The origin of the 188th traces back to Oct. 15, 1953, when the 184th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron was organized and federally recognized at Fort Smith, Arkansas. Then dubbed "Ricks' Rippers" in honor of Maj. Gen. Earl T. Ricks, former Arkansas National Guard adjutant general and highly decorated World War II pilot from Arkansas, the unit's first roll call consisted of 19 officers and 94 enlisted personnel.
Throughout its storied history, the 188th has featured nine different manned aircraft models, beginning with the RB-26, a twin-engine modified bomber. The 188th converted to the RF-80, a jet aircraft, in 1956 when the unit was assigned a daylight reconnaissance mission.
The first swept-wing jet, the RF-84F, became the 188th's featured aircraft in 1957. The 188th exchanged the RF-84F for the RF-101 in 1970.
The 188th continued its reconnaissance mission until 1972 when the unit received the F-100. The new aircraft signaled the end of the 188th's reconnaissance mission. The unit became the 188th Tactical Fighter Group that same year.
The 188th officially swapped out its inveterate handle, Ricks' Rippers, for the tag "Flying Razorbacks" in 1976 and in 1979 the unit acquired F-4C Phantoms.
The 188th celebrated its 35th anniversary in 1988 with the delivery of the F-16A Fighting Falcon, then the world's finest multi-role fighter jet. The F-16 ushered the 188th into the era of elevated aircraft technology in July 1988. The 188th upgraded its F-16As to F-16Cs in 2000, updating the unit's aircraft with the latest technological advances in avionics.
In 2005, the 188th deployed nearly 300 Airmen and 12 F-16C Fighting Falcons to Balad Air Base, Iraq, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
A Base Realignment and Closure Committee decision in 2005 stripped the 188th of its F-16 squadron, prompting a conversion to A-10 Thunderbolt II "Warthogs." And on April 14, 2007, the 188th officially became an A-10 unit with the arrival of the first Warthog. The 188th then completed a conversion to A-10C models.
The 188th returned from a four-month Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) deployment to Kandahar Airfield in Afghanistan May 2010 in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Nearly 300 Airmen and multiple A-10Cs provided close-air support for ground forces during the deployment. It was the 188th's first combat deployment in the A-10.
The 188th logged the largest deployment in unit history in 2012 when it deployed 375 Airmen and 10 A-10s to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan. While at Bagram, the 188th's combat production soared to an all-time high in combat sorties, combat hours flown, mission capable rates, 30mm rounds fired and weapons dropped on the enemy, including an astounding 100 percent completion of all air tasking orders while responding to nearly 500 troops-in-contact missions.
In 2013, the 188th was selected to convert from an A-10C Thunderbolt II fighter mission to an MQ-9 Reaper remotely piloted aircraft, intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance and targeting wing. This included the world's first-ever space-focused targeting squadron. As part of this transition, the 188th Fighter Wing became the 188th Wing due to its transition from a fighter mission to multiple primary mission sets.
The 188th began divesting its A-10 squadron with the first two Warthogs departing Sept. 10, 2013, for their new home, Moody Air Force Base, Georgia. With this change the 188th Fighter Wing inactivated the 188th Maintenance Group, 188th Maintenance Squadron, 188th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and 188th Maintenance Operations Flight.
The new mission featured the activation of one new group and three new subordinate squadrons as well the reassignment of one squadron under the 188th Wing's flag. The 188th ISR Group as well as the 153rd Intelligence Squadron (targeting), 288th Operations Support Squadron and 188th Intelligence Support Squadron were activated. The 123rd Intelligence Squadron relocated from Little Rock Air Force Base, Arkansas, to the 188th's Ebbing Air National Guard Base, Fort Smith, Arkansas.
The 188th Operations Group was also heavily involved in the mission conversion. The 188th OG's 184th Fighter Squadron was re-designated as the 184th Attack Squadron. The changes became official on May 1, 2015 with the completion of the Organizational Change Request.