The ‘Tacos’ flew A-7D's for twenty years before converting to the F-16. On May 11th, 1992 the 188th FS received their first F-16C - a block 40 - and their last A-7D left on September 28th, 1992. With this event the A-7D was almost phased out completely as the 188th FS was one of the last Guard units to fly the venerable type. Instead of converting to older A/B models, the squadron received relatively new block 40 airframes. This type has the LANTIRN system on board for advanced navigation and targeting by day and night. The unit was the first within the Air National Guard to have this capacity.
As an odd move the squadron gave up its block 40 airframes in June of 2003, receiving older block 30 airframes in its place. At that time these airframes were receiving the so-called CCIP upgrade which made them practically identical to the former block 40 airframes, although they lack some of the more advanced electronics as the former block type.
USAF F-16C block 30 #87-0334
from the 188th FS is recovering to Nellis AFB
on October 26th, 2009 after a mission during a 2 week deployment. [Photo by EOR]
An out of the ordinary organizational setup was also at hand in the 188th FS. Within the squadron was another flight – being the 150th DSE (Defense System Evaluation) – which flew small mouth block 30 airframes. It typically had about five on hand. Even during the time frame when the 188th FS was flying block 40's the DSE had small mouth F-16 block 30's. Big mouth F-16s were flown by the 188th FS after their conversion to the type in 2003. The 150th DSE flew evaluation missions for a variety of services and countries. Typically testing for the army and various navies around the world. With the USAF, the 150th DSE was selected to do all the flight tests for the F/A-22 before they leave the Marietta factory in Georgia. Tests usually involve avionics, radar systems and more. The would deployed two jets to Georgia for a six week period for each test. But for the most part any other tests were done over the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The 150th DSE was disbanded in 2007 with many jets departing during the year prior.
Although rated a number 1 facility in the 2005 BRAC plan, the USAF decided to close down the flying unit and convert Kirtland AFB to a special ops base. This meant the 188th FS lost its airframes in the course of 2010, with the final F-16 departing in September of the same year. Conversion to their new mission is still at hand at this moment (2012).
USAF F-16C block 30 #85-1567
is carrying two AQM-37c air to ship missiles while testing (150th DSE) with the U.S. Navy. [USAF photo]