That’s the end of the A-10 Thunderbolt operations in Europe as the last squadron was deactivated last June. For 71 years, the men and women of this fine squadron have ensured America’s security. The 81st Fighter Squadron piloted many of the most iconic and legendary aircraft the world has ever seen. Fiscal constraints stemming from the Budget Control Act of 2011, and reduced defense funding outlined in the 2013 presidential budget required the Air Force to develop a strategic vision for future operations during this financial crisis. This led to the deactivation of the 81st Squadron operations. The decision was further approved by the US Congress. The 52nd Fighter Wing now employs only the F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft since the inactivation of the 81st FS and the removal of the A-10s. The F-16 is a multipurpose fighter, meaning it can fight air-to-air and air-to-ground, whereas the A-10 provided only close-air support to ground forces. Today, the climate has changed in this part of the world. And so has the need for conventional forces like the A-10. At one time there were six squadrons of A-10s in Europe with over 140 aircraft and tens of thousands of Cold War ground forces preparing for battle.