All squadrons of the 401st TFW were equipped with the F-16 at merely the same time, but the 612th FS received them a little earlier. On March 19th, 1983 the squadron received five factory fresh F-16s. They were F-16A’s #81-0773, #81-0774, #81-0777, #81-0778 and #81-0779. The last aircraft in that list was damaged when the pilot forgot to put the gear down on that arrival day. Fortunately the aircraft had three drop tanks which protected it from damage. However, when the aircraft was lifted by a crane, it was dropped by about four feet causing considerable damage. The aircraft would have been repaired in a day because of the gear-up landing, but now needed to go to the depot for a spar change.
Production of the block 15 version was at its peak and the USAF wanted all European tactical units to be converted – mostly from the F-4 – as soon as possible. In early 1983 the new jets started to arrive with both pilots and ground-crew getting acquainted very soon. The bright weather in Spain resulted in a very tight conversion scheme. In 1988 the decision was taken to re-equip the squadron with block 30 airframes. Yet again the learning curve was quite steep with the squadron reaching IOC already later that year.
An air-to-air right side view of USAF F-16A block 15 #81-0790
from the 612th TFS carrying Mark-82 500-pound practice bombs on the wing pylons and an AN/ALQ-131 ECM pod on the centerline. The aircraft is over the Konya Range on May 7th, 1986. [USAF photo by SSgt Fernando Serna]
The squadron’s role was conventional air-to-ground by day and night. F-16s of the squadron were also seen carrying dummy B-61 bombs from time-to-time. The unit as such was never officially designated for that, nore Torrejon AB ever hosted any tactical nuclear weapons, but the squadron was tasked with a nuclear TDY assignment at Incirlik AFB having 3 aircraft on Victor alert at all times. Incirlik hosted the B-61 weapons, but did not have a resident USAF F-16 unit to carry them.
In 1988 the United States and Spain agreed on a new contract regarding the use of Torrejon AB. In that agreement it was stipulated that all fighter operations on Spanish soil would end by early 1991 and all fighter squadrons were either disbanded or moved elsewhere. This process was halted when the Iraqi crisis emerged during 1990. The squadron was tasked to deploy to Incirlik AB in Turkey to support coalition forces. The unit flew numerous missions during Desert Storm before returning home. After returning to Torrejon AB, the closing process of the base was activated and the squadron finally disbanded on October 1st, 1991.
USAF F-16A block 15 #83-1069
from the 612th TFS is parked on the tarmac at RAF Lakenheath in July of 1986. [Airliners.net
photo by Lieuwe Hofstra]