The 79th Fighter Squadron "Tigers" are the first active duty F-16 Viper unit to win the Raytheon Trophy

The 79th Fighter Squadron “Tigers” are the first active duty F-16 Viper unit to win the Raytheon Trophy

By Dario Leone
Aug 31 2021
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The 79th Fighter Squadron received the Raytheon Trophy on Aug. 28, 2021 after being named the top air dominance squadron in the US Air Force.

The 79th Fighter Squadron received the Raytheon Trophy on Aug. 28, 2021 after being named the top air dominance squadron in the US Air Force (USAF) for their actions across five combat operations and two exercises in fiscal year 2020.

As told by Staff Sgt. Benjamin Ingold, 20th Fighter Wing Public Affairs, in the article Tigers named top air dominance squadron, the Raytheon Trophy, formerly known as the Hughes Trophy is awarded for outstanding performance to an Air Force or Air National Guard fighter unit with a mission in air defense or air superiority.

Every year, fighter squadrons across the Air Force are judged on their performance across specified mission sets, exercise participation, inspection results, and squadron and individual achievements.

Supporting training and 9th Air Force (Air Forces Central) operations, the Tigers demonstrated professionalism, expertise and resiliency to accomplish mission objectives.

“Our squadron was tasked with some pretty extraordinary things in 2020 and our Tigers stepped up to the challenge and proved they can answer the call,” said Lt. Col. Adam Thornton, then 79th FS commander. “We took pride in integrating with our coalition and regional partners to enhance regional stability while never losing a line of combat air power.”

While downrange, the Tigers helped improve partner nation interoperability through joint training opportunities and large force exercises. Their decisive airpower ensured NATO and regional forces could focus on their missions while simultaneously protecting friendly forces in the region. They were awarded the Gallant Unit Citation for their heroic actions after the squadron was able to launch jets for base defense less than 40 minutes after an attack.

The 79th Fighter Squadron "Tigers" are the first active duty F-16 Viper unit to win the Raytheon Trophy
The US Air Force 79th Fighter Squadron was named the Air Force’s top fighter squadron in 2020, a first for an F-16 active duty fighter squadron.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tigers extended their deployment and helped ensure zero mission degradation as they fulfilled all air tasking orders while creating an innovative way to provide remote liaison support to the air operations center.

Following their redeployment, the Tigers focused on refining and upgrading their skills in support of all air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, concluding with Weapons System Evaluation Program 20-12 where they were lauded for implementing lessons learned from their deployment to help their fellow training partners.

“This is a Wing win; we could not have accomplished this on our own,” said Thornton. “I am thankful to the fantastic fighter generation squadron next door, along with logistics, medical, and the rest of Team Shaw Airmen who exemplify how a multi-role fighter platform brings the fight to America’s enemies in the truest sense of the Tigers’ battle cry: ‘All for Freedom!’”

The Tigers are the first active duty F-16 Viper squadron to win the Raytheon Trophy, and one of only three F-16 squadrons to take home the trophy since its inception in 1953 when it was originally started by the Hughes Aircraft Company.

The 79th Fighter Squadron, “Tigers,” is a combat ready F-16C/D squadron tasked with air-to-air, air-to-surface and Suppression of Enemy Air Defences missions as directed by the wing or component commander in support of friendly forces. The squadron maintains and operates Block 50 variant F-16 Fighting Falcons in support of complex training and operational tasking, while maintaining proficiency in the employment of a full array of munitions and tactics. The squadron is one of three F-16 units assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., under the direction of Headquarters 9th Air Force/US Central Command Air Forces and Headquarters Air Combat Command.

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Photo credit: U.S. Air Force


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Dario Leone

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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