Beginning in 1986, the 309th began to convert from the F-4 to the F-16A/B. On October 1st, 1986 the 309th was redesignated from Tactical Fighter Training Squadron to the Tactical Fighter Squadron. Years later in 1990, plans were made to convert to block 25s, but this never materialized and after the war in Iraq and base realignments it was decided to make the 31st TFW a block 40 wing with conversion starting in 1991. The last F-16A/B flight under the 31st TFW happened in mid 1991 by the 309th TFS. During restructuring, the 'Wild Ducks' became the 309th Fighter Squadron on November 1st, 1991 and conversion to the block 40 was complete by early 1992.
August of 1992 became an interesting month for the 309th Fighter Squadron's parent unit, the 31st FW. Hurricane season brought some bad weather to Florida with the worst culminating in Huricane Andrew. With enough warning the 309th FS departed Homestead AFB on August 23rd for Shaw AFB. Sister squadrons - the 307th and 308th - went to Moody AFB, Georgia. This was to be a temporary move and even President George Bush himself promised that Homestead AFB would be rebuilt. Although Homestead AFB was semi-rebuilt with the AFRes 93rd FS returning, the active duty squadrons - including the 309th - never returned. Starting on October 1st, 1992 the 309th FS became assigned to Shaw’s 363rd FW. When Shaw AFB began converting to the block 50 in 1993, even the 309th FS was involved receiving many examples. Although the squadron began converting to the block 50, it was short lived. The 20th FW in Upper Heyford, England inactivated and moved its Wing and associate squadrons to Shaw AFB. On December 31st, 1993 the 363rd FW disbanded and the same day the 309th FS inactivated.
USAF F-16A block 15 #82-1004
of the 309th TFS 'Wild Ducks' is staionned on the appron at Homestead AFB, Florida. It was transferred to Portugal
in 1999 as #15131
. [Photo by Mike Kopack]
Plans were already in the works which involved moving the 309th Fighter Squadron to Luke AFB, Arizona where it would continue its heritage, this time as a training squadron under the 56th FW. On April 1st, 1994 the 309th FS activated at Luke AFB with the block 25 version of the Viper.
Beginning a new chapter for the 309th FS, they began to convert to the block 42s which would be supplied by the closing of the 63rd FS on May 22nd of 2009. First block 42 to arrive with the 309th was F-16C #88-0412 on June 8th, 2009. The block 25s will either go to other units or to retirement in the boneyard depending on airframes condition.
Training at Luke the 309th runs a standard pilot training syllabus that prepares pilots and ground crew for active duty units. The 309th's mission statement is 'Training the world's finest fighter pilots and maintenance technicians.'
USAF F-16D block 25 #83-1181
from the 309th FS is flying by on August 14th, 2006 at Luke AFB. Note the front seat pilot's head is cranked looking aft. [Photo by Jason Hyatt]