The History of the 187th Fighter Wing

The 187th Fighter Wing is located in Montgomery, Ala., and is the home of a squadron of F-16C Fighting Falcon aircraft.


The roots of the 187th Fighter Wing date back to 1952 when the Alabama Air National Guard organized the 160th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron in Birmingham, Ala., equipped with the RF-51D Mustangs. The squadron moved to Dannelly Field on January 1, 1953, and entered the jet age with the arrival of the RF-80A Shooting Star in 1955. Within a year, the 160th transitioned to the RF-84 Thunderflash aircraft, which served as the squadron's primary aircraft for the next 15 years.


The squadron was mobilized during the Berlin Crisis from 1961-1962. In August 1962, the squadron returned to normal peacetime status and was reorganized. It was then officially designated the 187th Reconnaissance Group.


In 1971, the Thunderflash was replaced by the RF-4C Phantom II, which was flown for 17 years. From 1971-1982, the group remained in the reconnaissance role. The 187th won many honors during this timeframe, including the best reconnaissance unit in the nation in the Photo Finish "81" competition. 


In 1982, the 187th changed missions from reconnaissance to the multi-purpose fighter role after acquiring the F-4D Phantom II. The Group established itself as a premier tactical fighter unit by capturing overall top honors in the ANG Fangsmoke competition in 1987. In October 1988, the Group converted to the F-16A Fighting Falcon. In October 1995, the Group was designated a Wing under Air Force reorganization, becoming the 187th Fighter Wing.


Since 1990, the 187th has undertaken an ambitious and successful regimen of participation in many Total Force deployments. These deployments have taken the men and women of the 187th to exercises in South Korea, Norway, Guam, Hawaii, Alaska, and many other stateside locations. By far the most significant deployments have been for contingency operations enforcing United Nations sanctions against Iraq. In 1995, the unit deployed for a 30-day rotation to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey for Operation Provide Comfort II. The following year, the Wing deployed to Al Jaber AB, Kuwait for Operation Southern Watch. Then in 1997, the Wing returned to Incirlik AB for Operation Northern Watch. These operations were to enforce the respective northern and southern no-fly zones over Iraq. 


Immediately following the 9/11 attacks, the 187th was called into action. Within hours of the attacks, the 187th had jets in the air flying Combat Air Patrol missions over the largest cities in the southeastern United States. The unit sustained this effort for Operation Noble Eagle for one year following the events of Sept. 11.


The 187th was again called to active duty in January 2003 until April 2003 as part of the largest military mobilization since the 1991 Gulf War. This marked the largest unit activation in the units 50-year history with over 500 personnel being deployed, along with aircraft and equipment for Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 187th, as an integral part of the Total Force, deployed to an undisclosed Middle Eastern location as the lead unit, commanding a mixture of Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve, Active Air Force and British air force units comprising the 410th Air Expeditionary Wing. This marked the largest integration of coalition Air and Special Forces Operations in history with over 3,500 personnel operating out of this location. The 410th's mission was to prevent Iraqi missile launches against coalition forces and neighboring countries.


In September 2004, the unit again deployed over 300 personnel with aircraft and equipment to Al Udeid, Qatar for Operation Iraqi Freedom. This deployment also marked a significant first for the unit and the U.S. Military. The 187th was the first unit to ever use the GBU-38 in combat. The GBU-38 is a 500 lb global positioning system (GPS) guided bomb which, while being very effective, minimizes collateral damage. The GBU-38 is a precision guided munition commonly referred to as a "Smart Bomb". This weapon was effectively employed by the 187th in the Battle of Fallujah. 


In 2006, the unit deployed just under 400 personnel, including aircraft and equipment, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom. The Aviation Package deployed as part of AEF 5-6 to Balad AB, Iraq, and flew 438 combat missions and 2300 combat hours. The deployed members made significant contributions to our nation’s defense. The wing also supported Operation Jump Start with personnel and equipment. The 187th maintainers ended that year with a 73% Mission Capable Rate, and the unit few a record of 6,300 flight hours, accident free.


The unit performed Homeland Defense Alert twice during 2007, from July to August at Langley Air Force Base, and November to December in New Orleans. On Sept. 13, 2007, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force announced the 187th Fighter Wing as one of five active associate/community basing units (three in the Air National Guard and two in the Air Force Reserve Command), and that the 160th Fighter Squadron would stand down and be re-established as the 100th Fighter Squadron, bringing the Tuskegee Legacy to the 187th Fighter Wing. (Click here to read about the Tuskegee Airman Legacy)


In 2008 and 2009, the unit prepared for and passed the most demanding Phase II Operational Readiness Inspection (ORI) in history. The wing then deployed for combat operations in Joint Base Balad, Iraq, just six weeks after the completion of the Phase II ORI.


In 2014, the 187th Fighter Wing deployed to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan, for six months in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. This marked the first time an Air National Guard unit deployed for the entire rotation.


The many accomplishments of the 187th Fighter Wing have received praise and recognition from the highest levels of the U.S. military leadership. The unit enjoyed nineteen years and over 55,000 flight hours without a Class A aircraft mishap and has received numerous Flight Safety awards from the Air Force Air Combat Command and the Air National Guard for its safety record. The Wing has also been recognized by Air Combat Command and the 9th Air Force Inspector General for excellence during Operational Readiness Inspections and Unit Compliance Inspections over the last two decades.