The last F-16 jet assigned to the 183rd Tactical Fighter Wing is expected to leave the city permanently Tuesday morning, only a week before the unit marks its 60th anniversary in Springfield.

The last F-16 jet assigned to the 183rd Tactical Fighter Wing is expected to leave the city permanently Tuesday morning, only a week before the unit marks its 60th anniversary in Springfield.

Illinois Air National Guard officials say they will continue to search for new flying missions for the 183rd, but they are concentrating on new missions the base has been assigned. One of those missions, a regional engine repair facility, will involve a $6 million renovation to a hangar at the base, said Brig. Gen. John Sheedy, the Air Guard’s assistant adjutant general.

“Our adjutant general is committed to seeking a new flying mission for the 183rd. He’s working hard on that, as we all are,” Sheedy said during a phone interview Sunday from Baltimore, Md. “We also have to keep in mind that we have to do the missions that we know we have.”

The 183rd began operating in Springfield on Sept. 30, 1948, when it flew P-51 Mustang fighters. The unit has flown F-16s since 1989, but lost that role after a review by the Base Realignment and Closure commission in 2005.

The unit had 17 jets, which started leaving Springfield a few at a time this summer to bases elsewhere, including Texas, Vermont and Indiana.

Only one of the 183rd’s F-16s remained at Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport as of Sunday, Sheedy said.

As the jets leave, however, personnel at the base are beginning work on the new Centralized Intermediate Repair Facility. The facility, which started operation Sept. 15, is a regional repair facility for the General Electric engine used in the F-16.

“They are in the transition business right now. In other words, they are getting everything set up,” Sheedy said. “We will have to retrain some of our people, but at the same time, we are excited because we really have an outstanding maintenance operation out there, and we believe this will be a good fit for us.”

Other missions for the 183rd include:

--An Air and Space Operations Center. This center will augment Air Force headquarters staff in planning, coordinating and controlling air operations in wartime theaters.

--A maintenance facility for F-16s, a temporary mission that will require F-16 jets to continue to fly into the Springfield base. The maintenance flights mean the 183rd’s firefighters will stay on the job as long as the mission lasts, which at the moment is expected to be about a year.

The engine repair facility is expected to be a permanent addition to the Springfield base.

Sheedy said the $6 million renovation will include construction of maintenance bays in a hangar where the engines can be serviced. This will include in-depth work including overhauls.

Units from as far away as South Dakota and Texas will be shipping jet engines to Springfield by truck to be repaired.

“The idea (behind the engine repair facility) is that we would do some of the more extensive maintenance so the F-16 unit that is actually flying the aircraft doesn’t have to focus on that type of maintenance,” Sheedy said.

The new engine facility has been designed, but Guard officials don’t know when work might begin.

“We have to wait on the flow of money,” Sheedy said.

Sheedy added that Guard officials consider the engine repair facility a long-term investment. When the F-16 is eventually replaced, Guard officials plan to work on the engine that will power the next-generation jet.

“The goal of Colonel Mike Meyer (the commanding officer of the 183rd) and the people at the 183rd is to make this engine repair facility a center of excellence,” Sheedy said. “So, depending on what the next generation of aircraft is, that unit will be the best place to do it.”

John Reynolds can be reached at (217) 788-1524 or john.reynolds@sj-r.com.