Air National Guard Shifts From Richmond International Airport to Langely AFB

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) -- The Air National Guard's 1,000-member Richmond unit will move to Langley Air Force Base at Hampton by 2010, under an agreement between the Air Force and the Virginia National Guard.

Most of the state airmen will relocate to the Peninsula base in the 2007 and 2008 fiscal years, according to the Air Guard.

''The overall goal as far as manning is that we don't lose any people,'' said Capt. Mark Widener, spokesman for Virginia's 192nd Fighter Wing. ''Everyone might not be doing what they're doing up here, but the goal is to have the same number of people.''

Based at Richmond's airport since 1947, the state Air Guard's 192nd Fighter Wing flies the aging, F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter-bomber.

In a first for the Air Force's reserve components, the move to Langley will put the Virginia Air Guard on the leading edge of a major new weapons system - the $256 million supersonic F/A-22 Raptor fighter.

A state Air Guard pilot already has started training on the F/A-22, and two aviation maintenance technicians will begin training on the new aircraft this month, officials said. When the airmen finish training, they will be assigned to work at Langley.

The agreement between the Virginia National Guard, the Air National Guard headquarters at the Pentagon and Air Combat Command at Langley was finalized April 7, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported.

''It's really a bare-bones sketch of how we think the operation will be set up,'' said Maj. Jeff Glenn at Langley.

Among the questions left unanswered is what will become of the Air National Guard Base at Richmond International Airport in Sandston.

''We envision elements of the Air Guard remaining in place at Sandston,'' said Lt. Col. Chester C. Carter III, spokesman for the state National Guard headquarters.

Candidates for remaining at the base are the relatively small state Air Guard headquarters and 200th Weather Flight, a meteorology unit.

About 700 of the wing's men and women are part-time personnel, called ''traditional Guardsmen,'' and about 300 are full-time Air Guard employees.

The Air National Guard Base occupies 142 acres on Richmond International Airport's northeast side.

The Defense Department is cutting redundant military bases and units to reshape the U.S. armed forces to meet 21st-century threats. Officials have said the state Air Guard could find its fighter wing decommissioned if it does not act to protect it.

''The Air Force is shrinking,'' said Glenn, the 1st Fighter Wing's public affairs officer. ''There's a huge decrease'' coming in the size of the force.

Consolidating the state's air militia with Langley's active-duty 1st Fighter Wing should give the Air Guard a role in the nation's defense for the next 30 years, Maj. Gen. Claude Williams, the state's adjutant general, has said.