The 31st Operations Group ensures the combat readiness of two F-16CG squadrons, one air control squadron, and one operational support squadron conducting and supporting worldwide air operations. The group prepares fighter pilots, controllers, and support personnel to execute U.S. and NATO war plans and contingency operations. It trains, equips, plans, and provides weather, intelligence, standardization/evaluation, and command and control sustaining global flying operations.
The 31st Operations Group was first activated in 1993 as the 401st Operations Group (Provisional) to support the flying forces deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy, for Operation Deny Flight. On April 1, 1994, the 401st Operations Group (Provisional) was renamed the 31st Operations Group, in conjunction with the wing's redesignation and the arrival of the first permanently-based fighter aircraft south of the Alps since World War II. The beddown of the 555th Fighter Squadron (Triple Nickel), the 510th Fighter Squadron (Buzzards), the 603d Air Control Squadron and 1,400 new personnel was a two-year project completed in only six months. In addition, the group continued to provide daily support to a 119-aircraft, multinational, multi-service force comprised of A-10s, F-15Es, F-16s, EF-111s, EC-130s, U.S. Navy/U.S. Marine Corps. EA-6Bs, USMC F/A-18s, British E-3Ds, and Spanish E/F-18s and KC-130s.
Beginning in July 1994, only three months after activation, the group assumed combat tasking in support of NATO's Operation Deny Flight, and within 39 days of activation, the 510th Fighter Squadron was tasked by Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe for its first deployment. Realizing the need for extensive training, the 31st Operations Group coordinated critical flying deployments to over 14 different sites including the first U.S. deployment to Greece in 12 years, the first major Air Force dissimilar air combat training with German MiG-29s, the first consecutive air-to-ground and air-to-air Weapons System Evaluation Program, and the first weapons training deployment to Spain since the Persian Gulf War. During the 555th Fighter Squadron's Spring 1995 "World Tour" deployment to five sites in three months, pilots from both squadrons upgraded as the first F-16 forward air controllers-airborne (FAC-As). The 31st Fighter Wing also was the first operational U.S. Air Force user to embrace the state-of-the-art Sure Strike system which automatically uplinks laser target coordinates from a ground-based forward air controller to a data modem on board the F-16, improving the accuracy of the targeting data.
On Aug. 30, 1995, within five hours of notification, NATO began the largest combat air operation in its history - Operation Deliberate Force. The multinational, multiservice force at Aviano began a series of airstrikes against Bosnian-Serb military targets. In three weeks, the forces at Aviano conducted 1,666 sorties destroying numerous key military sites and forcing the withdrawal of heavy weapons from the exclusion zone around Sarajevo. The resounding success of Operation Deliberate Force prompted the warring factions to participate in peace negotiations that paved the way for the Dayton Peace Accord. On Dec. 22, 1995, Operation Deny Flight officially ended and was replaced by Operation Decisive Edge, to protect NATO ground troops in the Implementation Force. On Dec. 21, 1996, Operation Decisive Edge was replaced by Operation Deliberate Guard, for the protection of NATO ground troops in the Stabilization Force. On March 14, 1997, the 31st FW was recalled to generate aircraft in support of Operation Silver Wake, the noncombatant evacuation of Albania. The aircraft were ready after only 12 hours, and the 510th FS was able to fly Silver Wake missions as soon as tasked on March 15, 1997 completing a total of 55 Silver Wake sorties. During this operation, two two-ship F-16 flights from the 510th FS conducted three intercepts on one Albanian MiG-17 and four Serb Galeb aircraft, successfully escorting them from the area.