Just before 4AM on May 28th, the skies over the Palmetto State were torn apart, thanks to the Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 motor in charge of the moving the Block 52 version of the F-16. Blasting out of McEntire Joint National Guard Base at 0 dark thirty were Swamp Fox airmen, underway on an Atlantic crossing on their way to join their tactical aviator brethren already in Europe.
The South Carolina Air National Guard’s 169th Fighter Wing is now the latest unit to deploy overseas as part of Operation Atlantic Resolve. Headed for Europe this time, the Swamp Fox F-16s are the latest in a string of high-profile deployments, following in the footsteps of their F-15 and A-10 colleagues that have been in theater since early April. The 169FW men and women will go straight to Poland, for some quality time with the Polish Air Force, another operator of Lockheed Martin’s Block 52 Viper.
Beginning in 2012, the US established a full-time presence at Łask Air Base in Poland, with a small detachment of ten personnel with the purpose of strengthening the already strong US-Poland relationship, as well as facilitating multi-national exercises and operations.
Several units have already rotated through Poland within the last few years, and the Aviation Detachments (AVDETs) have thus far consisted of Lockheed Martin C-130 and F-16 units – maybe not-so-coincidentally the same aircraft types that the Polish Air Force has obtained from the US within the last decade.
Aviation Detachment 15-3 will see approximately 100 Swamp Fox airmen from the 157th Fighter Squadron deployed to Łask for the month of June, where they will work alongside the 10th Tactical Squadron (1o ELT), the Dragon. The squadron received the new-build F-16s from Lockheed Martin in 2007, and also fielded Goodrich DB-110 reconnaissance pods. The DB-110 gives the Dragon an exceptional recce capability with visual and infrared imaging for both day and night operations, and fully integrated with NATO data links.
Also expected to join the fray are the block 50 F-16s from the 480th Fighter Squadron, the Warhawks. Part of the 52nd Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base in Germany, the Warhawks are the only block 50 squadron in the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) roster. Another Wild Weasel unit just like the 157FS, both units rarely get the opportunity to train together.
That means the AVDET is an exceptional opportunity for the Swamp Fox and Warhawk men and women to train with some of NATO’s most advanced fighters. It’s the first European deployment for the 169FW since 1998, as they’ve been busy getting all too familiar (who hasn’t?) with various parts of Southwest Asia over the last few years, having just returned from an AEF rotation in that AOR just over a year ago.
Colonel David “Oscar” Meyer, 169FW Commander, says the deployment to eastern Europe “will help to hone our skills and develop partnerships in a new environment.”
We’d like to wish the Swamp Fox airmen all the best in their deployment to Europe, and look forward to their safe return. Semper Primus!
(photos by Jonathan Derden)