During the 1980s, Tucson was a major hub for A-7 training. It was decided as the A-7 would faze out that training would continue at Tucson but with the up and coming F-16. In that time period both the 152nd and 195th TFTS operated the A-7 and this training was still important and going strong. So a third squadron, the 148th TFTS was created and activated on October 15th, 1985 to organise specific F-16 training.
In the late 1980s the 148th TFTS was tasked with pilot training for the foreign air force. The first to make use of these was the Royal Netherlands Air Force. Training used a mix of USAF F-16 as well as some Dutch F-16s. Eventually a total of eight RNlAF F-16s were on hand. These Dutch aircraft were hard to tell apart from the USAF as they had the same markings and where the same blocks. During this time, in 1991, the squadron was officially tasked a NATO F-16 training mission which was not much of a departure from the norm. By May of 1995 all the RNlAF F-16s had departed Tucson for their native country. At that time the unit itself was flying a mix of older block 1, 5 and 10 airframes together with some block 15, block 15 ADF and also some block 30 airframes.
A four-ship formation consisting out the 4 models - including the UAE block 60
- that the 148th FS is currently flying. [USAF photo]
By 1993 the 148th was re-designated the 148th FS and the training role continued. Although well known for international pilot training, the 148th has also been tasked with training F-16 crew for the USAF and the Air National Guard both advanced and beginner training. Through the years numerous countries have detached personnel to receive advanced training by the squadron. These trainings normally don't included detaching foreign F-16s, as with the Dutch was the case.
Although in 2003 another contract was signed that included detaching foreign F-16s. These new F-16s would be the E/F models of the United Arab Emirates Air Force. It wasn't till September 2nd, 2004 that UAE students were able to train with the F-16E/F when it arrived at Tucson. Most pilots came from Mirage 2000 or the Hawk. The first class of graduates was made complete in April of 2005. During the course of 2010 these aircraft returned to the UAE to form a new fighter squadron. Officially the relationship ended on October 20, 2010 with over 100 UAE F-16 pilots trained. The last aircraft departed for UAE during December.
However, a new contract was already signed again with the RNlAF. The Dutch already had a detachment with the 162nd FS of the Ohio National Guard. This unit was to loose it's F-16 task and so the Dutch needed to search for another training site. The USAF then proposed the 148th FS. So an influx of Dutch F-16AM/BM airframes began December 2010. The first class of about ten pilots graduated in late April 2011.
RNLAF F-16A block 1 #J-245
here seen in the colors of 148 FS from the Arizona ANG parked with opened canopy on the tarmac of Tuscon AB on July 23rd, 1993. The Dutch AF did it's pilot conversion training in the US for about 10 years in the late eighties, early nineties. They send 10 vipers to the US and they were dispatched to the Arizona ANG and got local markings as well. [Photo by Scott Van Aken