The 389th FS started receiving the first F-16s in late 1991 already, even before the squadron was officially established. At first these were block 25 airframes coming from different disbanded squadrons. These airframes were merely used to get familiar with the type, since the squadron was earmarked to become a full SEAD capable unit. The block 25 airframes are not suited for this mission. So the squadron was left with a basic air-to-ground assignment for the time being.
This situation was quite quickly resolved as the unit began receiving brand-new block 52 units in early 1994. With these airframes came the HARM targeting system (HTS) and the corresponding AGM-88 missile. This made the deployment of the Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) role possible. The unit was quite unique in this sense that it was one of only a few stateside units being able to perform this task. The squadron was tasked very soon to take part in the different deployment rotations all over the world.
Devoid of a tail flash but wearing a MO tail code says that this USAF F-16C block 25 #84-1254
belongs to the 389th FS. Note the new paint scheme and lack of fuel tanks and pilons. [Photo by Mike Kopack]
At the beginning of block 52 operations the squadron was dedicated to this SEAD task. Over the years more and more updates became available for the block 52 airframes – CCIP and others – with these airframes being able to be deployed in a multirole mission profile. The squadron got the opportunity to employ the LANTIRN system and fly high profile attack missions using this pod and night vision goggles together with advanced precision guided munitions. All these upgrades made it possible from halfway the 2000s to deploy both the HTS as the LANTIRN (or their successors) at the same time. A new mission profile was established, being called Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses (DEAD). In the past two missions had to be flown to perform this task, but it could be combined into one with the same aircraft deploying both the anti-radar missiles as the precision guided munitions to finish off the job at once.
In the 2005 BRAC a number of units were slated for disbandment. Unfortunately the 389th FS was axed. However the squadron would be receiving the F-15E aircraft to perform the deep strike mission. The squadron still flies this type up until today (2011). Remarkable fact about the F-16 operations within the 389th is that in 15 years of F-16 operations, the squadron didn’t lose one aircraft due to an accident.
USAF F-16C block 52 #91-0413
from the 389th FS is parked on the tarmac at Nellis AFB
during a 2005 Red Flag exercise. [Photo by Bjarne Pedersen]