After three decades of service, the last of the Wisconsin Air National Guard’s F-16 fighter jets took off from Truax Field Wednesday for the last time as the 115th Fighter Wing prepares for its next mission.
Pilots from other units around the country will fly F-16s out of Madison in support of the Guard’s homeland defense mission while the unit gets ready to fly F-35 fighter jets, said Capt. Leslie Westmont.
Truax Field is undergoing roughly $120 million worth of construction to accommodate the 20 new jets, which are scheduled to begin arriving in early 2023.
The F-16 Fighting Falcons arrived at Truax Field in 1992, replacing the A-10 Thunderbolt, and were the eighth plane type flown by the unit since it was formed in 1948.
Six Wisconsin National Guard pilots flew the last of the unit’s 25 planes to bases in Arizona, Colorado, Maryland, New Jersey and Texas, where they will be flown by other units.
Vice Wing Commander Col. Charles Merkel said the jets, built in 1987, have another five to 10 years of service remaining.
“Each one of these airplanes has taken us over (two) oceans many times and into harm’s way and back safely and reliably,” Merkel said “They have sat alert and they motivated many a Packers and Badgers team with flyovers on fall days like today.”
Despite community division and concerns about noise and pollution, the Air Force selected the 115th in 2020 as one of the nation’s first National Guard units to fly the F-35, which at a cost of more than $1.7 trillion is the Pentagon’s most expensive weapons program.
Art of the Everyday: A recap of August in photos from Wisconsin State Journal photographers
Wendy Ohlsen, right, mom to competitor Noah Ohlsen, and Sara Maciver cheer him on during the sixth workout of the CrossFit Games at Alliant Energy Center at in Madison, Wis., Friday, Aug. 5, 2022. KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL
Alfredo Hernandez, left, high fives his 8-year-old son, Abriel, after he scored a run for the Pirates during a game for the Miracle League of Dane County at Phoebe Bakken Memorial Park in Cottage Grove, Wis., Thursday, July 14, 2022. AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL
Performing under the branches of an oak tree estimated to be at least 180 years old, members of the Madison-based Cycropia Aerial Dance company run through a rehearsal ahead of a pair of appearances at the Orton Park Festival in Madison, Wis. Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022. Formed in 1989, the group has been a staple at the Marquette neighborhood gathering, which features four days of music, food, crafts and family activities. This year’s program entails the work of 29 members, including dancers, stage hands, riggers and sound and video technicians. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL
Voters cast their ballots at the Cherokee Country Club Tennis Courts in Madison, Wis., Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL
Sun Prairie East’s Cortez LeGrant (23) celebrates his touchdown with teammate Corey Sammer (66) in the second quarter of a game against Monona Grove at the Bank of Sun Prairie Stadium at Ashley Field in Sun Prairie, Wis., Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL
Steven Buhs, of Cape Girardeau, Mo. shares a ride with his nine-year-old Jack Russell Terrier Beagle mix, also known as a Jackabee, though Brittingham Park in Madison, Wis. Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. Buhs, who was also traveling with his wife, Maggie, said the couple are electric bike enthusiasts who travel regularly to various cycling-friendly cities, often exploring the more northern climes of the country in mid-summer. He estimates that the dog has logged approximately 10,000 miles during the course of their journeys. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL
Liam Opperman, left, hands ears of corn to his younger brother Odin, 5, while harvesting sweet corn with his family at Stoneman Family Farm in Fitchburg, Wis., Friday, Aug. 12, 2022. KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL
Caitlin Patrick, 14, of Mount Horeb, goes into the water using a rope swing during an outing with friends at Stewart Lake County Park in Mount Horeb, Wis., Wednesday, Aug. 10, 2022. AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL
Anthony Kartsonas of Historic Surfaces, LLC carefully removes varnish from the surface of a mural dating to 1915 as part of an evaluation of ceiling paintings at the Wisconsin State Capitol building in Madison, Wis. Monday, Aug. 1, 2022. The painting is one of 64 panels that were not part of previous restoration efforts to the building and the inspection will help identify the best course of action for a future conservation of the works. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL
Children play at Woodland Park while attending the Mala kids yoga and mindfulness summer camp in Madison, Wis., Thursday, Aug. 18, 2022. KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL
Participants follow the lead of an instructor during a free stand up paddle board yoga class on Monona Bay sponsored by WIT Fitness at Brittingham Boats in Madison, Wis., Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL
Pa Lee Chang, foreground, leads a group of her friends through a dance she choreographed that was drawn from Hmong culture outside their homes in the Bayview Neighborhood of Madison, Wis. Monday, Aug. 8, 2022. One of two pieces they’ve been practicing for about a month, the girls will be presenting it wearing traditional attire during a party for her father this weekend. Other dancers include Diana Lor, Nouchee Lor, Katrina Lor and Jou Lor. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL
Wisconsin middle blocker Anna Smrek high-fives fans prior to the start of the Red & White volleyball scrimmage at the UW Field House in Madison, Wis., Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL
Paul Morrison, owner of The Wood Cycle of Wisconsin, shows some of the harvested wood on his property before it is milled in Oregon, Wis., Wednesday, July 20, 2022. AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL
Workers with Krause Construction of Coon Valley, Wis. continues a repair and renovation project to the steeple of St. Lawrence Catholic Church in Jefferson, Wis. Wednesday, Aug. 24, 2022. Built in 1866, the church is the home of the city’s first Catholic parish and is situated on the site of a former log church built for the congregation in 1846. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL
Wisconsin libero Shanel Bramschreiber returns a serve during the Red & White volleyball scrimmage at the UW Field House in Madison, Wis., Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022. KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL
Will Gu, of Fitchburg, loads a fiddle leaf fig plant into his car after purchasing it from the new Costco in Verona, Wis., Wednesday, Aug. 17, 2022. AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL
With last week’s auditions behind them, members of the University of Wisconsin Marching Band gather for their initial practice of the season on the campus of UW-Madison in Madison, Wis. Monday, Aug. 22, 2022. The group’s first full performance will be Saturday, Sept. 3 when the Badger football team hosts Illinois State at Camp Randall Stadium. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL
Marlow Hicks III does bench presses with a barbell during a fan event in Badgerville in Madison, Wis., Sunday, Aug. 21, 2022. KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL
Members of the University of Wisconsin Sailing Team, including Mabel Sliney, right, of Marblehead, Massachusetts and Marissa Tegeder, of Delafield, both sophomores, clean sailboats as they prepare for the fall season, outside Memorial Union on Lake Mendota in Madison, Wis., Monday, Aug. 29, 2022. AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL
Martha Siravo shares a moment with her daughter, Jaz, 10, at their apartment in Madison, Wis. Monday, Aug. 8, 2022. She is co-founder and president of Madtown Mommas and Disability Advocates. Her daughter, who has cerebral palsy and epilepsy, needs cognitive, behavioral and mobility support, is entering the fourth grade will be going back to full-time, in-person learning for the first time since 2020. Martha has been wheelchair-bound since sustaining a spinal cord injury in a vehicle accident in 2004. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL
Middleton's Avery Passini breaks up a pass intended for Waunakee's Robert Booker during the first half Aug. 26, 2022, at Waunakee High School.
Brinley Krahn, 7, of Cottage Grove reacts as a butterfly lands on her daycare provider, Rhonda Smith, of Sun Prairie, during a visit to Olbrich’s Blooming Butterflies in the Bolz Conservatory in Madison, Wis., Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022. AMBER ARNOLD, STATE JOURNAL
Cousins Courtney and Emily Butzlaff of Kewaskum, Wis. pause for photo for a friend during a visit to a sunflower field at Kelley Country Creamery in Fond du Lac, Wis. Monday, Aug. 1, 2022. The fifth annual display helps raise funds through donations and sales of flowers and gifts for the Northeast Wisconsin Old Glory Honor Flights organization, which transports veterans to memorials in Washington, D.C. as well as other parts of Wisconsin. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL
Waunakee teammates Danny Cotter (26), Rykker Cardenas (28) and Joey Thomas (69) celebrate a Warrior touchdown against Middleton Aug. 26.
Karen Ruiz fills out her ballot in the Wisconsin partisan primary election during a visit with her son, Grabiel, to her polling place at Steamfitters Local 601 in Madison, Wis. Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2022. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL
Lauren Hebbe, 15, of Fort Atkinson, takes a nap with her Berkshire pigs at the Wisconsin State Fair in West Allis, Wis., Thursday, Aug. 4, 2022. KAYLA WOLF, STATE JOURNAL
Walkers in Oconomowoc, Wis. enjoy the waning rays of a setting sun as a recent period of clear skies and comfortable temperatures encourage participation in a variety of outdoor summer activities Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022. JOHN HART, STATE JOURNAL