An A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the 81st Fighter Squadron takes off for the final time May 17, 2013, from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. A total of 21 aircraft relocated to several bases in the United States. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Pomeroy)
Lt. Col. Clinton Eichelberger gears up before departing in a A-10 Thunderbolt II on May 17, 2013, at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. Eichelberger is the 81st Fighter Squadron commander and was the lead pilot for the final four A-10 aircraft to leave Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Gustavo Castillo)
Lt. Col. Clinton Eichelberger inspects the cockpit of an A-10 Thunderbolt II before departing May 17, 2013, from Spangdahlem Air Base, Gemany. Eichelberger is the 81st Fighter Squadron commander and flew one of the final four A-10 aircraft to leave Europe. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Gustavo Castillo)
Senior Airman Christopher Nichols runs through a pre-flight inspection for an A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the 81st Fighter Squadron before its final take off May 17, 2013, from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The 81st FS had been assigned to Spangdahlem since 1973 but is scheduled to inactivate in June. Nichols is a 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron avionics technician from Warner Robins, Ga. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Gustavo Castillo)
A-10 Thunderbolt IIs assigned to the 81st Fighter Squadron take off for the final time May 17, 2013, from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The squadron officially inactivates in June. Several A-10s are to be reassigned to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz. (U.S. Air Force photo/Airman 1st Class Gustavo Castillo)
Members of the 52nd Fighter Wing cheer on an A-10 Thunderbolt II before its final departure, May 17, 2013, from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany. The final four A-10s from the 81st Fighter Squadron left Europe as part of the squadron’s inactivation. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Jonathan Pomeroy)
by Airman 1st Class Gustavo Castillo
52nd Fighter Wing Public Affairs
5/17/2013 - SPANGDAHLEM AIR BASE, Germany -- The last four A-10 Thunderbolt II attack aircraft from the 81st Fighter Squadron left Spangdahlem May 17, 2013.
Twenty-one aircraft relocated to the United States over the past few months due to the deliberate and comprehensive restructure planned by the U.S. Air Force that has lead to the inactivation of the 81st in June.
The loss of A-10s is a significant event for the United States here in Europe.
"Saying farewell to the 81st makes today a sad day, but it is just another chapter in the life of a fighter squadron," said U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Clinton Eichelberger, 81st commander from Annapolis, Md. "We are proud to be standing here and we are going to safely move these aircraft back to the United States."
After flying over the next few days, the aircraft will land at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., where they will continue supporting operations employed as a combat aircraft.
Although the A-10s have left Europe, Spangdahlem will continue to support the U.S. Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa and NATO mission as an integral part of the U.S. Air Force. The 52nd Fighter Wing will maintain a relevant combat capability, as it is a critical mobility hub and enduring USAFE installation.
"Today is a significant event and an emotional day for the base. The A-10s have a proud heritage with a lasting legacy in Europe," said Col. Joseph McFall, 52nd FW vice commander." "However, the F-16s stationed here will continue to fulfill mission capabilities for the Air Force and its NATO allies.
Spangdahlem AB's role in fulfilling USAFE-AFAFRICA's enduring mission's remains as significant as ever to the United States and the nation's European allies.
"It doesn't stop here," Eichelberger added. "The guys that are going to go on to fly the Thunderbolt are going to continue to perform that mission and continue to train to provide the support that the ground forces need."
5/31/2013 10:27:40 PM ET A real sad day and a real sad decision. I still remember seeing the Thunderbolts fly in Italy for the first time in my life as a teenager.And I'm really glad to have seen the Thunderbolts at the open day on Spangdahlem in 2011.I sure hope to see them ever again in the European skies.
Henk, Leiden The Netherlands
5/25/2013 3:35:13 PM ET We will miss this bird It isn't pretty it isn't fast its just been efficient. A tough jet that always produced when needed. I loved seeing them in the air at Elelson AK. A lot of Warthog pilots had a sad day today I'm sure. It helped win the cold war as well.