|1st Fighter Wing|
Saturday October 31, 2009
On 14 March 1974, the Air Force publicly announced plans to station the Air Force's first operational F-15 wing at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia. Langley was chosen due to its heritage and ideal location for TAC's secondary air defense mission. After studying the heritage of its wings, TAC selected the 1st Fighter Wing as the unit to receive the first Eagle. On 6 June 1975, Tactical Air Command directed Ninth Air Force to move the 1st Fighter Wing from MacDill to Langley AFB. Although the designation of the unit moved, the majority of MacDill personnel remained in place, and served under the newly designated 56th Tactical Fighter Wing.
1st Tactical Fighter Wing personnel spent six months preparing for the arrival of the F-15. By the end of 1975, the Wing was ready for its new air superiority weapon, and on 18 December 1975, Lt Col John Britt, Operations Officer, flew the Wing's first F-15 (a two-seat trainer) into Langley. Official welcoming ceremonies were held on 9 January 1976, when Lt Col Larry Craft, 27th Fighter Squadron Commander, landed with the Wing's first single seat F-15. In recognition of its accomplishment of introducing the F-15 into the Air Force's operational inventory, the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing received its first Air Force Outstanding Unit Award, for the period 1 July 1975-31 October 1976.
After achieving operational ready status, the Wing took the experience they had earned and utilized it on a program nicknamed "Ready Eagle." The 1st helped prepare the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing at Bitburg Air Base, Germany, and Soesterberg Air base, the Netherlands for their reception of the F-15. The 1st assisted in the training of maintenance personnel and pilots. By 23 September 1977, the wing provided Bitburg with 88 operational ready pilots, 522 maintenance specialists, and later trained an additional 1,100 maintenance personnel at Bitburg.
On 15 April 1977, the 1 TFW acquired a new mission, it assumed responsibility for the 6th Airborne Command and Control Squadron's EC-135 aircraft and crews, previously assigned to the 4500th Air Base Wing at Langley. The 6 ACCS flew EC-135 airborne command posts in support of US Commander-in-Chief Atlantic (USCINCLANT) with deployments throughout the Atlantic region until early 1992. 1st Fighter Wing participation in world-wide deployments and training exercises continued through the 1980s. The Wing served in countries throughout Europe, Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Central America.
Southwest Asia operations
The training and experience gained was called upon in the summer of 1990, when Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait. On 7 August 1990, the 27th and 71st Tactical Fighter Squadrons began deploying to Saudi Arabia as the first American combat units on the ground in Saudi Arabia, in support of the defense of the Arabian peninsula from further Iraqi aggression -- an operation dubbed Operation Desert Shield. In all, the 1 TFW deployed 48 aircraft to the Persian Gulf. By 16 January 1991, when Desert Shield came to a close, the Wing amassed 4,207 sorties patrolling the Kuwait and Iraq border areas.
At 0115 local Saudi Arabia time, on 17 January 1991, sixteen 1st Tactical Fighter Wing F-15s departed King Abdul-Aziz Air Base and flew toward Iraq to participate in Operation Desert Storm, the liberation of Kuwait from the Iraqis.
During the first night of the operation, Captain Steven Tate of the 71st Tactical Fighter Squadron, shot down an Iraqi F-1 Mirage, which turned out to be the wing's only kill during the war. It was also the first combat credit awarded to the wing under command of the U.S. Air Force. Upon its return on 8 March 1991, the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing had amassed a total of 2,564 sorties during Operation Desert Storm.
The end of the First Gulf War did not bring an end to the Wing's support in Southwest Asia. Monitoring the southern no-fly zone, the 1st provided six-month coverage every year under Operation Southern Watch and Operation Northern Watch. In October 1994, when Saddam Hussein again placed forces near the Kuwaiti border, the Wing participated in a short-notice deployment, Operation Vigilant Warrior.
Operation Vigilant Warrior demonstrated the need for an Air Force capability of providing combat air power globally at short notice. This requirement resulted in the concept of the Air Expeditionary Force (AEF.) During AEF II, the 1st Fighter Wing deployed 12 F-15s and over 600 personnel to Shaheed Mwaffaq Air Base, Jordan, from 12 April-28 June 1996. Wing members built and operated from the bare base, and provided support to Operation Southern Watch, supporting UN sanctions and enforcing the no-fly zones in Iraq.
On 25 June 1996, a fuel truck loaded with explosives detonated outside the Khobar Towers Housing area, in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The bomb took the lives of 19 Air Force members, including five airmen of the 71st Rescue Squadron, and consequently the 1st Fighter Wing relocated its Southwest Asia operations from Dhahran to Al Kharj.
On 11 September 2001, the 1st Fighter Wing took to the skies to simultaneously defend the east and west coasts of the US against further terrorist attacks. The 1st Wing's F-15s were among the first fighters on scene over Washington D.C. and remained on station continuously for the next six months. The 1st Fighter Wing simultaneously participated in the US homeland defense mission in Operation Noble Eagle; maintained its lead wing status in the USAF's expeditionary air force (AEF) rotations to Southwest Asia, Turkey, enforcing UN no-fly zone sanctions in Operation Southern Watch Operation
(photo; Captain John Holovich, a 71st Fighter Squadron F-15 pilot, looks back as his wing men checks for a possible maintenance issue during a training sortie off the coast of North Carolina February 22, 2006. (U.S. Air Force Photo by TSgt Ben Bloker)
Northern Watch until 2003; and deployed fighters to Keflavík, Iceland to fulfill NATO treaty obligations.
During the Second Gulf War in 2003, the 71st Fighter Squadron deployed again to Southwest Asia. In 2005, the 27th and 94th Fighter Squadrons became the first squadrons in the world to achieve operational status flying the F-22 Raptor.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Ben Bloker)
This site was last updated 10/31/09