The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History received an F-16 Fighting Falcon, its second aircraft acquisition in over 21 years, in March 2014.
The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a compact, multi-role fighter aircraft that achieved combat-ready status in 1980. This particular aircraft has resided on Kirtland Air Force Base, within Sandia National Laboratories, since 1997 and was relocated to the Museum’s outdoor exhibit area with the help of Kirtland AFB civil engineering and security forces as well as Museum staff and volunteers. Extensive planning and preparations had been made for the safe relocation of this 14,000 lb., 49 ft. 5 in. airplane.
Upon arrival to the Museum, the full-bodied F-16 was the focus of a special initiative within “Operation Preservation” – a two-year campaign to restore the iconic aircraft in Heritage Park – where the exterior display surfaces were reconditioned and restored to display the New Mexico Air National Guard 150th Fighter Wing, “The TACOS,” tail insignia and trim.
The TACOS were honored in the restoration of this airplane because of their legacy and contributions to our country. This division of the New Mexico Air National Guard has flown combat operations in Korea, Vietnam, Bosnia and Iraq and was mobilized and flew combat air patrol sorties throughout the United States following the attacks on September 11, 2001. The 150th Fighter Wing “TACOS” operated the F-16 from 1992 to 2003.
Restoration of the F-16 began almost immediately – under the supervision of Jerry Hanks, Project Manager, with help from Lockheed Marting/Sandia National Laboratories, Kirtland Air Force Base, Central New Mexico Community College and Museum volunteers - and was funded by donations received from supporters and entities with personal ties to the Museum and the 150th Fighter Wing. The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History notably partnered with CNM Community College’s Aviation Maintenance Technology (AVMT) program and their Service-Learning Program to remove the aircraft’s panels to have them repaired and replaced, fabricate repair patches for larger damaged areas and remove and replace damaged fasteners.
Precision Fabrication, Inc., J.B. Henderson Construction, Valley Fence Company and Napa Paint Supply have sponsored donations of specific equipment and materials necessary for the restoration.
The Museum held a dedication ceremony for the newly restored F-16 on November 5, 2014. U.S. Senator Martin Heinrich; U.S. Senator Tom Udall; and Brigadier General Andrew Salas, Adjutant General for the New Mexico Air National Guard were present to publicly acknowledge the restoration as well as the legacy and historical significance of the TACOS.
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