominance Training Center shares facilities with the 165th Airlift Wing, an Air National Guard unit based at Savannah/Hilton Head International Airport.
“It provides unprecedented opportunities for peer-to-peer air combat training, regional training conferences, classified engagements and regional operations support,” the lawmakers wrote.
The 2023 budget request has not yet been finalized. But the Air Force is planning other cuts that could affect the National Guard, including the retirement of about 269 planes and aircraft.
Nearly two dozen Indiana Air National Guard A-10 Thunderbolts would be retired, and the 122nd Fighter Wing would bring in new F-16 Fighting Falcons, which it flew a decade before it received the Thunderbolt.
— Thomas Novelly can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @TomNovelly.
Related: Indiana’s Guard swapped its F-16s for A-10s a decade ago. Now the Air Force wants to get the F-16s back.
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