report by:Thierry Letellier
The unit’s history dates back to 1956 when the 152nd Fighter Interceptor Squadron of the Arizona Air National Guard flew the Korean War vintage F-86A. Late in 1968 the unit received its first of five Air Force Outstanding Unit Citations for converting from the F-100 day-fighter to the all-weather F-102 “Delta Dagger” interceptor aircraft in just 10 months. The Air National Guard officially redesignated the unit as the 162nd Tactical Fighter Training Group and the 152nd Tactical Fighter Squadron in 1969. The unit’s new job was producing combat-ready pilots for the F-100 aircraft. They graduated their first students in 1970. Shortly afterward, the unit formed the Air National Guard Fighter Weapons School in Tucson. This school taught Air Guard and Reserve fighter pilots from throughout the country to effectively use advanced tactics and weapons technology.
The unit received its second Air Force Outstanding Unit Citation for successfully continuing to train F-100 students while completing the most challenging conversion in the unit’s history. That tasking was to convert from F-100s to A-7Ds. In the early 1980s the Group also received the A-7K, a two-seat combat-capable training aircraft. . In 1989 the Netherlands and the United States formally agreed to use the 162nd Fighter Group’s first-rate facilities and people to train Dutch fighter pilots in the F-16 aircraft.Midsummer 1991 saw the retirement of all its A-7D aircraft. Now the unit flies the F-16 C/D and the newer F-16E/F “Fighting Falcon” aircraft plus a single C-26A “Metroliner” light transport aircraft.
In April 1992, the Group’s international training mission began a major expansion, training fighter pilots for the Republic of Singapore, followed in 1993 by Bahrain, Portugal in 1994, and Thailand, Indonesia and Turkey in 1995. The unit was designated a fighter wing in October of 1995 and the international training mission continued to expand, adding Belgium in 1996 followed by Jordan and Norway in the first half of 1997. Denmark began training here in June 1998, and Japan began training in late 1998. Italy sent their first pilot to Tucson in October 2000, Greece began training here in January 2001 and the United Arab Emirates sent their first students here in August 2001.
Oman and Poland both began sending students here in 2004. Other nations who have trained or are currently training in Tucson are Israel, Italy, Chile and Taiwan. From October 1998 until August 1999, the unit conducted a program to convert three former Air Defense units to the general-purpose role. This air-to-ground training program taught current F-16 air defense pilots how to employ the F-16 in the ground attack mission. Air defense units from the Vermont, New Jersey, Texas and California Air National Guard transferred eight F-16Cs/Ds to the 162nd FW. On June 27, 2004, the 162nd FW and the United Arab Emirates initiated a unique training program. The UAE F-16 Training Program is a dedicated F-16 squadron, the 148th Fighter Squadron. The squadron will operate in the long-term with 13 F-16E/F (Block 60) aircraft. The first aircraft arrived on Sept. 2, 2004. After a decade long partnership, on October 20, 2010 the 162nd FW and the United Arab Emirates Air Force celebrated the successful conclusion of their formal training relationship.
On October 29, 2010 after a three year break, the Royal Netherlands Air Force returned to the 162nd FW for advanced F-16 pilot training. The RNAF continues to operate under the 148th FS. The162nd Fighter wing manages a fleet of more than 70 F-16 C/D and Mid-Life Update (MLU) Fighting Falcons. There are three flying squadrons and numerous maintenance squadrons and flights a ssigned to the wing. Under the 162nd Operations Group are the 152nd, 195th, and 148th Fighter Squadrons. Supporting these units are the Mission Support Group, the Maintenance Group, the Medical Group and Headquarters Squadron. The 162nd has more than 43 years experience in fighter training, and more than 23 years experience in international military training.The wing graduated more than 7,000 fighter pilots since 1969. I had a very pleasant time but low level of activity, during this Friday will lead me to come back soon….