The third squadron of the 50th TFW to receive the brand-new F-16 fighters was the 496th TFS. The ground crew familiarized with the airframe and the technical procedures with their sister squadrons – the 10th and 313th TFS. Hahn was selected to receive these new jets as it was a frontline base in the center of Germany. Since the wing had a distinct air-to-ground task, it was decided to wait until the block 15 version became available, because that was optimized for this role.
The first jets started to arrive in the summer of 1982 – after the 313th TFS received its full lot – and almost simultaneously with the 10th TFS. The entire package was delivered in mid 1983. The squadron became fully operational in late 1983. Since the weather at Hahn isn’t always perfect - certainly not in the winter months - the squadron deployed to Zaragoza in Spain to train on the Bardenas-Reales range. This range provides vast opportunities for live weapons releases and air maneuvering to be trained.
USAF F-16C block 25 #84-1318
from the 496th TFS is coming in for landing at Hahn AFB
on August 6th, 1986. [Airfighters.com
photo by Henk Schuitemaker]
The squadron’s role was a primary air defence in the heart of the US corridor within West-Germany. Since the squadron was part of a Tactical Fighter Wing an advanced air-to-ground role was also part of the package. Last but not least, the squadron also had a strike role to perform. Hahn AFB housed a number of B-43 or B-61 nuclear devices and the F-16s were tasked to perform this tactical nuclear role as well. Therefore the squadron had to wait until the block 15 arrived, since the nuclear capability of the F-16 was incorporated in this airframe type and operationally released.
The USAF always provided the latest blocks to the most important operational units. After only having flown a mere 4 years on the block 15 version, the squadron already received the more capable F-16C and D models with the acceptance of block 25 airframes in 1986. The first airframes were delivered in February of 1986 and the last one was received already in May of the same year. The role of the squadron remained the same.
After the end of the Cold War the USAF had a major overcapacity of fighter units in Europe. In 1990 the decision came to disband the entire 50th TFW and its subordinate squadrons and to close down Hahn AFB all together. The squadron was disbanded on September 1st, 1991 and so ended 37 years of European operations.
USAF F-16D block 25 #84-1325
from the 496th TFS is spotted on the ramp at Zaragoza AB in 1988. [Photo by Amigaman]