HILL AIR FORCE BASE -- It appears the deactivation of a fighter squadron and 24 F-16s at Hill Air Force Base will happen before the summer ends.
On Monday, Hill officials said the changes are official and likely would happen soon.
"The planes are definitely going by the summer," said base spokesman Rich Essary. "But to say exactly when it will happen, or to give an exact date, we don't know that yet."
As part of the Air Force's force structure realignment plan for fiscal year 2010, Hill will lose a third of it's F-16 fleet, going from 72 to 48 jets. The jets come from the 388th Fighter Wing's 34th Fighter Squadron, which will also be deactivated.
Col. David Hathaway, vice commander of the 388th Fighter Wing, said Hill's plan and how it will be implemented is still being developed.
"It's still too early to discuss the full implementation of the plan, because specific locations in the plan are still being coordinated," he said. "However, we would expect the jets leaving Hill to be relocated across the Air Force during this fiscal year."
Hill is still a candidate to house a unit of the F-35, the jet that will eventually replace the F-16.
In October, the Air Force announced that Hill was one of six finalists to host at least one, and possibly three, active-duty squadrons of the F-35. One squadron carries 24 planes, so if the base were to receive three squadrons, the set-up would be similar to the 388th's current configuration of 72 F-16 Fighting Falcons and three fighter squadrons.
The Air Force restructuring plan places an emphasis on reinvigorating the force's nuclear operation, while accelerating the retirement of nearly 250 of the Air Force's oldest fighters.The early retirement of the jets includes 112 F-15s, 134 F-16s and three A-10s nationwide.
Air Force officials say the restructuring plan will net the Department of Defense a cost savings of $355 million in fiscal year 2010 and $3.5 billion over the next five fiscal years.