The 55th FS started receiving the first F-16s in 1997. During July of 1996 the 55th FS slowly began moving out its A-10s to Pope AFB. Shortly after all the A-10s were gone the squadron stood down and began the process of transitioning to the F-16C/D block 50. In July of 1997 the 55th FS became operational with the F-16 making Shaw strictly an F-16 base. With all squadrons fling the block 50 the 20th FW became a dedicated Wild Weasel operator. A USAF record was set when the squadron stood up combat ready in only 60 days.
For the Wild Weasel mission the aircraft were equipped with the HARM Targeting System (HTS) and the AGM-88 HARM missile. With the development of more advanced targeting pods it became possible to deploy these airframes in the so-called Destruction of Enemy Air Defense (DEAD) mission. This improves the output of each mission dramatically with the aircraft being able to detect and destroy radar systems and also being able to destroy other dedicated targets.
USAF F-16C block 50 #91-0363
from the 55th FS is parked on the tarmac with an engine cover over the exhaust. [Photo by Mike Kopack]
In 2002 rumors were that a Shaw AFB squadron was going to be deactivated. Most believed it would be the 55th FS. In the end the 78th FS deactivated with their aircraft being split between the various other Shaw AFB squadrons.
Over the years the squadron has been tasked with different deployments in the Middle East. This started in 1999 with operation Northern and Southern Watch missions. After more than twelve years of enforcing a no fly zone over northern Iraq by the Combined Task Force, the 55th FS had the honor of flying the last mission for Operation Northern Watch on March 17th, 2003. This also ended most operations out of Incirlik AB as the Turkish government did not allow strikes against Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom to come from any air bases in Turkey. Later on the squadron was also sent to Balad AB in Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom.
On January 10th, 2012 with a total of 12 F-16s from the 55th Fighter Squadron deployed to Kunsan AB, Korea, for a scheduled three-month deployment. Beginning on January 15th the 55th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron began combat support missions for the defense of the Republic of Korea. With the withdrawl of military presence in Iraq has allowed deployments such to be possible.
USAF F-16C block 50 #93-0550
from the 55th FS is the CO bird from the 20th FW at Shaw AB in October of 2000. [AviaMagazine
photo by Frits Jongerman]