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Tigers named top air dominance squadron

A photo of jets flying in formation.

380th Air Expeditionary Wing aircraft, to include a KC-10 Extender, E-3 Sentry, two F-35 Lighting IIs and two F-16 “Viper” Fighting Falcons fly in formation in the area of responsibility (AOR) over the United Arab Emirates May 8, 2020. The 380th AEW is one of the most diverse combat wings in the Air Force; it is comprised of four groups and 15 squadrons. Its mission is to conduct combat operations directed by the President to provide high-altitude all-weather intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance, command and control and air refueling for Operations Inherent Resolve and Resolute Support. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kat Justen)

Photo of Airmen.

The 79th Fighter Squadron was named the Air Force's top fighter squadron in 2020, a first for an F-16 active duty fighter squadron. (Courtesy photo)

Photo of Airmen working.

U.S. Air Force Airmen wait to marshal U.S. Air Force F-16 Vipers assigned to the 79th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron Feb. 24, 2020. The 79th Fighter Squadron was named the Air Force's top fighter squadron, a first for an F-16 active duty fighter squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Joseph Pick)

Pilot flies aircraft.

A 79th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron F-16 Viper makes a claw while conducting an inflight refueling, May 8, 2020. The 79th Fighter Squadron was named the Air Force's top fighter squadron, a first for an F-16 active duty fighter squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Kat Justen)

Photo of trophy.

The 79th Fighter Squadron was named the Air Force's top fighter squadron in 2020, a first for an F-16 active duty fighter squadron. (Courtesy photo)

Photo of a pilot flying an aircraft.

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft assigned to the 79th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron breaks away from an aerial refueling, Nov. 14, 2019. The 79th Fighter Squadron was named the Air Force's to air dominance fighter squadron, a first for an active duty F-16 squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Cribelar)

Photos of F-16 aircraft.

Two U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft assigned to the 79th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron fly alongside a KC-135 Stratotanker , Nov. 13, 2019. The 79th Fighter Squadron was named the Air Force's top fighter squadron, a first for an F-16 active duty fighter squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Cribelar)

Photo of pilot flying an aircraft.

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft pilot assigned to the 79th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron maneuvers into place for an aerial refueling, Nov. 14, 2019. The 79th Fighter Squadron was named the Air Force's top fighter squadron, a first for an F-16 active duty fighter squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Cribelar)

Photo of pilot flying aircraft.

A U.S. Air Force F-16 Fighting Falcon from the 79th Fighter Squadron at Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., receives fuel from a KC-135 Stratotanker, Nov. 12, 2019. The 79th Fighter Squadron was named the Air Force's top fighter squadron in 2020, a first for an F-16 active duty fighter squadron. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Matthew Lotz)

SHAW AIR FORCE BASE, S.C. --

Named the top air dominance squadron in the Air Force for their actions across five combat operations and two exercises in fiscal year 2020, the 79th Fighter Squadron received the Raytheon Trophy Aug. 28, 2021.

Originally started by the Hughes Aircraft Company in 1953, the Raytheon Trophy is awarded to the most outstanding air superiority squadron based on operational mission performance, exercise participation and inspection results, as well as unit 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.

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.

“Our steadfast commitment to the defense of the United States, our partners and allies during unprecedented times showed how truly important our focus on innovation, training and support systems are to mission success.” said Lt. Col. Lawson Cass, 79th FS commander. “We are stronger, healthier and more capable because we work together to maximize our abilities for the betterment of the team, our families and the community we serve.”

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.