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Plans about relocating two F-16 squadrons from Luke Air Force Base concerns U.S. Sen. John McCain because it would waste taxpayer money, hamper Air Force pilot training and reduce operations at the Glendale base.
In a letter Tuesday, McCain asked Air Force Secretary Michael Donley to rethink plans to move the squadrons and about 1,000 service members to New Mexico’s Holloman Air Force Base by 2014.
Among McCain’s concerns:
- The Air Force would have to spend about $47 million to prepare Holloman for the jet fighters.
- F-16 pilots at Holloman would compete for training time with missile, helicopter and unmanned drone training missions.
McCain suggested the Air Force could save money and maintain quality training by cancelling the plan. He said Luke has enough space for both the F-16 squadrons and the F-35 mission and that Air Force pilots get first priority when training at the Barry M. Goldwater Range in southern Arizona.
“We have an obligation to be stewards of the taxpayers’ money and seek savings wherever they can be realized. This planned transfer appears to run counter to this obligation,” McCain wrote.
Air Force spokeswoman Ann Stefanek said Air Force officials would respond to McCain as soon as they reviewed the letter and assessed the senator’s concerns.
McCain has criticized the F-16 transfer before but wrote the letter after Arizona residents expressed worries about the plan at each of his town hall meetings this summer, according to spokesman Brian Rogers.
Glendale Mayor Elaine Scruggs said McCain’s letter raised “valid questions” about costs, training and timing.
“Luke has been the Air Force’s preeminent fighter training facility for decades,” she said. “I share the mutual interests of the Air Force and Senator McCain in seeing it remain that way far into the future.”