The early F-16 history of the 21st started in 1981 with the introduction of the new F-16s. The squadron was tasked with training pilots for PACAF and continued to do so untill 1991, when it was tasked with the FAC role untill disbandment in 1993.
Towards the end of 1996 a new squadron was being formed at Luke AFB. Empty hangers were refurbished and crew were pulled in from other units on base. The 21st FS draws perfect history at Luke AFB as in 1942 Chinese pilots trained in Arizona with many going back to China under the 21st FS 'Blackjacks'. Training was carried out in the P-40, P-47 and P-51 and the Chinese 21st FS became famous as one of the most successful squadrons during the war, unmatched in their aerial victories against the Japanese. By January of 1997 several F-16A/B block 20s had been delivered and the first training flights ensued, 55 years after training began for World War Two.
All the Taiwanese aircraft came from one large order of 150 F-16A/B block 20s. The program became known as Peace Fenghuang which is Chinese for 'Phoenix.' At first, twenty of these aircraft were made available, but the numbers have fluctuated over the years, mostly less aircraft for training.
Although flying what could be considered an older version of the F-16 it is more advanced then most other F-16s being flown from Luke AFB. As the first block 20 was only rolled off the production line at Fort Worth, Texas in July of 1996 these aircraft had not been tested like other blocks before going to an active training units. Two aircraft were sent to Edwards for testing while training continued at Luke AFB. Because of this in the early years the unit liaised with Lockheed frequently.
F-16A block 20 #93711
assigned to the 21st FS launches an AIM-7 Sparrow missile over the Gulf of Mexico, during the Air-to-Air Weapons System Evaluation Program, Combat Archer, hosted by the 83rd FWS, located at Tyndall AFB on November 17th, 2003. [USAF photo by MSGT Michael Ammons]
Training in the 21st Fighter Squadron is a combination of classroom time and flying. For students the flying involves amassing fifty flights starting with basic maneuvers to more advanced combat in both aerial engagements and bombing tactics. A program to train instructor pilots is also in place. The first class of pilots graduated in July of 1997 and the first instructor pilots graduated in June of 1998.
In a sense, the Taiwanese have two 21st Squadrons flying the F-16 as the 21st TFG flies the F-16 out of Chiai AB, Taiwan. That squadron also honors the same history that the 21st FS honors at Luke, the patches look very similar in heritage.
Mission for the 21st FS is 'training the world's finest fighter pilots and maintenance technicians'.
RoCAF F-16A block 20 #93-0721
- local serial #6620
- from the 21st FS is coming in for landing at Luke AFB in August of 2006. [Photo by Jason Hyatt]