In 1993 the 176th FS began transitioning from the A-10A to the F-16C/D block 30 airframes with the enlarged inlet. The first vipers arrived on April 1st, 1993. The current role of the 176th FS is air-interdiction and close air support (CAS). This was the same task as when they flew the A-10. Although the transition to the F-16 meant a huge change in the overall execution of this mission when comparing the A-10 with an F-16.
In the late eighties a number of block 30 airframes were equipped with adapted electronics and weapon systems as a proposed A-16. This concept however never came through because of numerous shortcomings. However, the F-16 was used in a CAS role all together, although the aircraft itself is not specifically designed for it and some aircraft – as the A-10 – still do a better job at it. Still, the 176th FS performs this mission for almost 20 years now. Newer electronics have paved the way to use the F-16 much better in this role – with the addition of night vision goggles (NVG’s) or advanced targeting pods. This gives these aircraft front edge of operational capabilities.
USAF F-16C block 30 #87-0278
from the 176th FS sits on the runway in Madison on June 28th, 2008 during the Rhythm and Booms Fireworks display. Note the 60th Anniversary paint scheme on the tail. [USAF photo by Joe Oliva]
One of the latest information is that the squadron should be changing its block 30 models with newer block models. The block 30 models have been in the air for around 25 years already, many of them stretching their airframe hours and reaching over 6,000 hours. This means these airframes are due for retirement in the next years. Final word hasn’t gotten around that this change is imminent, but it will be inevitable in the end.