Air National Guard
The Air National Guard is one of the seven Reserve components of the United States Armed Forces that augments the Active components in the performance of their missions. Administered by the National Guard Bureau, a joint bureau of the departments of the Army and Air Force, the Air National Guard has both a federal and state mission. The dual mission, a provision of the United States Constitution and the United States Code of Laws, results in each Guardsman holding membership in the National Guard of his/her state and in the National Guard of the United States.
The Air National Guard's Federal mission is to maintain well-trained, well-equipped units available for prompt mobilization during war and provide assistance during national emergencies (such as natural disasters or civil disturbances). During peacetime, the combat-ready units/support units are assigned to most Air Force major commands to carry out missions compatible with training, mobilization readiness, and contingency operations such as Operation JOINT (ENDEAVOR) GUARD in Bosnia, Operation PROVIDE COMFORT in Iraq and Turkey, Operation SOUTHERN WATCH in Kuwait and Operation Allied Force (Kosovo). The Air National Guard units may be activated in a number of ways as prescribed by public law. Most of the laws may be found in Title 10 of the United States Code.
The Air National Guard provides almost half of the Air Force's tactical airlift support, combat communications functions, aeromedical evacuations and aerial refueling. In addition, the Air National Guard has total responsibility for air defense of the entire United States.
The National Guard Bureau, both a staff and operating agency, administers the Federal functions of the Army and the Air National Guard. As a staff agency, the National Guard Bureau participates with the Army and Air staffs in developing and coordinating programs that directly affect the National Guard. As an operating agency, the National Guard Bureau formulates and administers the programs for training, development and maintenance of the Army National Guard and Air National Guard and acts as the channel of communication between the Army, Air Force and the 54 states and territories where National Guard units are located.
When Air National Guard units are not mobilized or under Federal control, they report to the governor of their respective state, territory (Puerto Rico, Guam, Virgin Islands) or the commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard. Each of the 54 National Guard organizations is supervised by the Adjutant General of the state or territory. Under State law, the Air National Guard provides protection of life, property and preserves peace, order and public safety. These missions are accomplished through emergency relief support during natural disasters such as floods, earthquakes and forest fires; search and rescue operations; support to civil defense authorities; maintenance of vital public services and counterdrug operations.
The primary sources of full-time support for Air National Guard units are the dual-status military technicians/guardsmen on active duty. These personnel perform day-to-day management, administration and maintenance. By law, dual-status military technicians are civil service employees of the federal government who must be military members of the unit that employs them. Technicians train with the unit and are mobilized with it when it's activated.
Active duty members serve under the command authority of their respective state/territorial governors until mobilized for Federal duty. The Air National Guard has more than 106,000 officers and enlisted personnel who serve in 88 flying units and 280 independent support units.
The Air National Guard of today -- a separate reserve component of the United States Air Force -- was a product of the politics of postwar planning and interservice rivalry during World War II. The men who planned and maneuvered for an independent postwar Air Force during World War II didn't place much faith in the reserves, especially the state-dominated National Guard. On the contrary, they were determined to build the largest and most modern standing force possible. They assumed that future wars would be short and highly destructive affairs decided by the ability of one side to deliver massive aerial firepower on an enemy's heartland. They were convinced that reserves could not operate complex modern weapons without extensive post-mobilization training. Reserves did not play a prominent role in their vision of the postwar Air Force. For its part, the Guard had a well-established stake in aviation. It had formed 29 observation squadrons between World War I and World War II.
But, domestic politics and American history forced them to significantly alter their plans. Determined not to be excluded from the post-war U.S. military establishment, the National Guard flexed its considerable political muscle during World War II. It forced the War Department (including the Army Air Forces) to retain it as the nation's primary reserve force once the war was over. Dramatic military budget cuts by President Harry S. Truman after V-J Day and his determination to split defense dollars evenly among the Army, Navy, and Air Force compelled the latter to plan for a far smaller active duty force than it had envisaged during World War II. The reserve components had to help fill the gap.
Consequently, in the late 1940s, the Air Force found itself stuck with the Air Guard against its best professional judgement. The ANG would be manned by some 58,000 personnel. Its primary units would be 84 flying squadrons, mostly fighters. Air defense of the continental U.S. was its main mission. A separate National Guard aviation program began to emerge in 1946 as individual units obtained federal recognition. But, the Air Guard's official birth date was 18 September 1947, the same day the Air Force became a separate service.
There was little trust and understanding between the active duty USAF and the ANG. Although it looked good on paper, one Air Force general referred to it as "flyable storage." Other observers called its units state-sponsored flying clubs. The Air Force and the National Guard Bureau (NGB) spent the late 1940s fighting over who was in charge. Essentially, that question was resolved in 1950 when the Army and Air Force strengthened the power of the ANG and Army National Guard division chiefs to administer their organizations in response to the directives of their respective services.
The Korean War was a turning point for the U.S. military establishment including the Air Guard. Some 45,000 Air Guardsmen, 80 percent of the force, were mobilized. That callup exposed the glaring weaknesses of the ANG. Units and individuals lacked specific wartime missions. Their equipment, especially aircraft, was obsolete. Their training was usually deplorable. Once mobilized, they proved to be almost totally unprepared for combat. Guard units were assigned almost at random to active duty, regardless of their previous training and equipment. Many key Air Guardsmen were stripped away from their units and used as fillers elsewhere in the Air Force. It took months and months for them to become combat ready. Some units never did. Eventually, the mess was sorted out. The recalled Guardsmen contributed substantially to the air war in Korea and to the USAF's global buildup for the expected military confrontation with the Soviet Union. However, the initial fiasco forced the Air Force to achieve an accommodation with the Air Guard and to thoroughly revamp its entire reserve system.
Despite their poor initial showing, Air Guardsmen flew 39,530 combat sorties and destroyed 39 enemy aircraft during the Korean War. But, the ANG paid a high price in Korea as 101 of its members were either killed or declared missing in action during the conflict. The Air Guard's 136th and the 116th Fighter Bomber Wings compiled excellent combat records. The 136th -- composed of the 111th (Texas), 154th (Arkansas) and the 182nd (Texas) Fighter-Bomber Squadrons -- flew its first combat mission in the Far East on 24 May 1951 in F-84E "Thunderjets." On 26 June 1951, while escorting B-29s near "Mig Alley," First Lieutenant Arthur E. Olinger and Captain Harry Underwood of the 182nd shared credit for the Air Guard's first jet kill. They destroyed one of five Mig-15s that attacked their formation. The 116th arrived in Japan in late July 1951. Its fighter-bomber squadrons included the 158th (Georgia), 159th (Florida) and the 196th (California).
During the Korean War, as in previous conflicts, Air Guardsmen made their most dramatic contributions as individuals rather than members of Guard units. They demonstrated their combat skills with four Air Guardsmen achieving the coveted status of ace. Captains Robert J. Love and Clifford D. Jolley of the 196th transferred to the USAF's 4th Interceptor Wing. While flying F-86 "Sabrejets," they became the Air Guard's first jet aces. Love destroyed six enemy aircraft while Jolley downed seven.
In the 1950s, Congress played a key role in placing reserve programs on a sound footing because of the political uproar that the poorly managed reserve mobilizations during 1950-51 created. The Congress was much more willing than either the Department of Defense or the military services to fund the reserves properly. Moreover, beginning with the passage of the Armed Forces Reserve Act of 1952, a series of key laws eliminated most of the old inequities and fostered the development of more effective reserve components. It also permitted the use of Guard and Reserve volunteers to support the active duty forces.
The ANG led the way in developing new approaches to reserve training and management during the 1950s. Blessed with innovative leaders like Maj Gen Winston P. "Wimpy" Wilson and a strong political base in the states, the ANG traded some of its autonomy as a state-federal force for closer integration with the active duty Air Force. Wilson was probably the single most important officer in the ANG's history. Wilson recognized that the Air Guard faced a dim future unless it acquired definite wartime missions, integrated into Air Force missions on a daily basis, and met the same tough training standards as the active force. The Air Guard also needed more full-time manning. It had to be ready for combat the moment it was called into federal service. Finally, Wilson and other Guard leaders fought hard to acquire modern aircraft and facilities. Wilson was able to sell these concepts to the ANG, the USAF, Congress and the states. Under his leadership, the ANG was transformed from a flying club to a valued reserve component of the USAF.
Pushed by its reserve components and their political supporters, (primarily the ANG), the Air Force adopted several management and training innovations after the Korean War that promoted the evolution of combat-ready reserve forces. The four most significant policy innovations were:(1) including the air reserve forces in war plans, (2) the ANG's participation in the air defense runway alert program, (3) the gaining command concept of reserve forces management, and (4) the selected reserve force program.
Beginning in 1951, the Air Force established specific mobilization requirements for the Air Guard in its war plans for the first time. The ANG would train against those requirements and plans for the first time. ANG leaders proposed the air defense runway alert program as a way to combine realistic training and support of a significant combat mission in peacetime. Beginning on an experimental basis in 1953, it involved two fighter squadrons at Hayward, California and Hancock Field at Syracuse, New York. They stood alert from one hour before daylight until one hour after sundown. Despite Air Staff doubts and initial resistance, the experiment was a great success. By 1961, it had expanded into a permanent, round-the-clock program that included 25 ANG fighter squadrons. Today, the ANG provides 100 percent of the Air Force's continental-United States-based air defense interceptor force. The runway alert program was the first broad effort to integrate reserve units into the regular peacetime operating structure of the American armed forces on a continuing basis. It was the precursor of the total force approach to reserve components training and utilization.
The third major innovation -- the gaining command concept of reserve forces management -- meant that the major air command responsible for using a Guard or Reserve unit in wartime would actually train it during peacetime. ANG leaders had pressed for that arrangement for years. However, the active duty Air Force had strongly resisted the change. The concept was grudgingly adopted in 1960 because of budget cuts and public criticism of the air reserve programs by General Curtis E. LeMay, then Air Force Vice Chief of Staff. It improved the effectiveness of ANG units by giving Air Force commanders direct personal incentives for improving the performance of those reserve organizations. It also established firm precedents for the total force policy by integrating the Air Guard into the daily operations of the active force.
The fourth major policy innovation -- the selected reserve force program -- reflected Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara's determination to build an elite force of highly capable reserve units to support the Kennedy administration's flexible response policy. He wanted America's military forces, including its reserve components, prepared to respond immediately to a spectrum of conflicts including guerilla and limited conventional war. To support flexible response and improve readiness, McNamara acted to shrink America's large reserve establishment and merge the National Guard with the purely federal reserve components. Efforts at merger had been tried several times since World War II, always failing. It failed again in the early 1960s. McNamara then created a selected reserve force in each of the military services. They had priority access to equipment, could recruit to full wartime strength, and were allowed to conduct additional training each year. They would provide most of the nation's strategic military reserve in the United States while a growing share of the active force was engaged in the Vietnam War.
Through the 1950s, the Air Guard evolved into a force that was increasingly integrated with the planning and operations of the Air Force. By the end of the decade, the Air Guard had become a larger, more capable, and increasingly diverse organization. By the end of Fiscal Year 1960, its personnel strength had grown to 71,000 including 13,200 technicians. The ANG's force structure included tactical fighter and reconnaissance, troop carrier, heavy airlift, and aeromedical evacuation units. But, while it continued to modernize its weapons systems, its aircraft were still obsolescent by active duty Air Force standards. For example, in 1960 its fighter inventory consisted entirely of jets including F-100s, F-104s, F-84s, and F-89Js.
During the 1960s, the air reserve components began to demonstrate the fruits of those four policy innovations. In 1961, President Kennedy activated a limited number of Reserve and Guard units during the Berlin crisis. In a show of American resolve, the President dispatched 11 ANG fighter squadrons to Europe. Although they required significant additional training after they were ordered into federal service, all of those Guard units were in place overseas within one month of mobilization. By contrast, mobilization and overseas deployment during the Korean War had taken ANG units at least seven months. Some 21,000 Air Guardsmen were mobilized during the Berlin crisis. During the Berlin callups, reliance on second-rate equipment continued to plague the Air Guard.
Although publicly lauded for their performance, the Berlin mobilization revealed serious shortcomings in the ANG. Basically, it had not been trained and equipped as a highly ready force capable of immediate deployment and integration with the active duty Air Force in a broad spectrum of scenarios ranging from a general war with the Soviet Union to low level counterinsurgencies or "brush fire wars" as they were called in the early 1960s. Instead, the Air Guard was still a "Mobilization Day" force that required substantial training, personnel augmentation, and additional equipment after it was called into federal service. Despite adoption of the gaining command concept of reserve forces management, the Air Force lacked plans and adequate stocks of spare parts to integrate Air Guard units in situations short of a general war with the Soviet Union.
Guard units had been limited by DoD policy to 83 percent of their wartime organizational strength. The gap had to be filled by mobilizing approximately 3,000 AFRES individual "fillers." Air Guard pilots, although considered excellent individual flyers, had to be trained on a crash basis for transoceanic flight, crash landings at sea, and aerial refueling. During the summer and fall of 1961, the Air Guard had to respond to frequent changes in personnel manning documents by the Air Force.
For all these and other reasons, Air Guard units mobilized in 1961, required extensive training, re-equipment, and reorganization once they were called into federal service. The United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) lacked spare parts needed to support their aging F-84s and F-86s. ANG units had been trained to deliver tactical nuclear weapons, not conventional bombs and bullets. They had to be retrained for conventional missions once they arrived on the continent. Altogether, it took an enormous effort to make those units operational in Europe, the majority of mobilized Air Guardsmen remained in the continental United States.
Privately, the Air Force concluded that the Air Guard units sent to USAFE had achieved an extremely limited operational capability before they returned home in 1962 after the crisis abated. They were skeptical about the military value of the entire deployment. Senior officers noted that it had required a major diversion of USAFE's resources and doubted the effectiveness of ANG units in the opening stages of a general war.
A vast gulf separated the conclusions of Air Force and Air Guard leaders about the lessons of the Berlin mobilization. The former failed to recognize immediately the constraints which obsolescent aircraft, inadequate funding and incomplete manning as well as poor planning had placed on the Air Guard's development. Many of them still viewed the Air Guard as amateurs who had not improved significantly since the Korean War. But, the Berlin mobilization stimulated the Air Force to make significant improvements in the air reserve components. Those changes were reflected in Air Force Regulation 45-60, published in February 1963. It shifted the objectives of its reserve programs away from providing mobilization-day units and individuals that required extensive post call-up preparations before they were ready for combat. Instead, the new goal was "to provide operationally ready units and trained individuals that are immediately ready to augment the active duty establishment."
Driven by the Kennedy administration's adoption of the "flexible response" strategy and the large American military buildup during the 1960s, the Air Guard continued to modernize and diversify its aircraft inventory. It had entered the tanker business in FY 1962 with the acquisition of KC-97s. In 1963, Air Guard tactical flying units began to routinely deploy outside the continental United States on their annual active duty training tours for the first time. The ANG's total aircraft inventory shrank from 2,269 in 1960 to 1,425 by 1965. Following the end of active American military involvement in the Vietnam War in 1973, there was a substantial reduction in the active duty Air Force enabling the ANG to acquire another infusion of modern aircraft and equipment. These included A-7s, A-10As, F-105s, OA-37s and some brand new C-130Hs. But, its principal fighter aircraft such as F-4s had logged many flying hours including combat operations in Vietnam before they came to the Guard. The Air Guard's personnel strength stood at over 90,300 by the end of FY 1973 when active American military involvement in the Vietnam War ended.
The Vietnam War illustrated a central paradox facing the USAF's reserve components. In January 1968, President Johnson mobilized naval and air reservists following the North Korean seizure of the USS Pueblo. More reservists were called into federal service following the February 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam. Altogether, approximately 10,600 Air Guardsmen were called into federal service in 1968. Although most of the reservists were used to strengthen America's depleted strategic reserve force, four ANG fighter squadrons were dispatched to Vietnam.
In January 1968, President Johnson mobilized naval and air reservists following the North Korean seizure of the USS Pueblo. More reservists were called into federal service following the February 1968 Tet offensive in Vietnam. Altogether, approximately 10,600 Air Guardsmen were called into federal service in 1968. Although most of the reservists were used to strengthen America's depleted strategic reserve force, four ANG fighter squadrons were dispatched to Vietnam.
Vietnam revealed a negative aspect of relying on reservists. For largely domestic political reasons, President Johnson chose not to mobilize most of the nation's reserve forces. The 1968 callups were only token affairs. Johnson's decision to avoid a major reserve mobilization was opposed by the senior leadership of both the active duty military establishment and the reserve forces, but to no avail. The Reserves and the Guard acquired reputations as draft havens for relatively affluent young white men. Military leaders questioned the wisdom of depending on reserve forces that might not be available except in dire emergencies.
Operation Just Cause was mounted from 20 December 1989 to 11 January 1990 to expel Manuel Noriega the dictator of Panama and to install the democratically-elected president. ANG units participated in the operation because of their regularly scheduled presence in Panama for Operations CORONET COVE and VOLANT OAK. Only Pennsylvania's 193d Special Operations Group (SOG) was part of the integral planning process by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Air Staff for the invasion of Panama. The 105th Military Airlift Group (MAG) and the 172 MAG provided airlift support for the operation. They flew 35 missions, completed 138 sorties, moved 1,911 passengers and 1,404.7 tons of cargo which expended 434.6 flying hours. ANG VOLANT OAK C-130 aircrews flew 22 missions, completed 181 sorties, moved 3,107 passengers and 551.3 tons of cargo, which expended 140.1 flying hours. The ANG CORONET COVE units, the 114th TFG and the 18Oth TFG flew 34 missions, completed 34 sorties, expended 71.7 flying hours and expended 2,715 rounds of ordnance.
The next crisis that precipitated an Air Guard mobilization began when Iraq seized its tiny oil-rich neighbor Kuwait in August 1990. Altogether, 12,404 Air Guardmembers entered federal service during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm with 10,456 of them being mobilized. Initially, Air Guard volunteers had concentrated on airlifting as well as flying air refueling, reconnaissance, tactical airlift and special operations missions. The Persian Gulf crisis was the first time in the Air Guard's history that the majority of people involuntarily recalled to active duty were not members of combat flying units. Most of them were members of support organizations. Air Guard units were rapidly deployed and quickly integrated into military operations. All ANG units were returned to state control by August 1991.
Unlike most previous mobilizations, ANG units had not required additional training or new equipment when called upon during the Persian Gulf crisis. Although the ANG in effect had to reinvent itself through an unprecedented level of volunteerism and tailored packages as Desert Shield unfolded, its units entered federal service and were rapidly deployed where needed. ANG RF-4C aircraft flew 1,045 tactical reconnaissance missions including 350 in combat. Air Guard fighters participated in the air campaign from the first day. By the time the war ended, its F-16s had flown 3,645 missions and dropped 3,500 tons of ordnance without losing a single aircraft to enemy fire. In the special operations arena, Air Guard EC-130s had flown approximately 2,000 missions lasting some 8,000 hours. They broadcast surrender appeals and instructions to Iraqi soldiers. The Air Guard's largest contributions as gauged by the numbers of personnel involved, were concentrated in a wide range of support missions. The Guard's aerial tankers pumped over 250 million pounds of fuel into more than 18,000 aircraft. Its airlifters flew some 40,000 hours, transporting 55,000 people and 115,000 tons of cargo.
After Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the Air Guard continued to adjust to the realities of the post Cold War era and began to posture itself for the 21st century. That meant coping with a higher operations tempo using packages of volunteers to augment the active force in a series of contingency and humanitarian relief operations overseas, a continued shift from a predominant fighter force to a more balanced one that included both fighters and a significant increase in the numbers of larger aircraft. The Air Guard completed the process of taking over 1st Air Force from the active force with its air defense and air sovereignty missions on 1 October 1997. It also gained a toehold in space missions after years of effort and assumed total responsibility for airlift support of the National Science Foundation in Antarctica from the Navy. In addition, it reorganized its headquarters organization within the National Guard Bureau and the Air National Guard Readiness Center as well as units and launched an ambitious staff integration program with the active force.
The last Air Guard mobilization before Kosovo involved peacekeeping in Bosnia. After exhausting volunteer resources, a series of air traffic control and combat communications units were mobilized for 120-day rotations at Tazar, Hungary, beginning June 1996. Additional locations in Bosnia were added later. Over 200 people from at least 8 units served. The mobilization ended March 31, 1999.
Operation Allied Force, the air campaign over Kosovo, recently prompted a call up of Air Guardsmen. It was the sixth time since becoming a separate reserve component in 1947 that Air National Guard (ANG) forces have been mobilized.
At the end of fiscal year (FY) 1997, the Air Guard had 110,025 assigned military personnel. That represented a modest decrease from its FY 1994 end strength of 113,587. Of those totals, 33,422 (22,862 civil service technicians and 10,560 Active Guard/Reserve (AGR) members) were full-time support personnel as of 30 September 1997. Those numbers represented a slight increase from the 32,616 (23,304 technicians and 9,312 AGRs) full-time personnel on the ANG's rolls at the end of FY 1994. Technicians were federal civil servants, administered by the states, who were also military members of their Guard units. AGRs were Guardsmen who were full-time military members of their units.
The vast majority of the Air Guard's personnel, money, and equipment was concentrated in its flying units. They operated primarily from civilian airports and other installations outside active duty military bases as they had since the end of World War II. The Air Guard's equipment inventory included 1,162 PAA as of 30 September 1997 - a significant reduction from the 1,505 PAA in its inventory six years earlier. During that period, the composition of the ANG's aircraft inventory had changed significantly. Following a trend that had begun in 1955 when the Air Guard had acquired its first four airlift-type units, it had changed from a predominantly fighter-attack-reconnaissance (FAR) force to one whose units were almost evenly balanced between FAR and large aircraft. The latter included airlifters, tankers, and heavy bombers. The Air Guard's fighter wing equivalents (FWE) were reduced in FY 1995 from 8.5 to 6 consistent with the Defense Guidance that sized the total Air Force at 20 FWE (13 active duty, 6 ANG, and 1 Air Force Reserve). Heavy bombers entered the Air Guard's inventory for the first time in 1994 with a total of 14 B-1Bs programmed by the end of fiscal year FY 1997 for two units, the 184th Bomb Wing (BW), Kansas, and the 116th BW, Georgia. The 184th completed its conversion in FY 1996 at McConnell Air Force Base (AFB), Kansas. After a long political struggle that involved resisting the planned conversion from F-15s and an associated move from Dobbins AFB near Atlanta to Robins AFB near Macon, the 116th began its conversion on 1 April 1996. The unit completed that process in December 1998. All the bombers in both units were configured for conventional, not nuclear, missions.
In the early 1990s, the ANG's senior Pentagon leadership had begun the process of reshaping their reserve component for the post Cold War era. In a series of give-and-take discussions with senior Air Force leaders, ANG long range planners, and the states, they had developed a strategic vision for the future. It was unveiled during the fall of 1992 by senior Air Force and Air Guard leaders. In particular, Major Generals Philip G. Killey [ANG Director, November 1988 to January 1994] and Donald W. Shepperd [ANG Director, January 1994 to January 1998] stressed that the ANG could not avoid the far-reaching changes sweeping through the U.S. armed forces. While downsizing active force flying units, the Air Force wanted to try to retain all ANG (and Air Force Reserve) flying units as a cost-effective way to maintain force structure.
But, the ANG's core fighter force was bound to shrink dramatically as the USAF reduced to 22 or less tactical FWE. To preserve its flying units, the ANG would aggressively seek alternative missions for some, reduce their number of assigned aircraft, combine units at the same location, and, as a last resort, close down units. Airlift, tankers, and bombers appeared to offer some opportunities for growth in the Air Guard. Furthermore, the senior leadership would aggressively seek out new missions like space for some of the Air Guard's non-flying units. They predicted that the Guard's assigned personnel strength, which was approximately 118,000 in 1992, would shrink significantly. They doubted that it would not go below 100,000 even in a worst case scenario. During that restructuring, it was essential that the ANG maintain a high level of readiness. They also stressed that it was also essential that the Air Guard accomplish those changes in a cooperative manner with the Air Force. The ANG depended on a healthy Air Force and could not afford to get into a fight with the latter over controlling a larger share of diminishing post Cold War defense resources.
The Air Guard's continued ability to provide properly equipped units also depended heavily on equipment modernization. Although it normally relied on the fall-out from the active force, Congressional support played an important role. Due to lobbying by the Mississippi congressional delegation, the Air Force announced that it would equip the 172nd AW with C-17s. Original Air Force plans to equip 2 ANG squadrons with those aircraft had been dropped when the C-17 buy was cut back drastically in the early 1990s. Through a separately-funded Guard and Reserve Equipment Account (GREA) established by the Congress in 1982, significant numbers of new C-130s had been purchased for the ANG in recent years. With its airlift fleet increasingly called upon to operate regularly in dangerous areas around the world, the ANG supported Air Force efforts to equip those aircraft with defensive systems. Congressional initiatives had also enabled the ANG to complete the replacement of 1950s vintage C-130B models with modern C-130 H aircraft. The ANG and the Air Force were also working closely to develop unit training devices for F-15 and F-16 units. That low cost device relied upon off-the-shelf equipment that replaced existing simulators that were 20 to 30 times more expensive. For night operations, the ANG was working with ACC to test low cost, off-the-shelf equipment that would allow its A-10s, F-15s, and F-16s to be more effective night fighters. The first step was to upgrade its A-10 fleet. In 1995, the 104th Fighter Wing of Massachusetts became the first ANG to use night vision goggles in combat. During March 1995, the Air Guard also began to develop a manned tactical reconnaissance capability to replace RF-4Cs that were being retired from its aircraft inventory. The 192nd Fighter Wing in Virginia developed the concept and established an initial operational capability with four F-16s, four reconnaissance pods, and 12 trained pilots. The new equipment, based upon modern digital technology, replaced older, manpower-intensive, wet film technology.
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