20th Fighter Wing History

Today's 20thFW

The 20th Operations Group employs approximately 80 F-16CJ fighter aircraft in conventional and anti-radiation suppression of enemy air defenses, strategic attack, counter air, air interdiction, joint maritime operations and combat search-and-rescue missions. The 20th OG has personnel assigned to the 20thOperations Support Squadron "Mustangs," the 55thFighter Squadron "Fighting Fifty-Fifth," the 77thFighter Squadron "Gamblers," and the 79thFighter Squadron "Tigers." The 20th OSS "Mustangs" are responsible for all airfield activities and associated support of the 20th Fighter Wing's many fighter missions. The 20th OSS is a diverse squadron, consisting of five unique flights: Airfield Operations, Weapons and Training, Current Operations, Intelligence and Weather.

20thMaintenance Group (MXG)

The 20thAircraft Maintenance Squadron is responsible for flightline maintenance of the wing's aircraft. The 20th AMXS prepares aircraft for combat operations worldwide to support Air Combat Command and warfighting commanders' taskings in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility and flag, joint and combined exercises for the suppression of enemy air defenses. The squadron is also responsible for more than 1,000 people, a $1.1 million budget and more than 24,000 flight hours annually.

The 20thComponent Maintenance Squadron supports a combat-ready wing of aircraft and equipment. It maintains jet engines, accessory and avionics components and systems, and test, measurement and diagnostic equipment in support of three fighter squadrons and as a regional TMDE lab. The squadron is ready to respond to any no-notice, quick-reaction contingency tasking.

The 20thEquipment Maintenance Squadron focuses efforts of approximately 500 assigned personnel in 15 Air Force Specialty Codes to support three combat-ready F-16CJ squadrons. It maintains aerospace ground equipment, armament systems and munitions for worldwide deployment. The 20th EMS performs aircraft phase inspections, corrosion control, engine oil analysis, nondestructive inspections and munitions storage and accountability, in addition to fabricating parts and tools.

The 20thMaintenance Operations Squadron coordinates flying and maintenance schedules and tracks current status of the wing's aircraft. It establishes priorities for shared resources and provides weapons load, maintenance and safety training for more than 2,600 personnel in 35 Air Force Specialty Codes. The 20th MOS evaluates maintenance records, practices and personnel to gauge compliance with directives as well as the overall health of the fleet.

20th Mission Support Group

Shaw AFB is a self-contained town, administered and maintained by the 20th FW through the Mission Support Group. In addition to supporting more than 5,400 military and civilian employees and 11,000 family members, the 20th MSG is also responsible for thousands of acres of land, including the 24-acre outdoor recreation area located 37 miles northwest on Lake Wateree, and the approximately 12,000-acre Poinsett Electronic Combat Range located about 10 miles southwest of the base.

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I'm waiting for a description of the Force Support Squadron. They combined the functions of the Mission Support Squadron and Services Squadron under the SVS renamed it FSS and inacticated the MSS.


The 20thForce Support Squadron provides essential human services to the community through a wide variety of activities, facilities and programs. These include childcare, before- and after-school youth programs, family daycare, an enlisted dining facility, lodging, outdoor recreation, a collocated club, golf, library services, bowling, base honor guard, mortuary affairs, equipment rental, private animal care clinic, rod and gun club, fitness center and skills development centers. Lake Wateree Outdoor Recreation complex, located 34 miles north of Shaw near Camden, SC, features rental cabins, boat and pontoon rentals and fishing facilities offering a full variety of water sporting events. The squadron's Prime Readiness in Base Services deployment teams maintain their worldwide mobility commitment to sustain deployed wing forces under any condition, providing food, lodging, fitness and recreation services. [OLD 20 MSS functions] consists of six flights: Military Personnel, Civilian Personnel, Education Services, Manpower, Professional Military Education and the Family Support Center. Each flight is dedicated to supporting commanders and providing quality service. The squadron also provides administrative support to personnel assigned to the wing staff and the position of Career Assistance Advisor.

The 20thCivil Engineer Squadron maintains and operates a 15,855-acre complex (dual runway, tactical bombing range and remote recreation area), supporting F-16CJ operations and Headquarters, Ninth Air Force at Shaw AFB. Its flights administer the resources, environmental, housing, fire protection, explosive ordnance disposal, disaster preparedness, engineering and operations programs. The base engineer emergency force, known as Prime BEEF, supports aircraft operations during wartime with runway repair, force bed-down capability, facility and utility maintenance support, air base recovery, construction management, crash rescue and fire suppression.

The 20th Communications Squadron provides network services, telephone systems, information management, airfield systems maintenance and visual information support to Shaw AFB units. Its four flights plan, manage, operate and maintain a wide variety of communications equipment supporting command and control, flying operations and daily administrative business practices for all base customers. The squadron also provides deployed communications support, identical to in-garrison communications services, for contingency operations.

The 20th Security Forces Squadron protects and defends Shaw AFB personnel and resources through the application of weapons systems security; police services; combat arms; information, industrial, and personnel security; military working dogs; air base defense; and antiterrorism operations 24 hours a day/seven days a week. The unit encompasses five installation entry points, a Visitor Control Center, law enforcement patrols, flight line security, an investigative branch, Combat Arms Training and the wing antiterrorism office. Members of the unit conduct law enforcement and community policing functions throughout the base and the Shaw Military Family Housing community. This includes enforcing all speed limits and rules of the road. The Pass and Registration office, located in the Support Center building, issues all school passes and flight line badges. The Combat Arms Flight administers all weapons training to wing personnel and the armory handles the storage of personally owned weapons.

The 20th Logistics Readiness Squadron provides integrated supply, transportation and logistics planning support to the 20th FW, Headquarters Ninth Air Force, and tenant units. The squadron consists of approximately 400 military and civilian personnel managing approximately 600 vehicles. For support of deployment operations, the squadron maintains the largest mobility equipment account in Air Combat Command, accounting for more than 275,000 units, and four air-transportable mobility-readiness spares packages for aircraft support. Additionally, the squadron orchestrates the timely deployment, employment and re-deployment of three F-16CJ fighter squadrons, support personnel and equipment.

The 20thContracting Squadron is comprised of approximately 50 personnel -- enlisted, officer and civilian. Annually, they purchase $84 million worth of construction, services and supplies to support the missions of the 20th FW and Headquarters Ninth Air Force at Shaw AFB, as well as the United States Central Command Air Forces in Southwest Asia. They also manage the government purchase card and quality assurance programs. Military personnel are highly trained contingency contracting officers ready to deploy on a moment's notice and conduct contract operations in any peacetime or combat operation.

20th Medical Group

The 20th Medical Group provides ambulatory medical and dental services to the 20th FW, Headquarters Ninth Air Force and associate units. It is an outpatient clinic with 24-hour ambulance transport service. Direct outpatient care is provided for pediatric to geriatric clients in an ambulatory setting. Patients represent all eligible beneficiaries: active duty and their family members, retirees and their family members and secretary designees.

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I'm waiting for a description of the for the Medial Group Squadrons they have also undergone reorganization

The Medical Operations Squadron performs patient care-related activities. Personnel in this squadron collaborate with all members of the 20th Medical Group to perform or arrange for the full scope of patient care services for our beneficiary population. This squadron is divided into four flights: Pediatrics, Family Practice, Medical Services, and Mental Health Flight.

The Aeromedical-Dental Squadron supports the operational mission by enhancing the medical and dental health of its people, ensuring a fit force, preventing disease and injury, protecting the environment and anticipating medical contingencies. This squadron is divided into seven flights: Flight Medicine, Dental, Health Promotion, Public Health, Readiness, Bioenvironmental Engineering and Aerospace Physiology Training.

The Medical Support Squadron provides diagnostic and therapeutic services, financial and manpower support, managed care services, medical logistics, medical information services and personnel and administrative services in support of the entire medical group. The squadron is comprised of six flights: Commander's Support Staff, Medical Information Services, Managed Care, Financial Services, Medical Logistics and Diagnostics and Therapeutics.

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Missions Performed by the 20thFW

F-16 of the 79th FS launches an AGM-65D Maverick missile During Exercise Combat Hammer, Hill AFB, UT 7 August 2002. USAF Photo

Suppression of Enemy Defenses (SEAD): This is the primary mission of the 20th. To accomplish its mission the 20th flies the Block 50 F-16 using the High-Speed Anti-Radiation Missile (HARM) targeting system to suppress enemy air defenses in the form of Surface to Air Missile (SAM) and Anti-Aircraft Artillery (AAA).

Destruction of Enemy Defenses (DEAD): To destroy enemy air defenses the 20th employs an assortment of weapons that include the Joint Direct Attack Munition (GBU-31, GBU-38), Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile (AGM-158), Combined Effect Munition (CBU-87 / CBU-103), Sensor Fuzed Weapon (CBU-97 / CBU-105), Maverick missile (AGM-65) and laser guided bombs (GBU-10, GBU-12) to hard kill enemy SAM and AAA sites.

Counterair: The 20th performs Counterair very well and has been used to perform "Operation Noble Eagle" missions over locations including NY, Washington, DC, Crawford, Texas and Shuttle launches to name a few. To perform this mission the 20th utilizes the AIM-9 Sidewinder, and the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-To-Air Missile (AMRAAM).

Close Air Support: To accomplish missions against ground based targets the 20th uses its entire available the includes traditional "dumb" bombs in addition to all the advanced weapons used in SEAD and DEAD missions.


Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System

Joint Helmet Mounted Cueing System (JHMCS) equips the aircrew helmet visor with a heads-up display data allowing the pilot to select a target without changing aircraft direction. By simply looking in the direction of the target, all of the aircraft's sensors and weapons can be brought to bear as long as the target is within the weapon's parameters.

Night Vision Goggles (NVG) allow the pilot to identify targets and terrain in the middle of the night. They give F-16CJ pilots a decisive edge during the heart of darkness by allowing them to fly day-time tactics. The system greatly increases the pilot's ability to provide close air support to ground forces during night operations.

The HARM Targeting System (HTS) pod allows the pilot to detect and radar emitting threat and geo-locate their position for targeting by the HARM or any of the F-16s other weapons.

The LINK-16 datalink system provides the ability to share targeting information within the flight and with other fighters and command and control platforms. This greatly increases situational awareness while significantly reducing the amount of voice radio communication required. This system is used to monitor the location of friendly aircraft and detect and engage enemy aircraft with air-to-air missiles. In addition to displaying the location of aircraft the pilot is provided information on activities of other friendly aircraft such as what they are targeting. With this information chances of accidentally targeting friendly forces is reduced and weapons are better allocated as multiple aircraft are prevented from targeting the same target.

Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod USAF Photo

The Sniper Advanced Targeting Pod has the ability to generate its own precision coordinates that enable the use of GPS and laser guided weapons. The system allows the pilot to zoom in on a target using video and then to employ weapons using coordinates generated by the Sniper Pod.

Deployment -- the Name of the Game

20th FW Airmen performing convoy duty somewhere in the South West Asia. USAF Photo

In the 21st Century the 20th FW is heavily involved in deployed operations. At times the 20th can have close to 1,000 of its personnel deployed. These deployments are more often than not non-flying assets of the wing. The assets are usually Expeditionary Combat Support personnel. These support personnel range from civil engineer, firefighting, security and transport personnel. Deployed transport personnel are now being used to augment Army convoy duty involving both driving of vehicles and providing protection for those convoys. The deployment of large portions of 20th manpower does not result in reduced operations of the wing. Despite deployment the 20th continues to maintain the highest level of preparedness to perform its primary mission.


Since moving to Shaw in 1994 the 20th has maintained its role at the forefront of protecting American interests at home and aboard. As it always has been, training is a big part of a flying unit. The 20th over the years since returning to CONUS has taken part and continues to take part in numerous exercises.

Air Warrior II held at Fort Polk, Louisiana is a joint and total force exercise designed to give deploying units a realistic training environment. The exercise incorporates air power with Army maneuvers to help Army and Air Force units work better together in the field. Training also incorporates simulated interaction with the population of the country where US forces are deployed. On the ground about 1,200 role players populate villages within the training area. The role players dress, speak and stay "in character" during the entire exercise. The entire environment is created to simulate as realistically as possible deployment conditions even including newspapers and electronic media with their associated propaganda. Units from the 20th routinely participate in this training.

Amalgam Arrow exercise is held at Peterson AFB, Colorado about once every month to allow North American Aerospace Defense Command personnel to hone their crisis response skills in a training exercise. The exercises look to simulate incidents such as an aircraft deviating from its flight path and stopping communication with the FAA. NORAD determines where the aircraft is headed and if fighter aircraft need to be sent to investigate. If fighters are sent they then relay information about the aircraft and its occupants to allow NORAD to determine what actions should be taken. Actions taken may be just to provide assistance to the troubled aircraft or prevent hostile intentions. The exercises may involve computer based simulations or involve actual aircraft. 20th FW assets have been called upon from time to time to participate in these training exercises.

79th FS F-16 taxi after returning from a training mission during Exercise Eastern Falcon held at Ahmed Al Jaber AB Al Ahmadi Kuwait in March 2004. USAF Photo

Initial Link and Eastern Falcon were two exercises the 55th FS took part in during February and March of 2006. The exercises were carried out in the Middle East around the Arabian Gulf. Initial Link simulated air-to-air and air-to-ground combat and Eastern Falcon focused on basic fighter maneuvers, air combat training and large force employment sorties. Lt. Col. Hathaway commander of the 55th FS deployed F-16s on 12 February to Southwest Asia for Initial Link. Squadron aircraft then moved on to Eastern Falcon on 3 March. These exercises involved large force missions of various fighter types from coalition partners. Exercises like these allow the 20th FW to maintain the ability to quickly put forces on the ground in the Middle East to carry out its SEAD and DEAD mission whenever and wherever they need to.

Caption: F-16 of the 55th FS (still carries 78th FS's markings) flying over Tyndall AFB, FL in support of Exercise Combat Archer on 2 September 2003. USAF Photo

Combat Archer is an air-to-air Weapons System Evaluation Program (WSEP) that is conducted at Tyndall AFB, Florida run by the 53rd Weapons Evaluation Group. This program exercises and evaluates the complete air-to-air weapons capability of Air Force combat aircraft. One of the benefits of this program is that it gives aircrews one of the few if not the only opportunity to live fire their weapons in a training environment. In addition to the benefits gained by the aircrew the program also provides weapons system managers the ability to test system performance, capabilities and shortcomings. In June 2006 about 145 personnel from 55th FS spent two weeks taking part in Combat Archer. The 55th had their aircraft weapons systems, software, pilots, maintainer, loaders and ammo personnel evaluated by the 83rd Fighter Weapons Squadron. During this program the 55th flew almost 300 sorties. Nine missiles were fired by squadron aircraft and all hit their targets. This was a typical deployment for a 20th FW squadron deployment to this program.

F-16 of the 55th FS on the flight line at Nellis AFB, NV during Exercise Combat Hammer. A1C Mike Heywood straps in 1st Lt. Matthew Garrison on 7 August 2002. USAF Photo

Combat Hammer is an air-to-ground Munitions Evaluation Program that is conducted at Hill AFB, Utah. These exercises are held throughout the year. The program consists of one concentrated two-week period at the Utah range and three or four evaluations at Eglin AFB, FL's test range. In August of 2006, the 55th FS deployed to Combat Hammer at Hill AFB and employed nearly $9 million in weapons. They were the first operational F-16 unit to employ the AGM-158 Joint Air to Surface Standoff Missile. Additionally, they fired and dropped live HARM, JDAM, Maverick, CBU-103, CBU-105, MK-82, MK-84, GBU-10, and GBU-12. As with Combat Archer all aspects of weapons delivery are evaluated from target intelligence to delivery on the target. A typical deployment was by the 77th FS in May 2006 when 140 airmen and 15 F-16s deployed. Earlier in April eight people from the 20th EMS deployed to Hill to build bombs in preparation for the exercise.

Iron Falcon is a month long exercise held at the Emirate Air Defense Air Warfare Center in the United Arab Emirates. The exercise is used to provide upgrade training for mission commanders of US and Coalition forces. It provides an opportunity to build strong relationships with coalition nations. The mission commanders that are being trained will be the leaders of the future. In the future these attendees will be able benefit from the relationships they built with other coalition members to work together successfully when they are leaders of their respective air forces. In November and December 2006 the 79th FS deployed six F-16 aircraft and 140 pilots and maintainers to Iron Falcon. The squadron flew 143 sorties, day and night, for a total of 299 flying hours during the 24 day exercise.

The Falcon Air Meet is a three week exercise in Jordan where F-16s from all over the world come to compete in air-to-air and air-to-ground events. In May 2007 the 55th Fighter Squadron deployed to Jordan to participate as well as participants from Belgium and Turkey. Over 13 countries observed in 2007 for future participation as the air meet continues to grow.

The 20th also routinely deploys to Red Flag and Maple Flag (Canadian version of Red Flag) and other exercises too numerous and frequent to cover on these pages. But let it be clear the 20th continues to take every opportunity to hone its fighting edge to maintain its well earned position in today's Air Force.

Putting Training to Work

In September 1994 the 20th FW provided fighter cover for US operations in Haiti during Operation Uphold Democracy. This operation restored democratically elected President Jean-Bertrand Aristide who had been ousted in September 1991 by military forces within Haiti. The 20th FW's support of this type of mission is typical of the tasking the 20th FW has been supporting since returning to CONUS in 1994. In the following paragraphs are more examples of the 20th FW's missions.

Operation Northern and Southern Watch

77th & 78th FS F-16s on patrol 7 April 1998 near the Iraqi border as part of Operation Southern Watch. They are carying Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night (LATNTIRN) systems and are fitted with AIM-9 Sidewinder, AGM-88 Harm (mid-wing) and AIM-120 AMRAAM Slammer missles on the wing tips. USAF Photo

Throughout the 1990s the 20th FW routinely rotated squadrons to enforce the no-fly zones over Iraq. Southern Watch began in August 1992 and ended with the invasion of Iraq in 2003. 20th FW squadrons rotated in and out of the Middle East to support enforcement of the no-fly zone.

55th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (EFS) F-16 preparing for its final mission of Northern Watch from Incirlik AB, Turkey on 12 April 2003. For 12 years the 20th FW had been rotating squadrons to Turkey in support of Northern Watch. With the success of Operation Iraqi Freedom the patrols enforcing the No-Fly Zone were no longer needed. USAF Photo

The 20th FW routinely sent squadrons to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey supporting the no-fly zone in northern Iraq between January 1997 and March 2003. The 55th FS under the command of Lt Col Jack Forsythe left Turkey on 7 April 2003 bringing to a close six and one half years of 20th FW squadron rotations to Turkey.

Operation Allied Force

SSgt Rob Anson replaces the argon bottle in an AIM-9 missle on 19 April 1999. Anson is deployed with the 78th EFS to Aviano AB, Italy in support of Operation Allied Force. USAF Photo

20th FW was called to send F-16s in support of NATO operations during the Kosovo crisis in April 1999. On 4 May 1999 an F-16 91-0353 from the 78th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron flying out of Aviano Air Base, Italy, shot down a Yugoslavian MiG-29 (aircraft number 109). On 10 June 1999 NATO air operations were suspended.

MiG-29 aircraft number 109 shot down by 78th FS F-16 on 4 May 1999.

Operation Noble Eagle

After the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in 2001, the Defense Department developed Noble Eagle to protect US soil in the War on Terrorism. The 20th FW has been tasked with providing patrols over New York City, Washington, DC and any other location the wing is called upon to protect. In addition to Noble Eagle tasking the 20th provides fighter cover for the President (POTUS) when traveling and at Camp David.

20th FW F-16CJ wing flag ship performing NORAD Operation Noble Eagle mission over New York City, NY on 24 September 2003. Armed with AIM-120C (AMRAM) and AIM-9 Sidewinder missles, and equipped with 370-gal fuel tanks. Central Park is visible bellow the aircraft. USAF Photo
Lt Col. David R. Stillwell Commander of the 77th FS during an Operation Noble Eagle mission over New York City, NY 24 September 2003. USAF Photo

Operation Enduring Freedom

The 20th has been called to send both personnel and aircraft in support of operations in Afghanistan. One such deployment was in January 2007 when 150 Airmen deployed as part of Air Expeditionary Force. Personnel from the 20th Logistic Readiness and Civil Engineering Squadrons deployed for more than 180 days. The 20th LRG deploys personnel from logistics planning, fuel, parts, cargo and personnel movement, convoys, and vehicle maintenance to meet the needs of operations in Afghanistan. The 20th CES sends personnel to perform work in firefighting, utilities, readiness, power production, pest management, engineering and liquid fuels. These deployments often remove more than one third of a squadron's personnel to fulfill requirements.

F-16CJ aircraft of the 78th and 77th FS wait on a hot ramp while maintenance crews pull safety pins on their weapons stores prior to a mission during Operation Iraqi Freedom 21 March 2003. USAF Photo
77th FS F-16 takes off for a mission at Prince Sultan AB, during a sand storm on 25 March 2003. USAF Photo

Operation Iraqi Freedom

In February 2003 the 20th FW deployed approximately 1,300 service members and 15 aircraft to the 363rd AEW at Prince Sultan AB. This deployment was in support of US actions for the removal of Saddam Hussein from power. The 20th FW continues to send personnel and aircraft in support of operations in Iraq. As 2008 approaches all of the 20th FW fighter squadrons are entering their AEF deployment period and are preparing for deployments around the world in support of the combatant commanders.

Closing Thoughts

If this history seems incomplete, it is. The pages of the 20th's history continue to be written and the story would fill volumes, but at this point in time we can only read a few of them. I have tried to piece together some of what the 20th has accomplished since returning to CONUS in 1994. In preparing this history I drew from several sources. First of all was the fine book produced in 1995 during Andy Patten's term as Association President. Information was also drawn from National Archives at College Park, MD and Ft. Worth TX, Air Force Historical Research Agency Maxwell AFB, AL, 20th FW histories written by 20th Historians MSgt Vincent C Breslin in 1990 and SSgt Patrick D Longe in 1994 and interviews with past 20th members. Photos came from the Association's collection and from past and present 20th members and other sources as credited. Assistance was also provided by the current 20th FW Historian Alejandro Lujan, 20th OG Deputy Commander Lt Col David "Zam" C. Hathaway and Judy Lewis in the Public Affairs Office at Shaw AFB, SC. Unfortunately the 20th Historian was only able to provide limited assistance since he was deployed for the past six months and prior to that deployment he had been routinely deployed to the Middle East. During his absence the historian's position remained vacant and only minimal histories were recorded. 1st Lt Christopher L Scott, 20th Operations Group Exec, spent hours scanning and e-mailing photos of past and present 20th Operations Group Commanders. I hope that I have at least given you some insight into the unit we all are so proud to have served.