Service of General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon With Air National Guard

Last revised April 30, 2000

The Air National Guard (ANG) squadrons are normally under the command of the appropriate state governor. Each governor is represented in terms of state or terrritorial chain of command by an adjutant general. However, the ANG units can be mobilized and called to active duty and assigned to an Air Force command by the President or by Congress when needed for defense of the nation or to enforce federal authority.

It had been traditional that Air National Guard squadrons were second-string units, equipped with out-of-date aircraft that had been handed down from the regular Air Force when they became obsolete. In the early 1980s, all that was to change, and in an attempt to make the Air National Guard a credible fighting force in case of a national emergency, it was decided that their squadrons were to be equipped with the latest aircraft, sometimes even before some regular Air Force squadrons had received them.

In March of 1982, the USAF announced that ANG units would be supplied with F-16A/Bs. The first ANG unit to get the F-16 was the 169th Tactical Fighter Group of the South Carolina ANG, which acquired its first F-16s in July of 1983. They replaced the LTV A-7D in the fighter-attack role.

In November 1988, the 174th TFW of the New York ANG began transitioning from the A-10A Thunderbolt II to the F-16A/B, becoming the first unit to operate the F-16 in a close air support role. Their F-16s are equipped with a 30-mm GPU-8/A anti-armor gun pod carried underneath the fuselage, and these are the only F-16s that are equipped with this weapon. They were deployed to the Persian Gulf during Desert Storm, but they used the gun pod only once during the war.

In support of the Air National Guard's new priority, it was assigned the primary responsibility of the aerial defense of the continental United States, taking over this task from the now-defunct USAF Air Defense Command. The F-106A Delta Dart interceptors were transferred from USAF control to ANG control in support of this mission. Beginning in 1986, ANG units previously operating the F-106 began to transition to F-16A/B Fighting Falcons that were supplied to it from the USAF. The 162nd TFG of the Arizona ANG operated as the training unit for ADF ANG F-16 pilots. The 158th TFG of the Vermont ANG was the first to operate the F-16 in the ADF role, replacing the F-4D Phantom in mid-1986. One of their primary responsibilities was the interception and shadowing of Soviet aircraft flying near US territory.

In the mid-1980s, both the F-16 and the Northrop F-20 Tigershark were evaluated against the Air Defense Fighter (ADF) requirement to re-equip Air National Guard interceptor units. In October 1986, the decision was made to adopt a modified F-16A equipped to carry and launch Sparrow semi-active radar homing BVR missiles. The F-16 was chosen for this role primarily because it was available in sufficiently large numbers and could be modified to carry the necessary armament. The decision of the USAF not to adopt the F-20 for the ADF role was the key reason why the program was cancelled. A contract was placed for kits to update and modify 270 F-16As at the Ogden Alr Logistics Center in Utah. They were to be provided with HF radio and an improved APG-66 radar that was compatible with the AIM-7 Sparrow and AIM-120 AMRAAM radar-guided missiles. A spotlight was to be installed on the side of the nose to aid in the identification of nighttime intruders.

The ADF aircraft can be distinguished from "standard" F-16A/Bs by several external identifying features. One of these is a set of L-shaped blade antennae carried just forward of the canopy above the nose and below the intake as part of the Teledyne/E-Systems AN/APX-109 MkXII Advanced Identification Friend-or-Foe (AIFF) system. This system has not yet been approved for export. The F-16A ADF is provided with a Bendix/King AN/ARC-200 high-frequency single-sideband radio. Because of the addition of the HF radio's antenna to the leading edge of the fin, a pair of hydraulic actuators for the rudder had to be repositioned, resulting in a distinct narrow bulge to where the fin meets the base of the aircraft (contrary to some reports, this bulge is not itself an antenna). A 150,000 candlepower night identification spotlight is mounted on the port side of the nose. The Grimes-built light is canted 70 degrees to the left of forward and 10 degrees up. ADFs are the only American F-16s that carry this light, but some Danish and Norwegian F-16A/Bs have it as well. F-16B ADF versions have the AIFF of the A version, but not the HF radios and the distinctive thin bulge which identify F-16A ADFs. Both A and B ADF versions carry the spotlight.

The F-16 ADF carries the Westinghouse AN/APG-66(V)1 radar, which was modified to improve small target detection and to provide the continous wave illumination needed by the Sparrow missile. The Sparrow missile can be carried only on the middle underwing pylon, and even then only with pylons equipped with RDRC. The ADF is the only American Fighting Falcon with Sparrow capability. Hughes AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles are usually carried on the outboard underwing pylons, and AIM-9 Sidewinder infrared homing missiles are typically carried on the wingtips. Although it is not typical practice, either Sidewinders or AMRAAMS can be carried at the wingtip points and on the outermost pair of underwing pylons. The innermost pair of underwing pylons are reserved for 360 US gallon droptanks, and the centerline hardpoint can carry a 300 US gallong external fuel tank. The internal M61A1 20-mm cannon with 511 rounds is retained.

Although 270 Block 15 F-16A/Bs were to have been converted to ADF configuration, only 241 of these conversions actually appear to have been carried out. General Dynamics carried out the first conversion, then shipped modification kits for installation at the Ogden Air Logistics Center at Hill AFB in Utah. The Hill AFB modifications were completed in October of 1988. The first successful launch of a Sparrow from an ADF F-16 took place in February of 1989. The first delivery was to the 114th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron of the Oregon ANG in March of 1989. This is the unit which provides training for ANG crews flying the fighter-interceptor mission. It was followed shortly thereafter by the 194th Fighter Interceptor Squadron of the California ANG, which achieved IOC in late 1989. F-16s of the Florida ANG fired live AIM-7 missiles for the first time in tests at Tyndall AFB in Florida in June of 1991. 120 F-16 ADFs were in service with the ANG by December of 1994.

At its peak, the ANG ADF force equipped a defensive chain which surrounded the entire perimeter of the continental United States. However, with the end of the Cold War, there appears to be no longer any threat to America's homeland from bombers or cruise missiles, and the ANG ADFs are scheduled to be phased out, with many of the ADF F-16s being converted back to standard F-16A/B configuration or placed in storage. About half of the ADF fleet has already been retired.

Some ANG units have been equipped with later-version F-16C/D fighters. In the current military drawdown following the end of the Cold War, many ANG F-16s are being retired and placed in storage. The first F-16A/Bs to be retired from service entered storage with MARC at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona during 1993 with three aircraft from the 138th FS of the New York ANG, followed by 17 examples from the 160th FS of the Alabama ANG. They joined 17 embargoed Pakistani F-16s, but this storage is probably only temporary.

On October 1, 1994, in accordance with the "one base-one wing" policy, all Air Force Reserve Groups were retitled as Wings. The Air National Guiard followed suit on October 1, 1995.

Air National Guard units operating the F-16:


  1. Combat Aircraft F-16, Doug Richardson, Crescent, 1992.

  2. General Dynamics Aircraft and their Predecessors, John Wegg, Naval Institute Press, 1990.

  3. The American Fighter, Enzo Angelucci and Peter Bowers, Orion, 1987.

  4. United States Military Aircraft Since 1909, Gordon Swanborough and Peter M. Bowers, Smithsonian, 1989.

  5. F-16 Fighting Falcon--A Major Review of the West's Universal Warplane, Robert F. Dorr, World Airpower Journal, Spring 1991.

  6. The World's Great Interceptor Aircraft, Gallery, 1989.

  7. Modern Military Aircraft--F-16 Viper, Lou Drendel, Squadron/Signal Publications, 1992.

  8. Lockheed F-16 Variants, Part 1, World Airpower Journal, Volume 21, Summer 1995.

  9. Lockheed Martin F-16 Operators, Part 1, David Donald, World Airpower Journal, Volume 23, 1995.

  10. United States Air Force, Tom Kaminski and Mel Williams, Combat Aircraft Vol 2 No. 5, March-April 2000.

  11. E-mail from Will Marshall on 150th DSES.