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History of the 188th Fighter Wing

188th celebrates 60th anniversary

The 188th Fighter Wing, dubbed the Flying Razorbacks, is comprised of 1,000 dedicated, loyal and highly trained Airmen who take immense pride in fulfilling their roles and obligations as National Guardsmen.

The origin of the 188th traces back to Oct. 15, 1953, when the 184th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron was organized and federally recognized at Fort Smith, Ark. Then dubbed "Ricks' Rippers" in honor of Maj. Gen. Earl T. Ricks, former Arkansas National Guard adjutant general and highly decorated World War II pilot from Arkansas, the unit's first roll call consisted of 19 officers and 94 enlisted personnel.

Throughout its storied history, the 188th has featured nine different aircraft models, beginning with the RB-26, a twin-engine modified bomber. The 188th converted to the RF-80, a jet aircraft, in 1956 when the unit was assigned a daylight reconnaissance mission.

The first swept-wing jet, the RF-84F, became the 188th's featured aircraft in 1957. The 188th exchanged the RF-84F for the RF-101 in 1970.

The 188th continued its reconnaissance mission until 1972 when the unit received the F-100. The new aircraft signaled the end of the 188th's reconnaissance mission. The unit became the 188th Tactical Fighter Group that same year.

The 188th officially swapped out its inveterate handle, Ricks' Rippers, for the tag "Flying Razorbacks" in 1979, when the unit acquired F-4C Phantoms.

The 188th celebrated its 35th anniversary in 1988 with the delivery of the F-16A Fighting Falcon, then the world's finest multi-role fighter jet. The F-16 ushered the 188th into the era of elevated aircraft technology in July 1988.

The 188th upgraded its F-16As to F-16Cs in 2000, updating the unit's aircraft with the latest technological advances in avionics.

In 2005, the 188th deployed nearly 300 Airmen and multiple F-16C Fighting Falcons to Balad Air Base, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

A Base Realignment and Closure Committee decision in 2005 stripped the 188th of its F-16 squadron, prompting a conversion to A-10 Thunderbolt II "Warthogs." And on April 14, 2007, the 188th officially became an A-10 unit with the arrival of the first Warthog. The 188th then completed a conversion to A-10C models.

The 188th returned from a four-month Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) deployment to Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan May 2010 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Nearly 300 Airmen and multiple A-10Cs provided close-air support for ground forces during the deployment. It was the 188th's first combat deployment in the A-10.

The 188th logged the largest deployment in unit history in 2012 when it deployed 375 Airmen and 10 A-10s to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. While at Bagram, the 188th's combat production soared to an all-time high in combat sorties, combat hours flown, mission capable rates, 30mm rounds fired and weapons dropped on the enemy, including an astounding 100 percent completion of all air tasking orders while responding to nearly 500 troops-in-contact missions.

tabAir National Guard: A Short Story 
The Air National Guard as we know it today -- a separate reserve component of the United States Air Force -- was a product of the politics of postwar planning and interservice rivalry during World War II. The men who planned and maneuvered for an independent postwar Air Force during World War II didn't place much faith in the reserves, especially the state-dominated National Guard.

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