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178th Fighter Wing welcomes Dutch pilots for training

New purpose for redundant air base

Tags: Excerpts from the Windmill

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio Dutch military ties with the U.S.A. have further cemented now that the training of Dutch fighter pilots has gravitated towards a North American base. The Springfield Air National Guard Base, which is home to the 178th Fighter Wing, will be the destination of 16 Dutch student pilots a year. Up till now the students received basic training in F-16s at Woensdrecht and were sent to another U.S.A. airbase to perfect their skills.

The recent welcoming ceremony included Dutch and U.S. generals and dignitaries, including Gov. Ted Strickland, and the handing over of the Dutch squadron's flag.

According to Royal Netherlands Air Force officers, the weather and air space in Springfield is largely similar to the Netherlands. They rate the facilities as excellent and the instructors as experienced.

The training program will bring millions of dollars to the economy, local officials say. It will add 105 jobs with annual salaries of more than $9 million to the area and have an overall impact of $120 million on the U.S. economy.

The U.S. is negotiating to train pilots from other European countries as well. Training each basic course student costs about $1 million.

The Springfield unit's current mission training U.S. pilots is scheduled to end in 2010 as part of the Department of Defense's Base Realignment and Closure process. Officials from the military, local, state and federal governments hope that training Allied student pilots will give the base a new lease on life.