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‘Black Widows’ arrive at Bagram for final F-16 deployment

Capt. Tyler McBride, left, 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron chief of safety, deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, shakes hands with Airman 1st Class Christian Lamb, 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, deployed from Aviano Air Base, Italy, before flying his first combat sortie in an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Oct. 30, 2015. The 555th EFS, deployed from Aviano Air Base, Italy, is nearing the end of its six-month deployment at Bagram and will hand the reins over to the 421st EFS in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel and NATO's Resolute Support mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford/Released)

Capt. Tyler McBride, the 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron chief of safety, deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, shakes hands with Airman 1st Class Christian Lamb, a 555th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, deployed from Aviano Air Base, Italy, before flying his first combat sortie in an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Oct. 30, 2015. The 555th EFS, deployed from Aviano AB, is nearing the end of its six-month deployment at Bagram and will hand the reins over to the 421st EFS. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford)

Capt. Tyler McBride, 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron chief of safety, deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, prepares for his first combat sortie as Staff Sgt. Devon Sheffey, 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, deployed from Aviano Air Base, Italy, looks on after removing the chocks from the F-16 Fighting Falcon at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Oct. 30, 2015. The 555th EFS, deployed from Aviano Air Base, Italy, is nearing the end of its six-month deployment at Bagram and will hand the reins over to the 421st EFS in support of Operation Freedom's Sentinel and NATO's Resolute Support mission. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford/Released)

Capt. Tyler McBride, the 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron chief of safety, deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, prepares for his first combat sortie as Staff Sgt. Devon Sheffey, a 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, deployed from Aviano Air Base, Italy, looks on after removing the chocks from the F-16 Fighting Falcon at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Oct. 30, 2015. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Joseph Swafford)

Airman 1st Class Justina Richard, 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, performs post-flight maintenance on an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Oct. 30, 2015. Airmen assigned to the 421st Fighter Squadron, known as the “Black Widows,” from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, arrived here Oct. 28, 2015 in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/RELEASED)

Airman 1st Class Justina Richard, a 455th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron crew chief, deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, performs post-flight maintenance on an F-16 Fighting Falcon at Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Oct. 30, 2015. Airmen assigned to the 421st Fighter Squadron, known as the “Black Widows,” from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, arrived here Oct. 28, 2015 in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

Lt. Col. Michael Meyer, 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander, deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, departs on a sortie from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Oct. 30, 2015. Airmen assigned to the 421st Fighter Squadron, known as the “Black Widows,” from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, arrived here Oct. 28, 2015 in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys/RELEASED)

Lt. Col. Michael Meyer, the 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander, deployed from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, departs on a sortie from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan, Oct. 30, 2015. Airmen assigned to the 421st Fighter Squadron, known as the “Black Widows,” from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, arrived here Oct. 28, 2015 in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support mission. (U.S. Air Force photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

BAGRAM AIRFIELD, Afghanistan -- Airmen assigned to the 421st Fighter Squadron arrived Oct. 28 for its last F-16 Fighting Falcon deployment in support of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support mission as the unit begins to shift to a newer aircraft.

During their six-month tenure at Bagram Airfield, the squadron from Hill Air Force Base, Utah, will assume the responsibility of providing overwatch and close air support for ground units in Afghanistan.

“We are incredibly excited to be here,” said Lt. Col. Michael Meyer, the 421st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron commander. “This is what we train for. We are here to support the ground commander’s intent, wherever and whenever they ask, save lives on the ground and help transition Afghanistan to a stable and self-sufficient government.”

The 421st FS, known as the “Black Widows,” is one of three fighter squadrons assigned to the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill AFB. The unit operates night-capable, advanced targeting pod-equipped F-16CMs. It deploys worldwide to conduct day and night air superiority, precision strike, and forward air controller sorties employing laser-guided and inertially-aided munitions during contingencies and combat.

This will be the 15th and final F-16 deployment to the area of responsibility since 1990, as they begin the transition to the new F-35A Lightning II, the Air Force’s latest fifth-generation fighter, Meyer said.

The F-35 will replace the Air Force’s aging fleet of F-16s and A-10 Thunderbolt IIs, which have been the primary fighter aircraft for more than 30 years, and bring with it an enhanced capability to survive in the advanced-threat environment in which it was designed to operate.

The 421st FS last deployed to Bagram from July 2009-January 2010, flying over 1,800 sorties in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Now flying fully modified Common Configuration Implementation Program F-16CMs, equipped with night vision goggles, Harm Targeting System, and the Advanced Targeting Pod, the squadron continues its combat heritage as a premier multi-role fighter squadron.

The 421st EFS will take the reins from the 555th EFS, known as “Triple Nickel,” from Aviano Air Base, Italy.

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