Three green stars are plainly visible on the F-16, tail 2137. The F-16 is forward deployed to CENTCOM from Aviano Air Base, Italy, as part of the 555th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron.
Taken on Jul. 18, 2023 the photos in this post show a US Air Force (USAF) F-16 Fighting Flacon receiving fuel from a USAF KC-135 Stratotanker above the Strait of Hormuz and at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates.
As already reported the US dispatched destroyer USS Thomas Hudner, F-35 Lighting II Joint Strike Fighters and F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters to supplement forces already in US Central Command to deter Iran from seizing commercial vessels. The US has A-10s patrolling the skies in the area, in addition to P-8 Poseidon maritime patrol aircraft.
As noted by Air Force Magazine, three green stars are plainly visible on the F-16, tail 2137. The F-16 is forward deployed to CENTCOM from Aviano Air Base, Italy, as part of the 555th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron.
The kill markings on tail 2137 in particular denote one of the most impressive feats of air combat in recent decades: a single-mission triple kill during a NATO 1994 mission over Bosnia and Herzegovina.
On Feb. 28, 1994, then-Capt. Robert Gordon “Wilbur” Wright engaged in NATO’s first ever combat mission. He was directed to perform an offensive counter air mission to enforce the UN’s “no fly” sanctions over Bosnia-Herzegovina. Wright downed three Serbian J-21 Jastreb fighters in minutes using an AIM-120 AMRAAM and two AIM-9 Sidewinders. His actions resulted in the first “triple kill” on a single mission since the Korean War in 1953.
The F-16 was later reassigned to the 555th Fighter Squadron at Aviano AB. Aircraft 2137 is still flying operationally today.
Air Forces Central (AFCENT) spokesman Col. Mike Andrews told Air & Space Forces Magazine: “I can confirm that the 555 Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (Triple Nickel) has tail 2137, which is the specific F-16 that has 3x Air-to-Air kills over Bosnia.”
In historical photos released by the Air Force, tail 2137 previously had three kill markings that appear to be a double-headed eagle, the Serbian coat of arms. But those markings have since been replaced by green stars. According to the article A Legacy of Valor by Senior Airman Noah Sudolcan, 31st Fighter Wing Public Affairs, USAF Capt. Jett Wright, “Wilbur” Wright’s son, flew tail 2137 while on Active duty in 2022.
According to Air Force Magazine is rare in the US military having an aircraft in the active inventory with an air-to-air kill. The last American aircraft to score an air-to-air kill was a US Navy F/A-18E in 2017 over Syria when the Super Hornet shot down a Su-22 Syrian fighter that according the US was dropping bombs on its Kurdish partners, the Syrian Democratic Forces. It was the first time US pilots shot down a manned aircraft since 1999.
Photo credit: Senior Airman Jacob Cabanero and Tech. Sgt. Alex Fox Echols III / U.S. Air Force