US Air Force 22nd Fighter Squadron F-16 over Poland

he 22nd Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor) was activated Dec. 22, 1939, at Langley Field, Va. Flying the P-36 Hawk, the unit relocated to Puerto Rico prior to World War II, and after the outbreak of the war deployed to the Pacific flying antisubmarine patrols. In 1943, the squadron moved to Liverpool, England, flying the P-40 Warhawk in Europe. It supported Gen. George Patton's 3rd Army, flying combat missions in support of D-Day and the Battle of the Bulge and Bastogne. For its distinguished World War II records, the unit received numerous citations and campaign ribbons. Inactivated after the war, the 22nd was activated in 1946 in the Canal Zone flying the F-80 Shooting Star. It was relocated to Furstenfeldbruck, Germany, in 1948, flying the F-84 Thunderjet. The 22nd FS helped form the Skyblazers, the first jet-equipped Air Force aerial demonstration team and a forerunner of the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds. In 1952, the unit moved to Bitburg Air Base, Germany, first flying the F-86F Sabre, then the F-100 Supersabre, F-105D Thunderchief and F-4D Phantom. Then in 1977, the 22nd "Stingers" converted to the McDonnell Douglas F-15, providing air defense for NATO's Central Region. The record-setting Eagle, capable of 2.5 Mach at altitudes above 50,000 feet, has an excellent long-range radar and carries four AIM-120 AMRAAM or AIM-7 Sparrow radar missiles, AIM-9 Sidewinder infrared missiles and a 20mm cannon. In 1987, 1988 and 1990, the 22nd FS was awarded the Commander in Chief of the U.S. Air Forces in Europe trophy recognizing the unit as the most outstanding tactical fighter squadron in Europe. Additionally, the 22nd FS was named the Hughes Achievement Award Winner for 1988 as the best air superiority squadron in the U.S. Air Force. During Operation Desert Storm, members of "The Big 22" flew and fought from both Al Kharj Air Base, Saudi Arabia, and Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. The 22nd FS amassed more than 7,000 combat hours during the conflict and was the only squadron in the coalition to achieve kills on both fronts. As part of the drawdown at Bitburg AB, the unit's F-15s were sent to Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, in the spring of 1994. The squadron was transferred to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, April 1, 1994, to become the new standard of the former 480th FS. The squadron flies the Block 50 F-16CJ, the Air Force's latest version of the Fighting Falcon. In 1998, the 22nd FS transitioned from a primary general-purpose air interdiction squadron to its new primary mission as a "Wild Weasel" unit performing suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD). The Stinger's most current version of the F-16, outfitted with the high-speed anti-radiation missiles (HARM), GPS guided-inertial aided munitions, and the HARM targeting system (HTS) pod, is a lethal platform against enemy air defense systems. The 22nd FS was quickly put into combat with its new capability when it deployed to Operation Northern Watch in January 1999, and engaged Iraqi radars with 12 HARMs while protecting coalition assets during heightened tensions with Iraq. After three months at ONW, the squadron was retasked and returned to Spangdahlem AB where they flew combat missions into northern Yugoslavia protecting F-117s and B-2s striking key military targets in and around Belgrade, Yugoslavia, in support of Operation Allied Force. The pilots of the 22nd FS flew combat missions over Yugoslavia and fired 202 HARMs at Serbian radars. In addition, the squadron performed its secondary and tertiary missions, employing 16 MK-84s on key military targets while providing air superiority. In December 2000 to March 2001, the squadron was assigned to Air Expeditionary Force 9. The Stingers regularly fly combat missions in support of Operations Northern and Southern Watch. In September 2001, America endured a terrorist attack upon the World Trade Center. In response to U.S. presidential directives, "The Big 22" provided fighter escort to C-17 aircraft over Afghanistan during humanitarian relief missions, within 100 hours of notification, as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. This effort served as the template for USAFE's Euro Lightning operations concept. In January 2003, the squadron forward deployed as the 22nd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron to Southwest Asia in support of U.S. Central Command and flew combat missions during Operation IRAQI FREEDOM. The squadron played a key role during the 27-day air war by fulfilling it's "Wild Weasel" mission of suppressing enemy air defenses and destroying Iraqi radar sites. The men and women of the 22nd Fighter Squadron continue to serve while proudly embracing the "Wild Weasel" motto of "First In and Last Out!"
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