In October 2013 AeroResource was invited to visit the ramp of the Texas Air National Guard (ANG), the 149th Fighter Wing (FW) “Lone Star Gunfighters” based on the vast complex which is Lackland Air Force Base, San Antonio Texas.
On the 21st August 1946 the 182nd FS was activated. During mid-1947 the 182nd received its first P-51 Mustang which continued to serve with the squadron until the end of 1950. Early 1951 the squadron entered the “Jet Era” went it was re-equipped with F-84E “Thunderjet” and soon was called to active duty overseas in Korea where the squadron formed part of the 136th FW. Whilst serving in the Korean War the squadron set a number of firsts for the ANG. It was the first to see combat, first to shoot down a Mig-15 and the first to show the merits of aerial refueling whilst in active combat zone.
In 1953 the “Thunderjets” were replaced by F-80 “Shooting Stars”, the USAF’s first aircraft to exceed 500mph in level flight. The F-80s were short lived with the 182nd being replaced by the USAF’s first swept wing fighter the F-86 “Sabre” during 1956. As a late entry to the conflict the F-86 had proved to be more than a match for the Mig-15 during the later stages of the Korean War. The “Sabre” served until late 1959 with the squadron. In 1960 the 182nd had the honour of becoming the first ANG unit to receive the mighty F-102A “Delta Dagger” a member of the “Century Series” of jets. This pure interceptor was the first operational supersonic and Delta winged fighter with the USAF. It was designed to stop invading Soviet Bomber fleets attacking the United States. The next aircraft change to the squadron was the F-84F “Thunderstreak” in 1968 only for it to be replaced one year later by another “Century Series” jet the F-100D “Super Sabre”. From 1970 to 1978 it flew missions with the 182nd and received its aircraft from the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing at RAF Wethersfield UK. From 1975 onwards as part of its NATO commitment, the squadron would regularly deploy on exercise with United States Air Forces Europe (USAFE). The last change of type before receiving its F-16A/B’s in 1986 was the F-4C “Phantom II”. This Vietnam veteran of the skies would see regular deployments to Europe throughout its time from 1979-86.
The F-16 “Fighting Falcon” then and now
The final and current type to enter service with the 182nd FS was the General Dynamics, now Lockheed Martin, F-16A/B “Fighting Falcon”. Known by its pilots as the “Viper”, this multi-role low cost single engine tactical fighter, measuring only 15.06 metres in length and weighing 8,570 Kg empty could reach speeds of in excess of Mach II (1536 miles per hour). With a newly designed frameless bubble canopy, side-mounted control stick, and use of fly-by-wire would make this an agile fighting machine. The Block 15 production models had been modified to an Air Defence Fighter (ADF) when the role of defending the United States fell upon the ANG during the 1980’s. This ADF would have improved APG-66 radar, High Frequency (HF) Radio and spotlight fitted at the side of its nose cone. In 1996 the F-16A/B Block 15’s had been replaced by the F-16C/D Block 25 aircraft which showed a great improvement on the earlier Block 15’s. Now fitted with an AN/APG-68 upgraded multi-mode radar with higher resolution, greater range and 25 operating modes with improved cockpit avionics.
Today the 182nd Fighter Squadron (FS), 149th FW, operates the Block 30 F-16C/D (also referred to as MSIP stage III) with a new upgraded General Electric F-110 engine which produces some 5,000 pounds more thrust than its predecessor, the F-100 engine. The new F-110 required a larger airflow into the intake, so a new larger intake was adopted known as the “modular common air intake duct” or “Big mouth” for short. At present the 149th FW flies with 23 F-16C/D “Big mouths”.
149th provides daily flight training for active duty, ANG and reserve pilots alongside new graduate pilots after completing their 9 month training course with the Air Education and Training Command. An average of 50 student pilots will be accepted every year into the FW training program. Flight instructors who fly the training course with the students are normally all former active duty pilots. Flight operations consist of an average of 18 missions per day, in excess of 3300 sorties per calendar year and 4400 plus flight hours. These figures being based on a year without Sequestration budget cuts in effect. Personnel with the Wing number 818, some 331 full time staff and 487 part time traditional ANG staff.
Role of the ANG
As part of the of the Air National Guard, the “Lone Star Gunfighters” 182nd FS supports the Federal mission of fully trained, fully equipped units always ready to mobilize and assist front line assets during times of conflict around the Globe. This is whilst providing almost 50% of United States Air Force (USAF) tactical airlift functions, medical evacuation, communication support functions and aerial refueling. During times of national emergencies, fires, Earthquakes and civil unrest the ANG will be called upon to provide assistance. Air defence for the whole of the United States is provided by the ANG. As can be seen from the facts above the ANG along with all of its units have a very important role to play throughout the United States and around the world.
Pride of place in the mission ready room are these 3 plaques mounted on a wall with the inscriptions below:
“Provide combat fighter pilots and combat support personnel for worldwide operations”
“Warfighters capable of engaging the enemy anywhere in the world and Citizen Airmen responsive to humanitarian relief and homeland defense missions”
“Obtain the Joint Strike Fighter and capitalize on Joint Training Opportunities.”
“Integrate with State planning, exercise and responsive initiatives.”
“Become the Air National Guard unit of choice for contingency response in FEMA Region 6.”
“Develop, enhance and market current and future GSU missions.”
“Promote the 149th capabilities with civic leaders, state legislators and professional associations.”
“Promote professional development and process improvement while building and strengthening wing morale and retention programs.”
AeroResource would like to thank the media team at Lackland AFB, Master Sgt Miguel Arellano/Public Affairs Chief for the 149th FW for his excellent, witty and informal tour with the unit, and finally Jon Astley and Ian French for contributing/planning/photography on the day.