20th Fighter Wing [20th FW]
The 20th Fighter Group traced its lineage to the 18 October 1917 authorization of the 20th Balloon Group as an inactive element of the Department of the Army Air Arm. The group was redesignated as the 20th Pursuit Group in May, 1929. It was activated at Mather Field, California on 15 November 1930, and consisted of the 71 st Service Squadron (the administrative and support element of the group) and two flying squadrons. Comprising the flying element of the 20th Pursuit Group, the 55th Pursuit Squadron (attached) and 77th Pursuit Squadron (assigned) flew Boeing P-12s. The 78th Pursuit Squadron, with its P-12s, joined the 20th Pursuit Group on 1 April 1931, and the 79th Pursuit Squadron joined on 1 April, 1933. The group's P-12, single-seat, biplane fighters featured two .30 caliber machine guns, an open cockpit, a 500 horse power Pratt and Whitney engine, and a top speed of 180 miles per hour.
The Group remained at Mather Field for a little less than two years until 15 October 1932, after which it relocated to Barksdale Field, Louisiana. Just prior to its transfer to Barksdale, the group was assigned, along with the 3rd Attack Group, to the 3rd Attack Wing in June 1932. The 3rd Attack Wing and Group operated out of Fort Crockett, Texas. By February 1933 when Barksdale Field was formally dedicated, the group's training program was in full operation. Its aerial training mission focused on the development of procedures and techniques for engaging enemy aircraft and provided for the protection of vital industrial centers, airdromes, and bombardment aircraft.
In October 1934, the group (by then three flying squadrons strong) made its first aircraft transition--from the P-12 to the Boeing P-26 Peashooter. This open cockpit monoplane had a 600 horsepower engine and a top speed of 253 miles per hour. Like the P-12, it possessed two .30 caliber machine guns. Unlike its predecessor, it also featured wing-mounted bomb racks. The 20th Pursuit Group acquired its first aircraft with a closed cockpit, the Curbs P-36 Mohawk, in September 1938. The P-36 had a 1,050 horse power engine, and a top speed of 303 miles per hour. It could carry up to 400 pounds of bombs on its undercarriage.
On 15 November 1939 the 20th moved to Moffett Field, California, stayed there less than one year, and moved again on 9 September 1940 to Hamilton Field, also in California. At Hamilton the group changed aircraft once again, this time to the Curbs P-40 Warhawk. This was the top of the line pre-World War 11 pursuit fighter. It had a range of 750 miles, a top speed of 343 miles per hour, and six .50 caliber machine guns in the wings.
Several events in 1941 marked the group's assignment at Hamilton Field. Deployed flights spent the first part of 1941 at Muroc Lake, California, and Esler Field, Louisiana, conducting maneuvers. In October 1941, the group split into its component squadrons and deployed to various locations on the east coast, with group headquarters temporarily established at Morris Field, North Carolina. In December 1941, the 20th reassembled at Hamilton Field, California. Two days later the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The 20th Pursuit Group made several station moves following the United States' declaration of war on Japan. From Hamilton Field it moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, to Morris Field, North Carolina, and to Paine Field, Washington - all in the latter part of 1942. While at Wilmington, the group exchanged its P-40s for P-39 Airacobras. In January 1943 the group moved to March Field, California, where it acquired its P-38 Lightning aircraft. Eight months later, on 11 August 1943, the personnel of the 20th departed California to Camp Miles Standish, Massachusetts. From this European staging area, the members of the 20th embarked on the HMS Queen Elizabeth and departed for the United Kingdom on 20 August 1943. On 25 August 1943, HMS Queen Elizabeth dropped anchor and the men of the 20th disembarked at the Firth of Clyde. From there they were transported to the docks at Greenock, Scotland, and then on, by train, to their new home, King's Cliffe Airfield, North Hamptonshire, England. The 55th Squadron joined the rest of the group at King's Cliffe in April 1944.
The group was assigned to the Eighth Air Force throughout the war.
Prior to the 20th's arrival in theater, the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt served as the primary U.S. fighter aircraft in Europe. This aircraft was a formidable match for the German Luftwaffe (Air Force) fighters in air-to-air combat but lacked one important feature--range. Without sufficient range, the conduct of daytime bomber escort missions, first into Europe and then Germany itself, proved nearly impossible. That problem was perhaps best illustrated on 14 October 1943 when 60 (20 percent) of 293 unescorted bombers, dispatched against the ball bearing works in Schweinfurt, failed to return from the mission.
With the arrival of the Lockheed P-38 in Europe, the long range escort mission of the Eighth Air Force began in earnest. Initially, due to a lack of available aircraft, the 20th conducted operations as an attached component of the 55th Fighter Group. Full group operations for the 20th commenced in late December 1943 when the group became fully equipped with P-38s. One of the early highlights of the group's World War II exploits entailed the escort of a bombing mission into the Bordeaux area of France on 31 December 1943. This 1,300 mile, round trip, constituted the longest fighter escort mission to date. That distance, in fact, stretched the P-38s beyond their operational limits, forcing 17 of 31 aircraft to land at other bases due to insufficient fuel.
Despite its advantages of range and speed over its German contemporaries, the P-38 suffered limitations which resulted in less than a break even rate in enemy aircraft downed versus 20th aircraft lost. Within a 90-day span, from 31 December 1943 to 31 March 1944 the operational ledger disclosed 52 German aircraft destroyed while the 20th's losses amounted to 54 pilots. By the end of the P-38 era in July 1944, the 20th's kill rate improved slightly. The group logged 84 pilots lost versus 89 German aircraft destroyed in the air and 31 destroyed on the ground. The P-38 was ill-equipped to deal with the extreme cold and high moisture conditions that prevailed at the operating altitudes of 20,000 to 33,000 feet over Northern Europe. A high number of group casualties resulted from engine failure at altitude. Thrown rods, engine explosions and unexpected power reduction during flight were all fatal flaws that the Axis aircraft exploited. The P-38, though equal to any German fighter at altitudes below 15, 000 feet, was no more than an even match in the best of conditions above that altitude.
Despite the shortcomings of its aircraft, the 20th earned a healthy reputation based on its escort of successful bombing raids and its secondary mission of ground strafing. From the outset of its World War 11 operations, the 20th mission concentrated on escorting medium and heavy bombers to targets on the continent. It retained this primary mission throughout the war. Its escort missions completed, however, the group began to routinely strafe targets of opportunity while in route back to England. Pilots of the 20th focused their strafing attacks on railways and railroad cars. That preference soon earned them the title of "Loco Boys".
In addition to its escort mission, the group furnished light bomber sorties. Between April and August 1944, pilots of the 20th Pursuit Group machine-gunned, dive-bombed, skip-bombed, and high-level-bombed German airfields, trains, barges, flak positions, gun emplacements, barracks, radio stations, and other targets throughout France, Belgium, and Germany. Early in that period, on 8 April 1944, the group earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for "extraordinary heroism, determination, and esprit de corps in action against the enemy". During attacks against two German airfields near Salzwedel, Germany, the group destroyed or damaged 43 enemy aircraft on the ground and three in the air. Group pilots then deployed over a broad front, sweeping the area westward on withdrawal. During that sweep, German fighters made a rear attack on the P-38 formation, destroying four of the group's number. In counter-attack, the 20th brought down three ME-109s and an FW-190 and dispersed their remaining force. The 20th air crews continued their withdrawal west, and resumed their attacks on ground-targets of opportunity. Such was the ferocity of its attacks that day that the 20th Group recorded the destruction of 50 aircraft, 300 soldiers, 18 locomotives, 50 railway freight and oil tank cars, 30 oil tanks comprising three oil storage dumps, four high tension towers, two hangars, an electrical power house, six factories, one railroad station, 16 flak towers and gun positions, and two bridges.
The invasion of Normandy in early June 1944 featured 20th Pursuit Group daylight escort operations in support of Allied fleet movements. The P-38 was specifically chosen for the task due to its distinctive shape (dual-boom fuselage) and the ease with which fleet anti-aircraft gunners could distinguish it from enemy aircraft.
In July 1944, the P-38 era for the 20th came to an end. The group flew its final P-38 combat mission on 21 July. By 22 July 1944, the 20th had completely transitioned to the new North American P-51 Mustang. During the first month of P-51 operations, pilots of the 20th Pursuit Group demonstrated the increased air superiority of the Mustang by destroying 70 enemy aircraft. Their own losses numbered only 14 over the same period--a far better kill-to-loss ratio than they had achieved with the P-38. The increased range of the P-51 enabled group pilots to extend their coverage of European operations by two to three hours flying time. Standard flying time for a P-38 ran approximately four hours. Missions of six or seven hours were not uncommon for the P-51.
By November 1944, Allied air superiority had been so firmly established that the Luftwaffe attempted only two more full-scale interdiction missions against Allied bombers before the end of the war. On 2 November 1944, a German force of about 250 fighter aircraft intercepted 1,121 Eighth Air Force bombers and their fighter escort en route to the synthetic oil plants in Merseburg, Germany. In the ferocious air battle that followed, Eighth Air Force fighters destroyed 148 German planes, more than half the attacking force. Aircrews of the 20th Group contributed to the elimination of 33 enemy aircraft on that day.
Bomber escort missions by the 20th Pursuit Group for the remaining eight weeks of 1944 met little German resistance. Weather conditions, mostly fog, limited the group's participation in the Battle of the Bulge. Nevertheless, Eighth Air Force (including the 20th Group) bombing and ground strafing of German road and railway lines of communication effectively strangled the enemy to death, and by 10 January the German army had begun its retreat to the Rhine.
Germany launched her final major air defense operation on 19 January 1945. This last full-scale attack against allied bombers lasted approximately 20 minutes. In those 20 minutes, over the German homeland, aircraft of the Eighth Air Force downed a total of 121 out of 2l4 attacking aircraft without the single loss of a fighter aircraft. Only nine B-17s,two percent of the total force,were lost. Bombers of the Eighth Air Force saturated the German homeland almost at will. Strafing attacks by Allied fighters, including the 20th, paralyzed German communications,transportation, and airfields. During February 1945, pilots of the 20th Pursuit Group expended approximately 165,500 rounds of ammunition, more than 16 percent of its wartime total expenditures The 20th led all Eighth Air Force fighter groups in the destruction of enemy aircraft during that month.
In the last month of the war, aircrews of the 20th downed their first ME-262s. On 10 April 1945, during airfield attacks around Potsdam and Brandenburg, 20th pilots destroyed five ME-262s in individual encounters, while the group as a whole eliminated a total of 55 German fighters (mostly on the ground) without a single loss to its own numbers. At the end of World War II, air aces (pilots who destroyed five or more enemy aircraft) of the 20th Pursuit Group numbered 28. On the opposite end of the spectrum, the 20th lost 73 pilots to the Germans during the war, with a further 1 1 killed during training flights. The 20th also counted 56 of their number inhabiting Nazi prisoner-of-war camps during the war. Ten others bailed out in Axis territory, but evaded capture and eventually returned to Allied lines. Following the war, the 20th Pursuit Group returned to the United States for inactivation at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey on 18 October 1945.
It became activated again on 29 July 1946 at Biggs Field, Texas. In October 1946, the group relocated to Shaw Field, South Carolina, where it was assigned under the 20th Fighter Wing on 15 August 1947. On 28 July 1947, when the 20th Fighter Wing, began at Shaw Field, South Carolina, as a Ninth Air Force unit. The 20th Fighter Group with the 55th, 77th, and 79th Fighter Bomber Squadrons and P-51 Mustangs formed the combat element of the 20th Fighter Wing. The group exchanged its P-51's in February 1948 for F-84B (later D) Thunderjets. Two days later, on 26 August 1948, the wing's 20th Airdrome Group was discontinued and its elements became realigned under the 20th Air Base Group. Control over the wing changed hands on 1 February 1949 with its assignment to Fourteenth Air Force. Eleven months later, on 20 January 1950, the wing was redesignated as the 20th Fighter Bomber Wing. Similar redesignations altered the titles of the 20th Group and its three flying squadrons.
Subordinancy to Fourteenth Air Force was short-lived, and on 1 August 1950 the wing was reassigned directly under Tactical Air Command. Ninth Air Force resumed control over the 20th on 22 January 1951. Control was swapped back to Tactical Air Command on 1 December 1951, just after the wing's relocation from Shaw to Langley AFB, Virginia. At Langley, the wing began flying new Republic F-84Gs in addition to F-84Ds.
The 20th Fighter Bomber Wing made its second move, this time overseas to RAF Wethersfield in Essex, England, on 31 May 1952. Its fighter bomber group set up headquarters, along with the 55th and 77th Squadrons, at Wethersfield a day later. Restricted space there compelled the 79th Squadron to move into RAF Bentwaters in Suffolk, England the squadron moved to RAF Woodbridge, three miles southeast of Bentwaters, on 1 October 1954. On 5 June, Tactical Air Command relinquished control over the wing to Third Air Force and the United States Air Forces in Europe. On 15 November 1952, the wing and group merged unofficially placing the flying squadrons directly under the wing's operational and administrative control. The group remained on the Air Force's active list however, until 8 February 1955 when the three fighter-bomber squadrons were officially realigned under the wing.
The Department of the Air Force temporarily bestowed the lineage and honors of the 20th Group on the 20th Wing in November 1954. That action was accomplished to facilitate the Air Force's adoption of a wing-base plan, making the wing the primary combat element of operational organizations. Consequent to the action of temporary bestowal, the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing laid claim to the lineage, honors, and history of the 20th Fighter Group. That bestowal has remained in effect ever since.
In June 1955, the wing started flying F-84F Thunderstreaks in addition to its F-84Ds and F-84Gs. The F-84G was phased out by June 1955 and the F-84F remained in the inventory until December 1957. Prior to the departure of the F-84 fleet, the 20th began conversion to North American F-1OOD and F-1OOF Super Sabres on 16 June 1957.
The 20th Fighter Bomber Wing established an operational detachment at Wheelus AB, Libya in February 1958. Three months later, the wing took on the designation of the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing. The 55th, 77th and 79th Squadrons were also re-labeled as tactical fighter squadrons at that time. The flying squadrons dispersed on a monthly rotational basis to RAF Alconbury, RAF Woodbridge, and Nouasseur AB, Morrocco, due to a RAF Wethersfield runway closure from May to August, 1958. The wing first established its Blast Off (later named Victor Alert) capability in July, 1958. The first mobility plan was initiated on 1 January 1959. A year-round weapons training detachment was established at Wheelus AB, Libya, for monthly squadron rotations. Pilot survival and ski training began in Norway in February, 1959. The 20th Tactical Fighter Wing represented USAFE in the William Tell exercise held at Nellis AFB, Nevada in October, 1960.
The first NATO Tiger meet was sponsored by the 79th Tactical Fighter Tiger Squadron at RAF Woodbridge in June, 1961 (established by Captains Michael T Dugan and Merril A McPeak, each of whom went on to become Air Force Chief of Staff).
Intermediate command over the 20th changed hands between 3rd Air Force and 16th Air Force from 1 July 1961 to 1 September 1963. Monthly rotations to Cigli AB, Turkey were conducted from July 1966 to June 1970 and to Aviano AB, Italy from December 1966 to June 1970. Political closures of US bases in France forced opening of RAF Greenham Common under 20th TFW management to handle personnel overflow in January 1967.
A military coup in Libya forced the closure of Wheelus AB in September 1969 and initiation of 20th TFW weapons training detachment operations at Torrejon AB, Spain in November, 1969. Detachment 1, 20th Tactical Fighter Wing was established at RAF Upper Heyford on 10 December 1969. All three flying squadrons rotated to Zaragoza, Spain for weapons training from January to March 1970. Headquarters, 20th Tactical Fighter Wing relocated from RAF Wethersfield to RAF Upper Heyford on 1 June 1970. For the first time since it left Virginia in 1952, all three of its flying squadrons were united on one base. Less than three months later, the wing began converting to a new aircraft - the General Dynamics F-111E Aardvark (unofficially). On 12 September 1970, the first two F-111Es arrived at RAF Upper Heyford. The last of the 20th's F-100s transferred to the Air National Guard on 12 February 1971 and in November of that year the wing's F-111s were declared operationally ready.
The 20th TFW participated in F-111 NATO and US unilateral operations Shabaz, Display Determination, Cold Fire, Ocean Safari, Datex, Priory, Reforger, Dawn Patrol, Highwood, Hammer, and others from January 1972 to October 1993.
In March 1973, the 20th TFW became one of only two wings in the Air Force to participate in the tri-deputy wing organization system. The Deputy Commander for Materiel organization split apart to form the Deputy Commander for Logistics (renamed Deputy Commander for Resources in 1974 and Deputy Commander for Resource Management in 1975) and the Deputy Commander for Maintenance organizations. Under this test the Organizational, Field, Avionics, and Munitions Maintenance Squadrons became prime components of the Deputy Commander for Maintenance organization. The procurement and comptroller offices, along with the 20th Supply and 20th Transportation Squadrons (moved under the Combat Support Group) constituted the Deputy Commander for Logistics organization. The tri-deputy system was formally approved in the following year and the 20th Transportation Squadron was officially realigned from the Combat Support Group to the Deputy Commander for Resources on 24 July, 1974.
Operations shifted to RAF Greenham Common from May to August, 1976, due to runway repairs at Upper Heyford.
The wing gained a fourth flying squadron on 1 July 1983, with the activation of the 42nd Electronic Combat Squadron. On February 1984, the first Grumman (General Dynamics) EF-111A Ravens of that squadron arrived at Upper Heyford. Parental responsibility over the 42nd by the 20th TFW was short-lived, however, and on 1 June 1985, operational control of the squadron shifted to the 66th Electronic Combat Wing at Sembach AB, West Germany.
In March 1986, the 66th Electronic Combat Wing detached the 42nd ECS to the 20th TFW to take part in Eldorado Canyon, the raid on Libya. On 14 April 1986, 5 EF-111As and 20 F-111Es took off from RAF Upper Heyford as part of the attack force. They were used as an airborne reserve for the F-111Fs of the 48th TFW, RAF Lakenheath. Three EF-111s (two were spares and turned back) formed up with the 48th's F-111Fs and provided electronic defense during the attack on Tripoli.USAFE initiated the Project Power Hunter intelligence network in December 1987. The wing first tested the Durandal runway-buster bombs during Exercise Red Flag, in January and February 1988.
All three fighter squadrons deployed to Incirlik AB, Turkey for Weapons Training Deployment (WTD) on Konya Range from March to May 1989.
The first F-111E modified under he Aircraft Modernization Program (AMP) arrived at Upper Heyford in February 1990. The 79th Tactical Fighter Squadron sent aircrews to participate in Cold Fire '90 events from 11 to 26 January 1990. From 2 - 20 March 1990, aircrews of the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing participated in Red Flag 90-3. The 79th Tactical Fighter Squadron participated in a Mallet Blow exercise from 26 - 29 March 1990. This exercise tested the United Kingdom's air defenses. On 15 April, 20th TFW air and ground crews undertook Weapons System Evaluation Program (WSEP) training during Combat Hammer 90-7 at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho. From 2 - 16 May, the 77th Tactical Fighter Squadron deployed to Aviano AB, Italy, to participate in a Southern Region exercise called Dragon Hammer 90. Aircrews of the 79th Tactical Fighter Squadron flew in a Baltic maritime exercise called Brazen Deed on 12 June 1990. The 79th Tactical Fighter Squadron hosted the 1990 NATO Tiger Meet from 12 - 17 September 1990.
The 20th TFW had aircraft deployed to Incirlik AB, Turkey for a Weapons Training Deployment in August 1990, when Iraq invaded Kuwait and Desert Shield started. As the start of the air campaign neared, the wing reinforced its presence as all US aircraft at Incirlik were incorporated into the 7440th Wing (Provisional), Operation Proven Force, for the duration of the war. The wing also deployed four 42nd ECS EF-111As and 80 personnel to Taif, Saudi Arabia, to support Operation Desert Storm. On 25 January 1991, the wing was once again up to four flying squadrons when the 42nd Electronic Combat Squadron was reassigned to the 20th from the 66th Electronic Combat Wing.
On 16 January 1991, a 42nd ECS EF-111A, operating from Taif, was credited with the first aerial kill of the war. It was attacked a by an Iraqi Mirage fighter while flying a night mission near the Saudi-Iraq border. To defeat the Iraqi fighter, the EF-111A descended to minimum altitude on its Terrain Following Radar (TFR). The Mirage slammed into the ground while trying to follow the EF-111A. On 17 January 1991, 20th TFW aircraft launched combat missions from both Turkey and Saudi Arabia and continued flying combat missions until the cease fire. The F-111s flying from Turkey flew night missions throughout the war, using the TFR to penetrate the dense antiaircraft artillery (AAA) environment at altitudes around 200 feet for the first few nights. Crews who flew those first few terrifying nights said that the illumination from the AAA was so bright that they didn't need the TFR to avoid the ground. After the missile threat was suppressed, crews flew their attacks at altitudes around 20,000 feet, above the range of most Iraqi AAA systems.
During the war, the F-111s attacked a range of targets, including power plants, petroleum refineries, airfields, nuclear-biological-chemical processing and storage facilities, and electronics sites throughout northern Iraq, using 500 and 2,000 pound conventional bombs, and CBU-87/89 cluster bombs. Wing EF-111As flew both day and night missions, providing direct and stand-off jamming for all coalition air forces. The skill and conspicuous bravery of wing aircrews was recognized in the award of numerous Silver Stars, Distinguished Flying Crosses, and Air Medals. By the end of the conflict Saudi-based EF-111As had flown 219 combat missions, totaling 1,155 flying hours. The wing's 6 EF-111As based in Turkey flew 252 combat missions, totaling 704 hours, while the 23 F-111Es at Incirlik flew 456 combat missions, totaling 1,327 combat hours. When Desert Storm ended, the wing had deployed 458 personnel, flown 1,798 combat sorties without a loss, and dropped 4,714 tons of ordnance.
In the first 6 months of 1991, transient alert personnel, in support of Desert Storm, serviced and launched the largest number of transient aircraft in the history of RAF Upper Heyford - 1,408 aircraft.
On 9 March 1991, 27 of the 28 deployed F-111Es and EF-111As, along with support personnel, returned home from Incirlik AB, Turkey. The 42nd ECS redeployed to Incirlik in support of Operation Provide Comfort on 6 April 1991.
In May, 42nd ECS Avionics Maintenance Unit personnel - deployed to Saudi Arabia since December, 1990 - returned to Upper Heyford. Other 42nd ECSIAMU personnel rotated into Saudi in the same month. Eight months after it was assigned to the 20th TFW, the 2168th Communications Squadron was redesignated the 620th Communications Squadron on 1 May 1991.
Returning to normal operations, 20th TFW aircrews participated in the NATO Central Enterprise '91 exercise from 10 - 14 June 1991. On 19 July 1991, the 79th TFS took top honors at the International Air Tattoo held at RAF Fairford.
The wing held a homecoming celebration for 42nd ECS aircrews and support personnel, returning from Operation Provide Comfort deployment on 14 August 1991. Wing aircrews flew in support of Elder Joust from 10 - 12 September 1991. On 30 September 1991, another rotation of 42nd ECS personnel to Saudi Arabia took place.
The 20th Tactical Fighter Wing, along with the associated 55th, 77th, and 79th Tactical Fighter Squadrons were officially redesignated the 20th Fighter Wing and 55th, 77th, and 79th Fighter Squadrons on 1 October 1991. During October 1991, wing air and ground crews competed in Gunsmoke '91 at Nellis AFB, Nevada. On 23 October, the Gunsmoke team returned home with top honors and the F-111 Bombing trophy.
20th Fighter Wing aircrews participated in Green Flag '92 from 27 February - 13 April. This gave most of the wing's aircrew the opportunity to deliver GBU-12 laser-guided bombs in a near-combat environment. In May 1992, the 55th Fighter Squadron deployed to Aviano, Italy for Dragon Hammer '92. Wing aircrews competed in Excalibur '92 with the 55th FS finishing 8th out of 23 squadrons entered.
Approximately a year and a half after regaining the 42nd ECS, the wing lost it again when the 42nd was inactivated on 10 July 1992. The last EF-111A departed Upper Heyford in August 1992.
The wing celebrated the 75th anniversary of the 55th Fighter Squadron 7 - 9 August 1992. Then, from 4 - 7 February, additional celebrations were held for the 79th Fighter Squadron and in early March for the 77th Fighter Squadron.
The wing team deployed to Green Flag '93 at Nellis AFB, Nevada from 2 March - 2 April 1993. The first day-night Green Flag incorporated night low level operations and live weapons delivery. The 79th Fighter Squadron inactivated on 23 April 1993, with the last aircraft departing RAF Upper Heyford on 10 May. On 4 June 1993, the 77th Fighter Squadron participated in Excalibur '93 taking first place by beating all other USAFE units, including F-15Es and F16s. The 55th Fighter Squadron participated in the Aalborg Airshow, Denmark, from 4 - 7 June 1993. On 9 July 1993, the 77th Fighter Squadron inactivated. The last aircraft departed in August. The 55th Fighter Squadron deployed 6 aircraft to Incirlik AB, Turkey, for Dynamic Guard '93, from 20 September - 8 October 1993. This was the last operational deployment for the 20th Fighter Wing while at RAF Upper Heyford.
The last of the fighter squadrons, the 55th, inactivated on 15 October 1993. On 19 October 1993, aircraft 68-120 went to the Imperial War Museum in Duxford where it is now on display alongside Happy Jack's Go Buggy, a 79th Fighter Squadron P-38 (68-120 is painted as The Chief - it was the wing's alternate flagship). The last of the wing's three aircraft departed Upper Heyford on 7 December 1993. The flagship of the 55th Fighter Squadron, aircraft 68055 Heartbreaker, departed first. It went to Robbins AFB, Georgia, where it is now on display. The next aircraft, 68-061 The Last Roll of Me Dice, departed for the Davis Monthan AFB 'boneyard". Finally, aircraft 68-020 The Chief, flew to Hill AFB, Utah, where it is now on display at the Hill AFB Aerospace Museum.
In its last years at Upper Heyford, the F-111 finally showed that it was a mature system. The 20th's F-111Es had their best maintenance statistics in 13 years in 1992, and the best maintenance statistics in F-111 history in 1993. The fully mission capable (FMC) rate surged to 88.8%, while cost per flying hour dropped from $1,136 to just over $700. Also the wing scored an Excellent on its Nuclear Surety Inspections for 1991 and 1993.
On 15 December 1993, the flight line at RAF Upper Heyford was closed. On 1 January 1994, the 20th Fighter Wing inactivated at RAF Upper Heyford and reactivated without personnel or equipment at Shaw AFB, South Carolina (The 363rd Fighter Wing was inactivated at Shaw AFB on 31 December 1993). The 55th, 77th, and 79th Fighter Squadrons reactivated on the same day.
The 78th Fighter Squadron activated on that day to join the wing, after having last been assigned to the 81st Tactical Fighter Wing at RAF Bentwaters, UK.
The squadron was inactivated once again on June 30, 2003, as part of the Air Force's FY 2003 force structure changes, leaving Shaw with three F-16CJ squadrons.
The 20th provided forces in April 1999 for North Atlantic Treaty Organization's Operation Allied Force in the European theater. A Shaw pilot deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy, during the conflict shot down an enemy MiG-29. For 10 years, the 20th FW and its F-16CJ squadrons flew contingency rotations in support of Operations Northern and Southern Watch. The wing also flew combat air patrols in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon. In February 2003, Shaw deployed approximately 1,300 servicemembers and 15 aircraft in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Operations Northern and Southern Watch successfully culminated with the advent of hostilities in Iraq.
The primary missions are the suppression of enemy air defenses and destruction of enemy air defenses.
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