Many of the early F-16 pilots went through the 16th TFTS when it was established at Hill AFB, Utah on January 1st, 1979. The 16th TFTS was the first RTU for the F-16 and acted as a worldwide RTU, training over 240 pilots in the F-16. In April of 1983 the unit became the 16th TFS but still kept its training role, although not for beginner pilots but for higher levels of combat training. It was only fitting that as the world's first F-16 squadron that the 16th TFS received the 1,000th F-16 to come off the General Dynamics assembly line on July 22nd, 1983. During the three years of operational tasking the squadron continued to train and upgrade its pilots to combat ready status and to maintain the capability to deploy worldwide on short notice and employ the F-16 in the conventional air-to-air and air-to-ground combat roles. The unit became inactivated on June 30th, 1986.
It wasn't till February 3rd, 2003 that the unit re-activated as the 16th Weapons Squadron. The squadron is comprised of block 42 and 52's. Only a few days before on January 24th, 2003 the squadron officially was redesignated the 16th Weapons Squadron while working towards activation, this time at Nellis AFB, Nevada.
A left front view of USAF F-16A block 1 #78-0017
from the 16th TFTS taxiing out during exercise Border Star '81 held at Holloman AFB on March 1st, 1981. [USAF photo]
Today the squadron's existance is part of the on going changes of the USAF Weapons School program. Initially there was an F-16 division within what was called the Fighter Weapons School that was created in 1982. The purpose of the school was to train aircrew in a most realistic combat environment. It was - and still is - a graduating program in spite of all the changes. In 1992 the School dropped the 'Fighter' name and incorporated a wide variety of other aircraft and missions. This included everything from bombers to rescue helicopters. As stated above a dedicated F-16 Weapons Squadron was activated in early 2003.
The introduction of a new aircraft type came in the form of the F-35A Lightning II 12-5049 to the 16th Weapons Squadron on January 15, 2015. In time a total of seven F-35s would join F-16 operations.
Largely the squadron (and other weapons squadrons) utilize the Nevada Test and Training Range which boasts 12,000 square miles of airspace and 2.9 million acres of land. The range provides 1,900 possible targets, a close to realistic threat and an opposing enemy force. These grounds provide the USAF a practice battlefield that considered the best in the world.
USAF F-16D block 52 #91-0473
from the 16th WS on final for runway 03R at Nellis AFB on November 7th, 2007. [Photo by Jason Hyatt]