By Senior Airman Anne Gathua, 17th Training Wing Public Affairs
/ Published November 29, 2011
GOODFELLOW AIR FORCE BASE, Texas --
Shaw Air Force Base is located in South Carolina, about eight miles northwest of Sumter, S.C. Home of the 20th Fighter Wing, the base can provide, project and sustain combat-ready air forces, anytime, anywhere. The wing meets all operational requirements worldwide, maintains a state of combat readiness and operates as the host unit at Shaw by providing facilities, personnel and material.
Headquarters Army Air Forces established the 20th Fighter Wing on July 28, 1947, and weeks later, 9th Air Force organized the wing at Shaw Field.
During the 20th FW's first assignment at Shaw, it trained to maintain proficiency as a tactical fighter unit. Operational units flew F-51s and later F-84s while participating in firepower demonstrations, field exercises and special operations. Turkish Air Force pilots also trained at Shaw to fly P-51s during 1948.
The outbreak of the Korean War spurred the deployment of the 20 FW's flying units to Royal Air Force Station in Manston, United Kingdom, where its F-84s were charged with protecting bombers that were parked on airfields in East Anglia from aerial attack.
In November 1951, the 20th FW moved to Langley Air Force Base, Va., where it continued to operate F-84 aircraft. It became the first unit in the Air Force capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons when it converted from the F-84D to the F-84G. The new aircraft also possessed in-flight refueling capabilities.
After six months, the wing, now called the 20th Fighter-Bomber Wing, moved to RAF Wethersfield, United Kingdom, where its crews trained to perform in conventional and nuclear roles while supporting North American Treaty Organization operations in Europe.
Headquarters U.S. Air Forces Europe redesignated the wing as the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing in July 1958, just after it converted from F-84s to F-100s.
In 1970, the wing moved to RAF Upper Heyford, replacing the 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing as the host unit. Shortly afterwards, the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing began receiving F-111s to replace its F-100s, but its primary mission remained training to perform conventional and nuclear tactical air operations.
The wing added a squadron of EF-111s in 1984, and subsequently employed both aircraft variants at numerous tactical and electronic countermeasure exercises in the European theater. The wing's EF-111s participated in Operation EL DORADO CANYON, the 1986 retaliatory raid against targets in Libya.
In early 1991, aircraft and personnel deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, and Taif Air Base, Southwest Asia, conducting tactical and electronic combat operations against Iraqi forces during the Persian Gulf War. The forces in Turkey joined Joint Task Force Proven Force to form a northern front against Iraq, while those deployed to Southwest Asia participated in Operation DESERT STORM. Meanwhile, at home the wing operated a contingency hospital complex to support the war effort. Although the majority of the wing's forces returned to RAF Upper Heyford when hostilities ceased, a small contingent remained at Incirlik to participate in Operation PROVIDE COMFORT, a humanitarian mission supporting the Kurdish population in Northern Iraq.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s ended the Cold War and sparked a major reorganization of the Air Force. Congress drastically reduced U.S. troop authorizations in Europe, leading to a massive drawdown of forces. Throughout the reorganization, Air Force leadership stringently enforced a policy of keeping only those units with the most prestigious histories on active service. As a result of this policy, the 20th Fighter Wing returned as the host unit at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., on Jan. 1, 1994.
The move to Shaw meant converting to F-16s, although the wing also briefly operated A/OA 10s. Crews trained to perform counter air, interdiction, and the suppression of enemy air defenses missions. The wing also regularly rotated aircraft and personnel to Turkey and Southwest Asia to participate in Operations NORTHERN WATCH and SOUTHERN WATCH, both of which prevented Iraqi aggression against its own population and its neighbors by enforcing no-fly and no-drive zones.
In 1999, the wing provided aircraft and support for combat operations against the former Yugoslavia to stop Serbs from massacring Albanians in Kosovo during NATO's Operation ALLIED FORCE.
The 20th Fighter Wing executed combat air patrol missions over major U.S. cities following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., and continues to perform in the homeland defense role. Most recently, the wing deployed aircraft and support personnel to Southwest Asia to participate in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, the campaign that ousted the regime of Saddam Hussein.
(Shaw AFB history and information are gathered from historical facts. Courtesy of the 17th Training Wing Public Affairs.)