The 79th Fighter Squadron "Tigers" are a combat ready F-16C/D squadron tasked with air-to-air, air-to-surface and Suppression of Enemy Air Defences missions as directed by the wing or component commander in support of friendly forces. The squadron maintains and operates Block 50 Mini-D variant F-16 Fighting Falcons in support of complex training and operational tasking, while maintaining proficiency in the employment of a full array of munitions and tactics. The squadron is one of three F-16 units assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., under the direction of Headquarters 9th Air Force/U.S. Central Command Air Forces and Headquarters Air Combat Command.
The squadron was organized in February 1918, as the 79th Aero Service Squadron at Waco Field, Texas, with an aerial gunnery mission. The squadron was demobilized after World War I, but was reactivated in October 1927, as the 79th Reconnaissance Observation Squadron. In May 1929, the squadron received P-12 biplanes and a new home at Barksdale Field, La.
In 1938, the squadron moved to Hamilton Field, Calif., after several stops in North Carolina, Florida and Washington, and was later re-designated the 79th Tactical Fighter Squadron. During the interwar years, the squadron transitioned from P-26 to P-39 and then to P-40 aircraft. After the attack on Pearl Harbor, the 79th began patrolling San Francisco Bay and the vicinity for detection of hostile aircraft or ships. The squadron was later assigned duties patrolling near Washington, D.C. In January 1943, the squadron moved to March Field, Calif., and completed intensive training in the P-39 aircraft.
In August 1943, the squadron moved to King's Cliffe, England, for the duration of the second World War. As part of 8th Air Force, the 79th, and its newly acquired P-38s, escorted medium and heavy bombers on strikes over Europe. In March 1944, as part of a new Allied tactic, 79th pilots swept target areas after the bombers had departed. The squadron then earned its nickname, "Loco Squadron," after a series of very successful raids against transportation targets set an Army Air Forces record of 193 trains destroyed. On D-Day, the 79th mass-launched 180 sorties for five consecutive days, protecting Allied ships involved with the invasion at Normandy, France. In July 1944, the squadron was flying the much faster P-51 Mustang while furnishing air support for the 3rd Army in the Battle of the Bulge and other strategic areas. The squadron was inactivated at Camp Kilmer, N.J., in October 1945.
The 79th, along with the 20th, was reactivated in July 1946, at Biggs Field in El Paso, Texas. Between 1946 and 1952, the squadron's history is filled with several moves and aircraft changes before the 79th moved to Shaw Field, S.C. The squadron then moved to Langley Air Force Base, VA, transitioning to the jet age with the Republic F-84 Thunderjet.
The 79th was again reassigned to England in May 1952, at Royal Air Force Station Woodbridge. Upon their arrival, the 79th joined the United States Air Forces in Europe, becoming an integral part of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's air arm as one of its Tiger organizations. In 1957, the 79th began transitioning to the F-100 Super Sabre. One year later the squadron was re-designated a tactical fighter squadron. The squadron also deployed regularly to Italy, Turkey and Libya, fulfilling its commitments in Europe.
In 1970, the 79th rejoined the 20th, which had moved to Royal Air Force Station Upper‑Heyford, England, and converted to the swing-wing fighter-bomber version of the F-111, becoming the first to be operationally ready in the new aircraft in Europe and the first in the world in the "E" model. In January 1991, as part of Joint Task Force Proven Force at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, the 79th became the first squadron to employ the F-111E in combat while supporting operation Desert Storm. The "Loco Squadron" flew 293 combat sorties without sustaining a loss.
The squadron was re-designated the 79th Fighter Squadron on Oct. 1, 1991, as part of the Air Force's restructuring. In keeping pace with the restructuring, the squadron reorganized and incorporated maintainers from its aircraft generation, equipment maintenance and supply squadrons on Feb. 1, 1992. The 79th was inactivated in April 1993, and reactivated at its present home, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., on Jan. 3, 1994. In 1994 the 79th upgraded to a newer version of the F-16 and flew a total of 4,370 sorties with more than 8,400 flying hours. From Sept. 1994 through Jan. 1995, and again in 1996, the squadron deployed to Southwest Asia (SWA) for Operation SOUTHERN WATCH (OSW). The 79th FS received the 3,500th F-16 Fighting Falcon produced by Lockheed Martin Tactical Aircraft Systems on April 27, 1995.
In 1996 the 79th FS flew more than 7,700 flying hours including 882, combat sorties and 2,477 combat hours. The 79th played an important role in the rescue efforts following the tragic terrorist bombing of the Khobar Towers in 1996. Sixty-nine members of the 79th FS were awarded the Purple Heart for wounds received in this terrorist attack and 12 members of the squadron were decorated for valour. During 1996, the squadron deployed twice in support of OSW.
Squadron decorations and campaign streamers include the Distinguished Unit Citation and Air Force Outstanding Unit Award; and Anti-Submarine, American Theatre, and Air Offensive Europe, Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace, Central Europe, Air Combat EAME Theatre campaign streamers.