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The 162nd Fighter Wing; Tucson International, March 4 & 5, 2017

The Arizona Air National Guard, part 1; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The American Air National Guard's largest F-16 training facility is based on Tucson International Airport. F-16 pilots and ground staff of the United States Air Force from all over the world are trained in flying and maintaining the Lockheed martin F-16 Fighting Falcon. The 162 FW is also actively part of the AZ ANG.

The Arizona Air National Guard (AZ ANG) is the air force militia of the US state of Arizona. Next to the Arizona Army National Guard, the AZ ANG is part of the Arizona National Guard. The militias which are organized in the United States by state do not fall under the command of the regular USAF unless the state's politics has decided to do so. The decision to deploy the AZ ANG is politically decided by the Governor of the state of Arizona. Only when this person decides to use the ANG, the AZ ANG will become under the federal command which is led by the United States President. The main task of the AZ ANG is to defend the airspace of the state of Arizona. The AZ ANG is also responsible for assisting emergency services during earthquakes, storms, floods, SAR tasks and protecting public facilities. The Arizona Air National Guard consists of three large units. The first unit is the 161st Air Refueling Wing which flies the KC-135R Stratotanker. This unit is based on Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. For national deployment, this unit is integrated into the USAF Air Mobility Command. The second major wing is the 162nd Fighter Wing which is equipped with the F-16C/D Fighting Falcon. This wing is stationed at Tucson Air National Guard Base in Tucson. In times of war, this wing becomes part of the USAF Air Education and Training Command. The third major unit is the 214th Reconnaissance Group which operates with the MQ-1B Predator. This group is stationed at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in Tucson. This unit can be deployed as part of the USAF Air Combat Command.

The largest wing of these three units is the 162nd Fighter Wing (162 FW) at Tucson International. On July 1, 1969, the Arizona Air National Guard finally got its own fighter wing when the 152nd Tactical Fighter Training Squadron was upgraded to group level. This group was named the 162nd Tactical Fighter Training Group and was operated by the National Guard Bureau. The 152nd TFTS immediately became one of the

squadrons within this group. The group received the training task to prepare pilots for the F-100 Super Sabre. Shortly after this conversion, the Air National Guard Fighter Weapons School (FWS) was also established in Tucson. With the arrival of this school, the 162nd FG was responsible for training all Air Guard and Reserve pilots within the United States Air Force. In the early 1970s, the A-7 Corsair was introduced to the wing and also on this type pilots were trained for the whole ANG. Since February 1984, the second squadron was added to the wing at Tucson. This unit was the 195th Tactical Fighter Squadron which also flew with the A-7 Corsair. The third unit was added to the wing in October 1985; this unit was the 148th Tactical Fighter Squadron. In 1985, the first F-16s were received at the ANG at Tucson. The F-16 Fighting Falcon would slowly phase out the A-7 Corsair at the ANG. The mission of the 162nd FG was from then on the training of F-16 pilots at the Air National Guard Replacement Training Unit (RTU). The last A-7s were phased out at the end of 1992. From that moment on, the unit would only fly with the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

The initial role of the 162nd FW would change dramatically during the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. During the first hours after the first attack on the Pentagon, aircraft of the 162nd FW were for the first-time launched on Quick Reaction Alert (QRA). During the weeks which followed, the wing succeeded in meeting all the requirements for these new air defense tasks. The missions during Operation Noble Eagle were flown with excellent results. Many members of the 162nd FW supported this new set-up and volunteered to mobilize the wing when the US president asked for it. The wing eventually provided personnel for operations like Operation Eagle, Operation Enduring Freedom, Joint Forge and Coronet Oak. On June 27, 2004, the 162nd FW launched a unique training program together with the United Arab Emirates Air Force. The UAE F-16 Training Program has been assigned to the 148th FS. The squadron would fly with 13 F-16E/F (Block 60) aircraft from the UAE Air Force. In addition to defending the American airspace, the training task was also continued. Since 2010, the Royal Netherlands Air Force has taken over from the UAE and is using ten F-16AM/BM Fighting Falcons of the Royal Netherlands Air Force at the 148th FS. The Iraqi Air Force decided to buy 36 F-16s to restore the destroyed air force of the country.

In 1992, the status of the 162nd Fighter Group was changed to 162nd Fighter Wing. The leadership of the ANG also decided that the training which was provided by the unit for the operational ANG units had to be modernized. The organization wanted the ANG pilots to be trained on the same level as the operational USAF pilots. For this reason, the unit received from that moment the modern F-16C block 42. It became increasingly clear that the 162nd FW would be the main training unit of the ANG. Also, the unit would structurally give a lot of training to foreign F-16 users. The first foreign trainees were from Singapore in 1992 and Bahrain and Portugal in 1994. These countries were followed by Thailand, Turkey and Indonesia in 1995. From 1995 the unit finally became an international F-16 training wing. The air forces from Belgium, Jordan and Denmark made use of the training facilities at Tucson since 1997. The last participants of the training which were involved took place from 1998 to 2004. These countries were Italy, Greece, Poland, Japan and the United Arab Emirates. The United Arab Emirates and the Netherlands were countries which were flying with their own aircraft from Tucson. The Royal Netherlands Air Force and the Iraqi Air Force are still active with their own F-16s at Tucson. In addition to training of the pilots, also ground personnel such as crew chiefs and technicians are trained on the F-16 at Tucson. The 162nd FW is today the most important training wing for the American ANG units.

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