Spangdahlem's Warhawks on the move
On 11 January 2023, a dozen F-16CM Fighting Falcons from the Spangdahlem based 480th Fighter Squadron "Warhawks" left their homebase. Although not stated as such, this could very well be the last time that those particular Fighting Falcons left German soil.
Earlier, Scramble Magazine wrote about one of the largest USAF squadrons, the "Warhawks", slated to be withdrawn from Germany.
While it is said that the above mentioned SP coded F-16s will first go to Alaska for an exercise, it seems most probable that there will be more focus on the integration of the 4th-Generation and 5th-Generation fighter jets in the context of working up for a (long time) deployment.
At this moment, AK coded F-22A Raptors from Elmendorf AFB (AK) initially fill in for the 18th Wing F-15C/Ds as they started to vacating Kadena Air Base (Japan). The USAF had already eyeing a later and longer deployment of F-16s from Spangdahlem, to reinforce the Japanese island base. On 8 November 2022, Scramble Magazine wrote about the arrival of Alaskan Raptors at Kadena.
UPDATE: Having transited some five days with multiple stops, the first Spangdahlem F-16s arrived at Kadena on 16 January 2023.
What is special about the 480th Fighter Squadron "Warhawks" and its F-16s?
Being one of the largest USAF squadrons resorting under the 52nd Fighter Wing, the 480th Fighter Squadron is also the most advanced and trained of all F-16 squadrons.The past years, the squadron has experienced multiple readiness checks, deployments to Romania, Poland and participated in large NATO exercises and was even deployed to neutral Sweden. During September 2021, the Warhawks brought their Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) expertise to the Dutch Weapon Instructor Course (WIC).
And then there is the new AN/APG-83 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar. During October 2022, the 480th Fighter Squadron was the first active-duty USAF F-16CM fighter squadron to bring their fleet of fighter jets into a new era of aerial dominance with the completion of its AESA radar system upgrades. The APG-83 capability provides USAF's 4th-Generation multirole fighter jets a massive leap in combat capabilities. Compared to its predecessor, the latest AESA’s upgraded systems carry more transmitters, which allow for more-precise, longer-ranged and more jamming-resistant scanning of airspace.
On 28 Febuary 2022, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center ( AFLCMC) announced that one of the largest modernisation efforts in USAF's history, 608 F-16s, comprised of Blocks 40 and 50, would undergo up to 22 modifications designed to improve lethality and ensure the 4th-generation fighter remains effective in meeting current and future threats. Having completed the latest modifications, it is most probable that the USAF is eager to send the latest capacity to a contested region.
Taiwan, officially the Republic of China (ROC), has been regularly disputed. China, officially the People's Republic of China (PRC), maintain its claim of being the sole legitimate representative of ROC and its territory.
At this moment it is unknown to Scramble how long the exercise and deployment will last and if more Spangdahlem F-16s will follow suit. Also, it remains uncertain if the Warhawks will receive a new designation like an Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (EFS) or a new tailcode. Adding the AN/APG-83 AESA radar to the Warhawks’ arsenal further augments the USAF’s and combatant commanders’ ability to respond to a wider range of threats in a certain region. The SEAD mission, will most probably the main task for the Warhawks in the coming years.
The following F-16s have been identified:
F-16CM: 90-0813, 90-0828, 90-0829 (52OG mks), 91-0338, 91-0342, 91-0361, 91-0416, 91-0417, 91-0418, 92-3918, 96-0080 (480FS mks) and 96-0083
Credit photos: Aircraft Throughout The Years