SC Air National Guard relocates fighter jets to Columbia airport

WEST COLUMBIA, SC (WOLO) — The Columbia Metropolitan Airport will have a new type of plane coming to its grounds soon, F-16 fighter aircraft.

It’s part of the temporary relocation of the South Carolina Air National Guard.

“This is a military state with great military tradition. That’s why all things military, including our veterans, are highly honored in South Carolina. That’s one thing that makes us different,” said Gov. Henry McMaster.

The Columbia Metropolitan Airport also has a military history. It dates back to World War Two and missions led by Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle.

“Doolittle recruited volunteers from the airmen station on this campus, what was then known as the Columbia Army Air Base and long before it ever became a commercial airport,” said Mike Gula, Columbia Metropolitan Airport (CAE) director.

Now, it’s going to serve as the temporary home for the South Carolina Air National Guard as McEntire Joint National Guard Base undergoes a multimillion dollar renovation.

“Bottom line, it’s going to mean that we’re going to have an extension to the runway, repair and restoration out at McEntire that’s going to set the stage for the next 15 years of flight operations out there, either in current F-16s, hopefully F-35s or the next future generation fighter,” said Van McCarty, South Carolina adjutant general.

The national guard considered Shaw Air Force Base or Savannah as possible options for relocation but settled on CAE.

“It’s a little counterintuitive maybe at first glance but it’s the best value to the taxpayer and the least disruptive to the military apparatus,” said Col. Quaid Quari of the South Carolina Air National Guard.

The airport’s director says it will not disrupt normal business at the airport. Colonel Quari says environmental and Air Force studies have been conducted so the relocation will produce as little noise footprint as possible. 

“But that noise that you will hear soon as it lifts off from Columbia Metro is the sound of freedom,” McCarty said. “Our young men and women work every day to make sure they are prepared to answer the call whenever and wherever that may be.”

At CAE, 8 to 10 F16 fighter jets will take off and land daily and 200 to 250 national guard members will work at the airport for about the next 6 months. 

“Just one more example of how quickly and easily we in South Carolina communicate, collaborate and cooperate to get things done,” McMaster said.

The airport is working on viewing sites so interested spectators can see the fighter jets take off and land. 

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