Warthogs Welcomed by Fort Smith's 188th Fighter Wing

FORT SMITH, Ark. (AP) - The first A-10 Warthog jets have arrived at the 188th Fighter Wing in Fort Smith. The jets are replacing F-16s that used to be the focus of the 188th. In the latest base closings, the F-16s were ordered removed from Fort Smith. The base is being converted to accommodate the Warthogs, which provide close ground support for troops. More than $22 million will be spent to convert the base, and 150 more personnel will be needed.

Pilots based in Fort Smith are training now at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana.

Arkansas Senator Mark Pryor, a Democrat, says the jet's ability to protect ground troops is critical to the future of warfare. Republican Congressman John Boozman says keeping the base open helps the area economy and it also helps the military.

Three A-10s are to arrive at the base each month until the base is up to speed in September.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press.  All Rights Reserved.)