In April of 1990 the squadron completed conversion from the F-4D to the F-16A/B block 15. The first F-16 (#81-0699) already arrived in January of 1990. Since air defense alert has been a major part of the North Dakota ANG’s tasking since September of 1953, these airframes were very quickly upgraded with the Air Defense Fighter (ADF) option. This featured the addition of a CWI module on the APG-66 radar, a search light on the port side of the nose, more adapted communication equipment, an Advanced Identification Friend or Foe (AIFF) system and the possibility to fire AIM-7 or the later AIM-120 missiles. The unit provided alert coverage at Fargo, with either two or four aircraft continuously on status, until March of 1990 when home station alert was discontinued. A permanent alert detachment at Kingsley Field, Oregon was assigned to the 178th FS beginning on October 1st, 1989. The detachment, staffed by 18 members, was relocated to March AFB, California in July of 1994. Since converting to the F-16 the squadron flew a total of 30,000 hours without any accidents.
On August 28th, 1991 two F-16s (#82-0956 and #82-0907) escorted two Soviet Mig-29s to an airshow at Cleveland. They landed at Minot IAP and remained overnight. This was the first time that Soviet Migs visited the USA.
USAF F-16A ADF #82-0907
from the 178th FIS 'Happy Hooligans' is seen at Luke AFB. This aircraft does not have the AIFF system antennas installed yet, but you can see the mounting pallet installed where the antennas will be mounted. [Photo by Kevin Patrick]
The unit has also amassed a nearly insurmountable number of record. The ‘Hooligans’ earned first place at the October 1994 William Tell competition, a worldwide weapons meet which tests pilots and ground crews from the USAF's top units in realistic air-to-air combat situations. This was the ‘Hooligans’ third William Tell victory, also winning in 1970 and 1972, in addition to placing first among F-4 William Tell units in 1986. In 1994 the squadron won the prestigious Hughes Trophy which recognizes the most outstanding air-to-air unit in the USAF. The only ANG unit to win the award twice, the ‘Hooligans’ are also the only F-16 unit to ever win the Hughes Trophy. The 119th FW has earned fourteen Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards. This includes four consecutive periods covering from April of 1990 through July of 1995.
The announcement was made in March of 1999 that the 178th FS would convert from an air defense mission to a general purpose mission with 15 F-16A/B aircraft while activating an alert detachment at Langley AFB. In its 2005 BRAC recommendations, the DOD (Department of Defense) recommended to realign Hector IAP. The 178th FS’s F-16s (15 aircraft) would retire. The squadron’s expeditionary combat support elements would remain in place. Hector IAP, at 125th, ranked low in military value. The reduction in F-16 force structure and the need to align common versions of the F-16 at the same bases argued for realigning Hector IAP to allow its aircraft to retire without a flying mission backfill. Three F-16s left from the North Dakota ANG base on November 21st, 2006 never to return. The jets are being retired and sent to the boneyard at AMARG. The last four F-16A models flew out on January 16th, 2007 while the last aircraft to leave Fargo was the F-16B which left as scheduled on January 23rd, 2007.
USAF F-16A ADF #81-0773
of the 178th FS flaring to land. [Photo by Frank Ertl]