The 24th Tactical Air Support Squadron flies the Block 40 F-16CM and focuses on Close Air Support.
Last year, the U.S. Air Force has activated a new squadron at Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. It’s the 24th TASS, an F-16 Fighting Falcon squadron, whose primary function is training, supporting and performing CAS (Close Air Support). In other words, the 24th TASS is the only F-16 unit fully committed to fly CAS missions.
“Starting up a new squadron is a unique situation because we can set up our own culture,” said Lt. Col. Tyler Niebuhr, 24th TASS commander in a public statement released last year. “There was a conference a couple years ago about the CAS mission – part of the outcome was to generate the CAS Integration Group. The intent was to encapsulate a range of CAS missions and culture with the activation of a fighter squadron, the 24th TASS, and focus only on things like training joint terminal attack controllers and flying support missions for multiple U.S. Air Force Weapons School weapons squadrons,” said Niebuhr.
The 24 TASS last saw combat while flying the A-37 Skyhawk during Operation Just Cause in Panama between 1989-1990. The “Jaguars” unit was deactivated shortly afterward and reactivated at Nellis AFB on Mar. 2, 2018. Today, the 24 TASS flies the Block 40 F-16CM and is the premier FAC-A schoolhouse for the United States Air Force.
As an F-16 pilot, you’re often told to be a ‘jack of all trades’ because we do almost every Air Force flying mission, said Capt. Wayne Mowery, 24th TASS fighter jet pilot. “Here at the 24th TASS, they want us to be experts in CAS. It’s really fascinating because most F-16 pilots don’t get that opportunity to get really good at one thing. Usually every two weeks we’re shifting focus and training on something new.”
Unlike “traditional” air-to-air combat, CAS is all about getting up at low level, close and personal with the target, supporting JTACs in close proximity to friendly forces on the ground. More or less as shown in the footage below.
The video was filmed during the recent Red Flag Rescue 19-1 at Davis Monthan AFB, Arizona, a “spin-off” of the main RF series that gives joint service personnel an opportunity to build fundamental combat search and rescue skills to fight in and out of contested, degraded, and operationally limited survivor’s location.
Red Flag-Rescue is the logical progression from a Red Flag-Nellis exercise: while standard RF were originally created to train fighter pilots in the first 10 combat missions of a LFE (Large Force Exercise) and prepare them to deployment to contingency operations, Red Flag Rescue provides joint forces their first 10 CSAR missions in a large force exercise.
The short but interesting clip shows the 24th TASS’s F-16CMs dropping bombs, firing rockets, using the gun, refuel and maneuver at low altitude over the canyons as part of the joint CSAR drills. Not bad isn’t it?
For patch lovers here’s also a screenshot that shows the squadron’s new PVC patch on the pilot’s shoulder: