The 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., provide combat ready airpower and Airmen, to meet any challenge, anytime, anywhere. The wing is capable of meeting all operational requirements worldwide, maintains a state of combat readiness and operates as the host unit at Shaw by providing facilities, personnel and material.
Headquarters Army Air Forces brought the 20th Fighter Wing into existence by establishing it on July 28, 1947. Ninth Air Force organized the wing at Shaw Field three weeks later. During its first assignment at Shaw, the wing trained to maintain proficiency as a tactical fighter unit. Its operational units flew F-51s and later F-84s while participating in firepower demonstrations, field exercises, and special operations. Wing pilots also trained Turkish Air Force pilots at Shaw in 1948 to fly P-51s.
The outbreak of the Korean War in the summer of 1950 spurred the deployment of the wing's flying units to Royal Air Force Station Manston, United Kingdom. Perceiving the communist North Korean aggression as a potential precursor to a large-scale Soviet invasion of Western Europe, the Truman administration ordered a deterrent force of nuclear-capable bombers to England. The wing's F 84s deployed to protect the bombers from aerial attack while they were parked on vulnerable airfields in East Anglia.
In November 1951, the wing moved to Langley Air Force Base, Va., where it continued to operate F 84 aircraft. It became the first unit in the Air Force capable of carrying tactical nuclear weapons when it converted from the F 84D to the F 84G; the new aircraft also possessed in-flight refueling capabilities. After six months, the wing, now called the 20th Fighter-Bomber Wing, moved to RAF Wethersfield, United Kingdom, where its crews trained to perform in conventional and nuclear roles while supporting North American Treaty Organization operations in Europe. Headquarters United States Air Forces Europe redesignated the wing the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing in July 1958, just after it converted from F 84s to F 100s.
The wing moved to RAF Upper Heyford in 1970, replacing the 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing as the host unit. Shortly afterwards, the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing began receiving F 111s to replace its F 100s, but its primary mission remained training to perform conventional and nuclear tactical air operations. The wing added a squadron of EF 111s in 1984 and subsequently employed both aircraft variants at numerous tactical and electronic countermeasure exercises in the European theater. The wing's EF 111s participated in Operation EL DORADO CANYON, the 1986 retaliatory raid against targets in Libya.
In early 1991, aircraft and personnel deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, and Taif AB, Southwest Asia, conducting tactical and electronic combat operations against Iraqi forces during the Persian Gulf War. The forces in Turkey joined Joint Task Force Proven Force to form a northern front against Iraq, while those deployed to Southwest Asia participated in Operation DESERT STORM. Meanwhile, at home the wing operated a contingency hospital complex to support the war effort. Although the majority of the wing's forces returned to RAF Upper Heyford when hostilities ceased, a small contingent remained at Incirlik to participate in Operation PROVIDE COMFORT, a humanitarian mission supporting the Kurdish population in Northern Iraq.
The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s ended the Cold War and sparked a major reorganization of the Air Force. Congress drastically reduced U.S. troop authorizations in Europe, leading to a massive drawdown of forces. Throughout the reorganization, Air Force leadership stringently enforced a policy of keeping only those units with the most prestigious histories on active service. As a result of this policy, the 20th Fighter Wing returned as the host unit at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., on January 1, 1994.
The move to Shaw meant converting to F-16C Fighting Falcons, although the wing also briefly operated A/OA 10s. Crews trained to perform counterair, interdiction, and the suppression of enemy air defenses missions. The wing also regularly rotated aircraft and personnel to Turkey and Southwest Asia to participate in Operations NORTHERN WATCH and SOUTHERN WATCH, both of which prevented Iraqi aggression against its own population and its neighbors by enforcing no-fly and no-drive zones.
In 1999, the wing provided aircraft and support for combat operations against the former Yugoslavia to stop Serbs from massacring Albanians in Kosovo during NATO's Operation ALLIED FORCE.
The 20th Fighter Wing executed combat air patrol missions over major U.S. cities following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in New York and Washington D.C., and continues to perform in the homeland defense role. The wing also deployed aircraft and supported personnel to Southwest Asia to participate in Operation IRAQI FREEDOM, the campaign that ousted the regime of Saddam Hussein.
In August of 2009 the 20th Fighter Wing was allocated to the Ninth Air Force, a Numbered Air Force (NAF) under Air Combat Command headquartered at Shaw AFB. As of August of 2020, Ninth AF units were reallocated under the Fifteenth AF, which is responsible for delivering combat airpower worldwide and provides a light, lean, and agile Air Force, Joint, or Combined Task Force Headquarters.
More recently, the 20th Fighter Wing has been task to support ongoing operations in Southwest Asia, to include Operation Freedom’s Sentinel in Afghanistan and Operation Inherent Resolve in Iraq and Syria.
The wing has flown the following aircraft: North American P-51 Mustang (1947-48), Republic F-84D/F/G Thunderjet (1948-57), North American F-100 Super Sabre (1957-71), General Dynamics F-111E Aardvark (1970-93), General Dynamics EF-111A Raven (1984-1992), Fairchild Republic A/OA 10A Thunderbolt II (1994-1996), and General Dynamics/Lockheed F-16C/DM Fighting Falcon (1994-present).
World War II: Air Offensive, Europe; Normandy; Northern France; Rhineland; Ardennes-Alsace; Central Europe;
Southwest Asia: Defense of Saudi Arabia; Liberation and Defense of Kuwait
World War II American Theater
Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards:
1 Jul 1956 - 30 Sep 1957
1 May 1963 - 31 Dec 1964
1 Jan 1965 - 31 Mar 1966
1 Jul 1968 - 31 Mar 1970
1 Sep 1970 - 30 Jun 1972
31 Mar 1973 - 30 Jun 1974
1 Jul 1977 - 30 Jun 1979
1 Jul 1981 - 30 Jun 1983
1 Jul 1987 - 30 Jun 1989
1 Jul 1990 - 30 Jun 1992
22 Jan 1991 - 12 Mar 1991
1 Oct 1992 - 31 Dec 1993
1 Jan 1994 - 31 Dec 1994
1 Jun 1999 - 31 May 2001
Meritorious Unit Awards:
1 Jun 2007 - 31 May 2009
1 Jun 2009 - 31 May 2011
1 Jun 2011 - 31 May 2012
1 Jun 2012 - 31 May 2013
1 Jun 2016 - 31 May 2018
Distinguished Unit Citation:
Central Germany, 8 Apr 1944
Authorized to display honors earned by the 20th Operations Group before 28 Jul 1947.