LITTLE ROCK — U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., along with senators from Michigan and Iowa, introduced legislation Wednesday that Cotton said would strengthen the partnership between the 188th Wing and the Fort Smith Regional Airport.

LITTLE ROCK — U.S. Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., along with senators from Michigan and Iowa, introduced legislation Wednesday that Cotton said would strengthen the partnership between the 188th Wing and the Fort Smith Regional Airport.


The bill would prohibit the secretary of transportation from rejecting project grant applications solely because an airport leases land to regular or reserve components of the Armed Forces.


"The 188th Fighter Wing at Fort Smith is critical to Arkansas and America’s safety and security, and supporting their efforts should be a top priority," Cotton said in a statement.


"Unfortunately, changes to their mission have compromised the long-standing relationship between the Arkansas National Guard and the Fort Smith airport," he said. "This legislation is a win for Arkansas across the board. It would protect the 188th Fighter Wing’s future missions and ensure the Fort Smith airport is eligible to receive critical FAA grants to support its operations."


In 2005, a Base Realignment and Closure Committee decision called for the 188th to lose its F-16 fighter squadron and transition over the next several years to an A-10 Thunderbolt II "Warthog" unit. In 2013, the 188th was selected to convert from its A-10 mission to an MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft, intelligence surveillance, reconnaissance and targeting mission. That transition was completed in 2014.