Coronet CHARIOT at Karup Air Base in Denmark
27 AUGUST - 10 SEPTEMBER 1994
Six F-16Cs and one F-16D participated
All photos from ©Collection Marinus Dirk Tabak unless stated.
The 306th Fighter Squadron, founded in World War II, was assigned to the Wisconsin ANG as the 176th Fighter Squadron on May 24, 1946 and received federal recognition on October 6, 1948. It was equipped with the P-47D / F-51D Mustang (from 1948) . The 176th became responsible for the defense of the Great Lakes, Chicago and Wisconsin. On November 1, 1950, the squadron designation was changed to Fighter Interceptor Squadron. The squadron was activated during the Korean War on 1 February 1951 and remained based at Traux. In April 1952, the 176th was the first USAF squadron to be partially equipped with the F-89A Scorpion.
At the end of 1952, the 176th FS came back under control of the state and received the F-51H as the 176th Fighter Bomber Squadron. In January 1953 the conversion to the F-86A Sabre began as the 176th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. In October 1954 the Scorpion returned in the form of the F-89B / C and from July 1957 the F-89D, in 1959 the F-89H and finally in January 1960 the F-89J, equipped with the nuclear-charged AIR -2 genius rockets. The AIR-2A was the first USAF air-to-air rocket with a nuclear charge.
F-102A 56-1254/03 from the 176th FIS at the William Tell Meet 1972, Tyndall AFB 22nd of September 1972.
On April 15, 1956, permission was granted for the establishment of the 115th Fighter Interceptor Group with 176th FIS as the flying squadron. From January 1960, two armed F-89s and personnel were placed on a 24-hour alert. The F-102 Delta Dagger followed in May 1966 and, after a training period, the F-102 was placed on alert in early 1967. In September 1972, the 176th won the F-102 category at the prestigious William Tell competition at Tyndall AFB. Twelve teams participated in the competition with a total of 48 aircraft from the USAF, the ANG and the Canadian Air Force. Shocking was the conversion in November 1974 to the O-2A Skymaster, a type that was surplus after the end of the conflict in Vietnam. On November 9, 1974, the 176thTASS, Tactical Air Support Squadron, with Forward Air Control as its main task, was designated. Gaining command changed from ADC to TAC and the Group was upgraded to a Wing. The 176th exchanged the first ANG squadron for the OA-37B Dragonfly in November 1979, the aircraft were ex-New York ANG and Maryland ANG, the first arrived in July 1979. The conversion went smoothly because the staff already had jet experience from the F-102 period.
On November 15, 1981 it became a Tactical Fighter Squadron and was equipped with the A-10 Thunderbolt II from the 81st TFW 'WR' of RAF Bentwaters / Woodbridge in the UK. Of the Warthogs, a number were specifically equipped as FAC aircraft with the designation OA-10A. After the withdrawal of the 49th TFW from Spangdahlem AB to the USA, deployments to Europe were started in 1969 to strengthen NATO air forces. From 1975 ANG squadrons also went to Europe on deployment.
Wisconsin ANG deployments with the A-10 included Operation Cove and Operation Panama in and around America, and also Checkered Flag deployments to England and Germany such as Coronet Giant (Lechfeld, May 1984), Coronet Mercury (Leipheim July 1987) and Coronet Lariat (Sculthorpe July 1990). After 1994 these deployments stopped. They did participate in various Operations such as Deny Flight. There were also deployments to assist countries that recently joined NATO and exercises with the German MiG-29s. Recently there were deployments to strengthen NATO.
The designations of the units were changed on March 15, 1992. The 176th became a Fighter Squadron, the 128th Operations Group was formed and the 128th TFW became a Fighter Wing. An Operations Group manages everything that has to do with flight activities: the 176th FS falls under the Group and the supporting squadrons such as the 128th Operational Support Squadron. In June 1992, the gaining command was changed from Tactical Air Command to Air Combat Command. Gaining command is the command structure to which the unit is assigned in the event of a crisis.
On April 1, 1993 the first F-16 Fighting Falcons arrived for the 176th. These Block 30 aircraft were from 56th FW, 63rd FS at MacDill AFB. The mission remained CAS, Close Air Support. Compared to the A-10, the way of operating with the F-16 had to be adjusted considerably. The F-16 was able to operate with smart weapons, the A-10 couldn't do that yet.
The squadron went on deployment in 1994. From August 22 to September 10, eight aircraft went to Karup, Denmark under the name Coronet Chariot. A Northern Watch deployment followed in the period April-July 1997 to Incirlik, Turkey. Also Operation Southern Watch (Al Jabar AB Kuwait 1997-1998), Southern Watch (Prince Sultan AB, Saudi Arabia 1999), Coronet Nighthawk (Curaçao, Netherlands Antilles 2001), Enduring Freedom (Al Udeid AB, Qatar 2004-2005) and Noble Eagle (homeland security from 11 September 2001).
On October 1, 1995, the 128th FW was renumbered in the 115th Fighter Wing. The reason was to avoid confusion with the 128th ARW, also a Wisconsin ANG unit with the 126th ARS, equipped with the KC-135R.
F-16C 87-0278 '60th Anniversary 115th Fighter Wing' in formation over Madison on the 18th of October 2018. Photo ©Wisconsin ANG.
First the Mustangs had WN NG for National Guard, and later WISC AIR GUARD on the fuselage in front and behind the star and bar. The F-89s had WISC AIR GUARD on the nose. The F-51s and F-89s were in bare metal finish.
The Delta Daggers were in air defence gray with WISCONSIN on the tail, and at least one aircraft had yellow wing fences. On 31 december 1969 the 317th FIS at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska was inactivated. Their 20 F-102s were transferred to the 176th FIS, they kept their nice arctic paint scheme, air defense gray with a red tail and outer wing sections. These F-102s were individually coded in serial order, the singles 01-18, and the "tubs" (two-seater) 19 and 20.
The O-2A scheme was only WISCONSIN on the tail. Also with the OA-37B and A-10As it was austere with only the WI tail code, WI is the abbreviated designation for the state of Wisconsin. WI was very small on the OA-37 and the question is whether that was intended as a tail code. The Block 30 F-16C/Ds had a long period standard markings, the WI tail code with an red-white tail band with Madison in white in it. A number of F-16s have a city, or village name on the air intake. In 2005, Madison was replaced by Wisconsin, whereby the W was stylized. In 2016 there was a mix of F-16s with WI tail code and aircraft where the tail code was replaced by a drawing of a badger jumping towards the prey: the "nickname" of the squadron is Badgers.
For the sixtieth and seventieth anniversary of the unit, people worked out big in terms of color schemes. For the 60th anniversary, the tail of F-16C 87-0278 was provided with a blue background and a drawing of the Minuteman from the Air National Guard logo. For the 70th anniversary, F-16C 86-0243 received a large painting on the tail of a crossbow that fired a lightning bolt, a falcon motif was painted on the nose.
For operational support and transport, the unit had the T-33A, C-131, C-130B and C-26B, among others.
According to a statement from the USAF from December 2017, from 2023, 176th FS will be one of the two ANG units that will switch to the F-35 Lightning II.