In the years 1991 and 1992 the 149th TFS converted from the A-7D/K to the F-16C/D block 30. To get ready for the F-16 the squadron had a $ 2 million hush house built to test engines. Many guard units have spectacular markings with interesting stories to go with them. Of these, the story of how the 149th FS markings were attended is certainly unique. A modeler with the knowledge that the 149th FS was going to convert from the A-7 to the F-16 constructed a 1/32 scale model of the aircraft but had no idea of markings. Instead this modeler was very creative and adapted his own. Influential members of the parent 192nd FW were so impressed with the markings that they were adopted onto the real aircraft. The model aircraft was put on display at the entrance of the main operations building at Richmond. Since the closure of the base it is unknown what happened to this display model.
At first the squadron was assigned 24 aircraft. By early 1994 those numbers were lowered due to budget cuts. At first, cuts put them at 18 aircraft and then eventually 15 aircraft. The problem faced by many units with these cutbacks was that the same amount of aircraft still had to be maintained for operational readiness. In February of 1995 the unit was tasked with testing a concept in engine repairs. Air Combat Command directed that for the next 18 months the units engine department would be responsible for not only its own unit but also for the F-16s assigned to Pope AFB. Both the 149th FS and the 74th FS from Pope used the General Electric F110-GE-100 engine. It was Air Combat Commands intention to make engine repair more economical by having one location thus eliminating duplication of resources and equipment.
USAF F-16C block 30 #86-0216
of the 149th FS is parked on the tarmac at Langley AFB in September of 1997. [Frank Ertl collection]
Also during 1995 the 149th FS was assigned something that caught a lot of people’s attention in the military and industry. With the retirement of the RF-4C lack of reconnaissance was left. At the time leading up to the RF-4C retirement, it was felt by the Air Force to discontinue manned reconnaissance operations. This thinking changed and the 149th FS became the center of attention when it began testing operational use of portable reconnaissance pod. The pod was built by Lockheed Martin and was delivered in only five months after being given the contract. Two more were delivered shortly after. In the pod is a digital camera that can take 2.5 frames per second and can store about 12,000 images. In order for the Virginia ANG F-16s to carry the pod, some modifications were needed. At the time, the block 30's did not have GPS which were added on the ammo drum cover. The GPS provided info to the recce pod only. First aircraft to be modified was #85-1572 and special markings were applied to the tail. Deemed operation with the recce pod by April of 1996 no time was wasted and the 149th FS was sent to Aviano AB in May of 1996. With war raging in Bosnia the 149th flew for 45 days with the recce pod. All this on the heels of an ONW deployment to Incirlik AB in February of the same year.
In the summer of 1998 the 149th FS upgraded its recce pods to the Theater Airborne Reconnaissance System (TARS) an upgraded version of what they already operated. Four other ANG units were also equipped with TARS. Later on datalink capabilities were upgraded allowing the recce pod to provide a live feed. On January 30th, 2001 the 149th FS had a near disaster when two of their F-16s collided in midair. It involved F-16C #86-0228 and F-16D #85-1572. Fortunately both aircraft landed safely. However F-16D #85-1572 was heavily damaged. Two years of repairs put the aircraft back into the air again.
Starting in 2006 the 149th FS began an unusual change. The F-16s were being taken away from Richmond and the squadron would be moving down the road to Langley AFB which is still within Virginia. Although the 149th FS would still exist under the same Fighter Wing it would own no aircraft. With a new assignment the 192nd FW would operate side-by-side with the 1st FW F-22 squadrons. This caused a mixed reaction. Some people were looking forward to working with the latest aircraft in the USAF inventory. Experienced crew were not as fond of getting away from the more relaxed atmosphere of the ANG. This coupled with a longer drive to work resulted in a few quitting or looking to join the 121st FS which still flew the F-16 in the nearby DC ANG. Personnel that did stay with the 192nd FW quickly showed the active duty units just how skilled the ANG can be. On June 12th, 2007 the squadron flew its last sortie with the F-16 and shortly after a ceremony and celebration was held to mark the end of F-16 operations in Richmond. The last F-16 (#86-0219) flew out on September 18th, 2007.
USAF F-16C block 30 #86-0244
with special markings at Richmond, Virginia. The 149th FS painted up this aircraft to look like similar markings that were applied to a P-51 from WWII. [Photo by Frank Ertl]