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Jed Boal reportingWhen you crash your car, you look for a body shop that can get the job done. When a military jet goes down in combat, it's not quite as simple.
But, a highly specialized team at Hill Air Force Base gets the fighters flying again.
Simply put, this is a hig-tech body and engine shop for the top fighter jets in the world. When an F-16 crashes, and there's any way to fix it, this unit at the Ogden Air Logistics Center will fix it.
Lt. Col. Michael Moore/649th Combat Logsitics Squadron: "In wartime every asset is absolutely critical."
Like this F-16 just returned from Iraq...it's still dusty from the desert. The landing gear buckled as the pilot brought it down on a damaged runway. A team from the 649th Combat Logistics Squadron went to Iraq to assess the damage.
Sgt. Chad Brown/649th Combat Logistics Squadron: "We know they can't us it, get it out of the country."
So they crated it up and brought it back to Utah. It may cost several million dollars and take months or even years of work to get it back in the air, but that's a bargain compared to buying a new one, at $25-30- million dollars. The 649th is the only Air Force unit that restores crash damaged F-16's.
Lt. Col. Michael Moore/649th Combat Logsitics Squadron: "We have a lot of heritage in the Air Force, and these jets represent a piece of that heritage."
In the last seven years, the unit has returned 1,500 aircraft to service. That's about 200 each year. They take great pride in getting the job done.
Sgt. Chad Brown/649th Combat Logistics Squadron: "Most people say it will never fly. For us it's a big achievement."
The unit tears the jets apart and builds them back up.
Lt. Col. Michael Moore/649th Combat Logsitics Squadron: "I do not think our unit has run into a damaged F-16 beyond the capability of our technicians."
With about 200 airmen, the unit is combat ready and deploys when necessary. Members of the unit are on Special Duty Assignment at Hill Air Force Base for four years.