Washington, D.C.— Senator Tom Cotton (R-Arkansas) along with Senator Gary Peters (D-Michigan), and Senator Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) today introduced legislation to help the 188th Fighter Wing at Fort Smith and the Fort Smith airport maintain their important partnership.
“The 188th Fighter Wing at Fort Smith is critical to Arkansas and America’s safety and security, and supporting their efforts should be a top priority,” said Cotton. “Unfortunately, changes to their mission have compromised the long-standing relationship between the Arkansas National Guard and the Fort Smith airport. This legislation is a win for Arkansas across the board. It would protect the 188th Fighter Wing’s future missions and ensure the Fort Smith airport is eligible to receive critical FAA grants to support its operations.”
Background: In 2013 the Arkansas Air National Guard’s 188th Fighter Wing at Fort Smith, Arkansas was selected to convert from an A-10C Fighter Wing to an MQ-9 Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) and Targeting Wing. This change resulted in the unit losing their locally-assigned aircraft as they transitioned to Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA). Upon completion of the conversion in 2015, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) determined the unit’s mission was no longer “aeronautical in nature”, thus making the civilian airport ineligible for certain FAA grants. Similarly affected National Guard units are in Michigan, Iowa, Tennessee, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.