Starting in 1981 the 35th TFS started to receive vipers to replace the F-4D Phantoms. Factory fresh F-16A/B block 15s were delivered over that year. The USAF always saw that the Korean based units received the newest technology first. Korea at that time was at least as important as the European theatre. The squadron was tasked with air defense as well as both conventional attack as nuclear strike. In late 1987 the squadron again received band-new F-16s, this time C and D models of the block 30 version. They had the so-called ‘big inlet’ from the start gaining the full extent of the General Electric F110 engine. The squadrons’ F-16A/B block 15s were sent to Shaw & Moody AFB. The mission of the squadron remained practically the same.
Ushering in a new era for F-16 operations with the unit was the conversion to block 40 airframes. On November 17th, 2000 three block 40s landed at Kunsan AB destined for the 35th FS. These block 40s came from Moody AFB which was closing down at that time. The block 30s that had been operated before were taken by the 80th FS, 93rd FS and the 186th FS throughout 2000 and 2001. This meant the squadron’s task changed somewhat as advanced targeting both during the day and night became possible. By that time the squadron had already given up its strike task, that was abandoned back in 1991.
USAF F-16C block 30 #86-0290
from the 35th FS has been equipped with a SUU-20 training pod under a wing station. [Photo by Mike Kopack]
In its history the squadron has flown the exact same models of aircraft as its sister squadron, the 80th FS. However, the 80th would remain in the block 30. It did give the 8th FW more flexibility by offering two distinctive capabilities that the different blocks offered. By February of 2001 the squadron received its full strength of block 40s. This ultimately changed in January of 2008 when the 80th FS gave up its block 30s to the newly formed 18th AS and received their block 40s from when the squadron was a normal fighter squadron. So as of 2008 the 8th FW flew both the block 40 versions.
In an interesting move by the RoKAF, a new squadron was set up by the Koreans. This was the 111th FS. It is unique as this RoKAF F-16 squadron would be based alongside the USAFs 8th FW at Kunsan AB. In October of 2007 the 35th FS briefed, flew and debriefed on the same mission side-by-side with the RoKAF’s 111th FS.
USAF F-16C block 30 #88-0406
of the 35th FS parked in an open shelter with opened canopy at Kunsan AB. [Photo by Alec Fushi]