In an effort to modernize the last part of fighter units in the Pacific theatre the USAF decided on reequipping the 36th TFS in 1988. The unit started receiving block 30 airframes in 1988. They replaced the F-4E Phantom fighters that flew with the squadron for 10 years. The squadron was tasked with air defense of the Korean peninsula, together with the resident Korean squadrons.
Only one and a half year after the introduction of the F-16 into the squadrons’ fleet, the unit changed types. In 1990 factory fresh block 42s were introduced. Although this type features some advanced settings concerning targeting and attacking enemy targets, the main mission of the squadron remained the same, being air defense of South Korea. Although evidently a conventional attack mission was added to the squadrons mission profile. The introduction of the block 42 was quite odd however. All F-16s that were operational in the Pacific theatre were equipped with the General Electric F110 engine instead of the Pratt & Whitney F100 engine. This setup resulted in the squadron being somewhat hampered since a separate supply chain had to be established specifically for them.
USAF F-16C block 40 #89-2130
from the 36th FS based out of Osan in Korea, takes off on the first mission for Exercise Red Flag Alaska 11-2 on July 12th, 2011. [Photo by CPL David Gibbs]
At first this wasn’t much of a problem since the Koreans were flying F100 equipped F-16s and so enough expertise remained in-country. Moreover the squadron was the sole flying the F-16 within the 51st FW. However, the USAF decided to standardize the fleet and in 1994 the squadron received a batch of block 40 airframes. With this move the airframes came in line with the entire Pacific fleet reducing maintenance costs and associated supply chain costs. This switch didn’t change anything about the units' operational mission and commitments.