Swamp Fox History - Operation Iraqi Freedom
By Lt. Col. Akshai Gandhi, 157th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron - Deployed
/ Published March 21, 2014
MCENTIRE JOINT NATIONAL GUARD BASE, S.C. --
Wednesday, March 19 marked the eleventh anniversary of the start of Operation Iraqi Freedom. On that day, 15 Swamp Fox tails, we were 15 PAA in 2003, and the aviation package were forward deployed to Al Udeid AB, Qatar. Our pilots were the "first in" providing Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) for the first strikes of the war including the F-117 strike on Saddam Hussein.
The success of the deployment was a tribute to the entire Swamp Fox team given our astounding combat employment results. The challenge was even greater, given the fact that we were flying three distinctly different software and hardware configurations of the F-16CJ (50T5, M2.3, and M3.1B). Of note, our six M3.1B jets were the only F-16s in the theater which could independently fulfill the entire Air-to-Air ID Matrix to satisfy the rules of engagement to shoot down enemy aircraft--too bad they were too scared to come up and meet us! This was a first-ever for the F-16 in combat.
A second significant first-ever for the F-16 Block 50/52 fleet was the Swamp Fox employment of the Lightning II and LANTIRN targeting pods. We employed this capability against the Iraqi IADS (Integrated Air Defense Systems), hard killing SAMs as opposed to simply suppressing them with HARMS (AGM-88 High Speed Anti-Radiation Missiles). This capability is best illustrated by the picture provided of our 169th Fighter Wing commander, Col. Michael 'Crab' Manning, using a Listening II Pod to target and destroy a SAM (Surface-to-Air Missile) storage site. It was quite a sight to see stacks of SAMs cooking off and flying everywhere! Appropriately enough, he was flying tail # 911!
The 2003 deployment came on the heels of an early-2002 deployment to Al Udeid in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, where Swamp Fox air power provided critical support during Operation Anaconda.
In recent history, the patriots of the South Carolina Air National Guard have left their families and civilian professions to stand watch over our Soldiers, Sailors, Marines and Airmen on the ground in Iraq during the summer of 2010, and then again over the summer of 2012 with the largest deployment of reserve component air power (18-jets) since the Swamp Fox's 24 PAA deployment for Operation Desert Storm in 1991.
For some of you, this is your first deployment with the Swamp Fox, for many you've seen several or many of them. We even have a few who have been there for all. Every once in a while it's good to remember where we came from.
It's a true honor and pleasure to serve beside such great Americans!