NewsChannel 11 is learning more about the new mission Cannon Air Force Base will take on. We told you Tuesday, the base located in Clovis, New Mexico, 100 miles from Lubbock, would be home to the 16th Special Operations Wing. We now know that means the crews will train with aircraft used in the War on Terror. That means sites will change at Cannon.
The F-16 fighter jets that call the base home will be reassigned, and the 27th Fighter Wing will be drawn down, and eventually deactivated. Those who work directly with the F-16's will transfer to new assignments. Other Cannon crews will most likely remain on staff, but work on a different mission. Air Force Special Operations is scheduled to take ownership of Cannon on October 1, 2007.
The 16th Special Operations Wing's flag will transition to Cannon. Crews will train on aircraft currently used in the War on Terror, like the CV-22 Osprey. Other potential aircraft at Cannon include the AC-130U Gunships and the MC-130H Combat Talon ll. These aircraft are larger and louder than the current F-16's.
U.S. Senator Pete Domenici from New Mexico tells us this is a permanent move, even if the conflict in Iraq or Afghanistan is resolved. "We are engaged, now, in a new kind of war, and when Iraq is settled, if ever, that doesn't mean the terrorism war will be over at all. It just means that it maybe resolved there, but we'll still be involved with a war on terrorism," said Domenici.
The Air Force has to complete a comprehensive evaluation of the mission change to comply with the National Environmental Policy Act. The studies are estimated to take 15 to 18 months to complete.
The new mission is bringing renewed excitement to the Clovis community. You'll remember, people there and in Portales rallied to keep Cannon. Wednesday, members of the Clovis Chamber of Commerce met to discuss their future. "This community is going to continue to take care of and support the men and women of the Air Force like we've done for 50 years. It's a part of our way of life," said Randy Harris, Chairman of Operation Keep Cannon. The base contributes about $98-million to the Curry County economy.
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