At a time when many USAF overseas squadrons were returning to the United States, many squadrons were being disbanded. The reason behind the reactivation of the 20th Fighter Wing was to keep the history alive of the Fighter Wing and its resident squadrons over those of the 363rd FW which deactivated and its squadrons. Along with the number change to both wing and squadrons at Shaw AFB
there was also a block change for the F-16s with the introduction of the block 50 in 1994. The newly activating squadrons at Shaw, which included the 77th, 78th and 79th FS
(the 55th FS became an F-16 squadron in 1997) were all receiving block 50s for the Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) mission. This was a completely new mission for Shaw AFB. Not long after fomring in 1994, the 77th FS became the East Coast Viper demonstration team and in April of that year preformed a flight demonstration for US President Bill Clinton. Over the coming years the squadron continued to meet its air show flight demonstration requirements as well as it hectic deployment schedule to the Middle East.
For the SEAD mission the aircraft are 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.
Lt. Col. Tom Littleton, commander of the 20th OSS, flies F-16C block 50 #91-0377
from the 77th FS on February 23rd, 2007 in support of Col. James W. Hyatt's final flight as wing commander at Shaw AFB. [USAF photo by SSgt. Sarayuth Pinthong]
In 1996 the squadron went to Saudi Arabia for what become a very dramatic first combat deployment of the 77th FS with the F-16. The squadron was in the area for Operation Southern Watch, a UN sanctioned patrol of a no-fly zone over Southern Iraq. A terrorist attack was plotted and carried out against US forces stationed at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia on June 25th, 1996. The blast killed nineteen USAF personnel and heavily damaged or destroyed six high-rise apartment buildings. The 77th FS was at Dhahran at the time and as a result moved to Shaikh Isa AB in Bahrain shortly after the bombing.
Beginning in 1999, was a very time period for this high tempo squadron. No less than three major combat deployments in a short period of time with two to the Middle East, one for Operation Northern Watch and the other for Operation Desert Fox. It began with a deployment was Operation Allied Force, a massive air campaign to stabilize the Balkan states. During Operation Allied Force, F-16C (side profile at top) shot down a Serbian MiG-29 with an AIM-120B on May 4, 1999.
After the initial phases of the war in Iraq there has been less of a requirement for the SEAD mission so the 77th FS - and all Shaw AFB squadrons - had fewer deployments to the Middle East. With a five year break running from 2003 to 2008 the 77th FS had a break from combat deployments.
In 2008 the squadron had the honor to execute the first-ever combat deployment of a GBU-54 Laser JDAM against a moving enemy vehicle in Diyala Province. The squadron returned to Iraq in a regular interval afterwards.
USAF F-16D block 50 #91-0463
from 77 FS coming in at Nellis AB for attending the Red Flag 02-03 session. [Tailslides
photo by Peter]