21st Fighter Squadron
In 1992, the Peace Fenghuang Program was approved by Congress under the signature of then-President George H.W. Bush. Peace Fenghuang is Chinese for Phoenix, the mystical Egyptian bird that arose from ashes, and the name is based on the fact that a similar program had been proposed but subsequently canceled by then-President Jimmy Carter. The current program is in excess of $5.9 billion and is the second-largest foreign military sales program in the history of the U.S. Air Force.
Training foreign pilots is not new to Luke Air Force Base. The first foreign students to train in the Valley of the Sun were Chinese pilots during World War II. In February 1942, the first Chinese pilots were trained in the P-40 Warhawk, P-47 Thunderbolt and eventually the P-51 Mustang. These pilots had a major impact in the defense of China. Many of these pilots became members of a Taiwan squadron designated 21st Fighter Squadron Blackjacks. The Blackjacks were one of the most successful squadrons during the war and were unmatched in their aerial victories against Japanese forces. Concurrently, the U.S. 21st Fighter Squadron was in the China theater attacking Japanese forces with the P-40 Warhawk and P-51 Mustang. It was in recognition of the exploits of both of these squadrons that the 21st Fighter Squadron Gamblers were activated at Luke.
The 21st Fighter Squadron began training Taiwan pilots in February 1997, 55 years to the month that the first Chinese pilots began training at Luke.
In the spirit of the legendary phoenix, the squadron rose from the dust at Luke to win the illustrious Frank Luke Jr. Award, recognizing the best squadron in the world’s largest fighter wing, in its first year of existence. That stellar feat was followed by a repeat performance in 1998, which was the first time in 60 years a squadron won the award two consecutive years.
56th Operations Group
The 56th Operations Group, headquartered in Bldg. 997, has operational control and responsibility for the entire fighter training mission at Luke Air Force Base and two other geographic locations. The group is composed of an operations support squadron, a training squadron, an air control squadron, three fighter squadrons for the F-35 Lightning II, four fighter squadrons for the F-16 Fighting Falcon, one fighter squadron for the F-15C and a detachment.
56th Operations Support Squadron
The 56th Operations Support Squadron (OSS) is responsible for providing a world-class training environment for the 56th Fighter Wing. The 56th OSS provides airfield management services, air traffic control, weather forecasting and warning services, weapons and tactics expertise, aircrew training management, aircrew flight equipment training, operations scheduling, and flight records management for a 10-squadron fighter operations group. Additionally, the OSS manages an annual flying hour program of about 50,000 hours and 38,000 sorties.
56th Training Squadron
The 56th Training Squadron’s (TRS) mission is to provide academic and ground-based instruction to support training the world’s finest F-35 and F-16 pilots. The 56th TRS trains almost half the Air Force’s new fighter pilots each year. It conducts F-35 and F-16 academic and device training in accordance with major command formal syllabi, including initial instruction, transition courses, senior officer courses, Thunderbird and aggressor pilot instruction, forward air control, night systems and Block 50 specialized conversion courses.
All 56th TRS training is conducted across six facilities at Luke AFB. This squadron provides Air Force acceptance and quality control of courseware and manages all aircrew training devices for the 56th Fighter Wing.
61st Fighter Squadron
The 61st Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor) was constituted Nov. 20, 1940. It was activated Jan. 15, 1941, in Savannah, Georgia, training in P-39 Airacobra and P-40 Warhawks. The 61st moved to Charlotte, North Carolina, in May 1941 and again to Charleston, South Carolina, in December 1941, to help defend the East Coast. In November 1942, P-47 dive test pilots achieved 725 mph, faster than the speed of sound. In 1944, it was recognized as the first fighter squadron in the European theater to score more than 100 victories. During 1943 to 1945, the 61st produced 19 aces, the highest of any squadron in Europe, destroying 248 aircraft in the air and 67.5 aircraft on the ground. It was inactivated October 1945 at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, and reactivated at Selfridge Field, Michigan, training in P-47s while transitioning to P-51 Mustangs. In April 1950, the 61st transitioned to the F-80 Shooting Star and later was the first squadron to fly the F-86A Sabre. The 61st was inactivated July 25, 1960, at Truax Field, Wisconsin, flying the F-102 Delta Dagger. In June 1975, the 61st was reactivated at MacDill AFB, Florida, flying the F-4 Phantom (later the F-4D). In April 1980, the flying mission changed to the F-16 A/B Fighting Falcon. The 61st transitioned in June 1988 to flying the F-16 C/D and the squadron was inactivated at MacDill AFB in January 1994. The squadron was reactivated April 1, 1994, at Luke AFB, replacing the former 314th Fighter Squadron flying the F-16 C/D Fighting Falcon. The squadron’s current mission is to train the world’s finest F-35 pilots. Their nickname is “Top Dogs.” The squadron stood down Aug. 27, 2010, and reactivated Oct. 25, 2013. The 61st was Luke AFB’s first squadron to fly the F-35A, the Air Force’s newest fighter. Its first F-35A arrived at Luke AFB March 10, 2014, and an official unveiling ceremony was held March 14, 2014.
62nd Fighter Squadron
With American involvement in World War II looming on the horizon, the 62nd Fighter Squadron (FS) “Spikes” were constituted as the 62nd Pursuit Squadron as part of the 56th Pursuit Group at Savannah Air Base, Georgia, Jan. 15, 1941. The squadron immediately began training for its wartime missions, rapidly transitioning through the P-35, P-36, P-39 and P-40 aircraft. On Dec. 7, 1941, the 62nd FS stepped up to defend the northeastern United States from anticipated enemy air attack while it converted to the P-47 aircraft and prepared to deploy overseas.
The squadron arrived in England Jan. 9, 1943. It was declared operationally ready two months later and flew its first combat missions April 13. Two years later, the 62nd FS had emerged as one of the premier fighter squadrons in Europe. Among its accomplishments were the first P-47 ground attack mission, the first operational use of rockets by a fighter and the destruction of 357 enemy aircraft. The squadron participated in the Big Week that secured Allied air superiority, escorted the first daylight bombing mission over Berlin, conducted interdiction missions during the Normandy invasion and provided air support during the Battle of the Bulge. On Oct. 11, 1945, the 62nd FS departed England and returned to the United States aboard the Queen Elizabeth.
As the newly organized U.S. Air Force developed a new mission, so did the 62nd FS. Flying the P-51 and P-80, the squadron performed escort duty for Strategic Air Command bombers, deploying to Alaska and Europe in this role.
In 1948, the Spikes converted to the interceptor role, a mission the squadron would maintain until 1971. Stationed in the northern tier of the United States, the 62nd Fighter Interceptor Squadron flew the P-80, F-86 and F-101 on patrol against the ever-present Soviet bomber threat. A highlight from this era was the squadron capturing top F-101 squadron honors at the William Tell 1965 U.S. Air Force Worldwide Weapons Meet.
On Sept. 1, 1974, the squadron began its long history as a fighter training unit. Activating at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, the 62nd assumed the mission of training F-4 and F-106 weapons instructors at the United States Air Force Interceptor Weapons School. The following October, the flag moved again — this time to rejoin the 56th Tactical Fighter Wing at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida — and begin training F-4 crews for tactical units around the world.
On Jan. 1, 1981, the squadron transitioned to the F-16 Fighting Falcon and continued to train fighter pilots until the squadron’s inactivation May 12, 1993. The 62nd FS was reactivated March 18, 1994, at Luke Air Force Base, where it currently flies the F-16 Block 25 aircraft. Honors earned by the 62nd FS include two Distinguished Unit citations, 16 Air Force Outstanding Unit awards and seven campaign ribbons.
The 62nd FS reactivated with the F-35A in January 2015 and will train F-35 Lightning II fighter pilots as a joint international effort between Italy, Norway and the United States. Italian, Norwegian and American pilots will fly Italian, Norwegian and American F-35s under the guidance of American instructor pilots.
63RD FIGHTER SQUADRON
The 63rd Fighter Squadron (FS) was activated Jan. 15, 1941, at Savannah Air Base, Georgia, as the 63rd Pursuit Squadron. It was originally assigned to the 56th Pursuit Group, which, like many pursuit squadrons organized in the early 1940s, initially flew Curtis P-35 and P-36 Hawks. A year later the 63rd FS came under control of the 1st Interceptor Command and switched to the Curtiss P-40 Warhawks. A few months later it was re-designated a fighter unit and began flying the new Republic P-47 Thunderbolt. In 1943, the 63rd FS moved to Camp Kilmer, New Jersey, then to England where it became one of the most successful squadrons in the USAAF during WWII. Flying escort for fighter sweeps ahead of U.S. bomber fleets, the pilots destroyed 167.5 enemy aircraft in the air and 110 on the ground. After Germany’s surrender, the 63rd FS returned to Camp Kilmer until inactivation Oct. 18, 1945. A year later, it reopened with the 56th FG at Selfridge Field, Michigan, and briefly transitioned to the North American P-51 Mustang. In 1947, the 63rd FS became one of the first fighter squadrons equipped with the new Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star.
Three years later, North American F-86A Sabres arrived, and then in 1954, Northrop F-89 Scorpions became the 63rd’s newest fighters. The squadron was again inactivated Nov. 1, 1957, and reactivated June 30, 1975, as the 63rd Tactical Fighter Squadron at MacDill AFB, Florida. Its mission was to train pilots and weapons systems officers for the F-4 Phantom II. The name changed slightly, but the mission stayed the same when the F-16A Fighting Falcon arrived and the 63rd FS became a tactical fighter training squadron in 1981. On March 12, 1993, the 63rd FS transferred to Luke AFB, where it now flies the Block 42, F-16CG. Campaigns the “Panthers” have supported include the Normandy Invasion, Battle of the Bulge, Remagen Bridgehead and Invasion of Holland. Honors earned by the 63rd include two Distinguished Unit Citations, seven campaign streamers and the American Theater Service streamer.
The 63rd FS stood down May 22, 2009, and realigned with the 310th Fighter Squadron “Top Hats” to remain on base as a piece of Luke’s history.
The 63rd FS reactivated with the F-35A in August 2016 and trains F-35 Lightning II fighter pilots as a joint international effort between Turkey and the United States. Turkish and American pilots fly both Turkish and American F-35s under the guidance of American instructor pilots.
309th Fighter Squadron
The 309th Fighter Squadron (FS) was constituted Jan. 30, 1942, as the 309th Pursuit Squadron. Arriving in England in May 1942, it was designated as the 309th FS and began combat operations after trading its P-39 Airacobras for British Spitfires.
From August 1942 to July 1943, the Wild Ducks spearheaded air offenses over North Africa and later participated in the invasion of Sicily while flying the P-51 Mustang. After the conquest of Sicily, the 309th FS began patrolling the sky over Italy and conducting bomber escort and ground attack missions during the two-year Italian campaign.
After World War II, the 309th converted to the F-84 while at Langley Field, Virginia, and in 1948, completed the first jet fighter trans-Pacific deployment. In 1957, the squadron transitioned to the F-100 Super Sabre and was redesignated as the 309th Tactical Fighter Squadron. The Wild Ducks flew combat operations in Southeast Asia from 1966 to 1970. While stationed at Tuy Hoa Air Base, Vietnam, the 309th proved their capabilities during all three Vietnam Air Offensives, including Operation Rolling Thunder.
Returning to Homestead Air Force Base, Florida, the 309th FS traded the F-100 for the F-4 and flew the Phantom II from 1970 to 1986. In 1986, the squadron converted to the F-16. The squadron arrived at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina, in August 1992, narrowly escaping the devastation of Hurricane Andrew, and was later inactivated in January 1994. After its arrival at Luke AFB, the 309th was reactivated April 8, 1994.
The Wild Ducks have produced 14 aces, totaling 161 kills among them. The 309th FS also has received numerous awards, including two Air Force Outstanding Unit awards, two Distinguished Unit citations, one Presidential Unit Citation and one Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm. In addition, the Wild Ducks have participated in 25 campaigns from World War II to Southeast Asia.
The squadron emblem is a 1944 Walt Disney Productions copyrighted design. It symbolizes the fighter mission and celestial navigation pioneered by this squadron, its around-the-clock mission readiness and its striking power.
310th Fighter Squadron
The Top Hats of the 310th Fighter Squadron (FS) trace their roots to January 1942, when the unit began as the 310th Pursuit Squadron. It was formally activated Feb. 9, 1942, and was attached to the 58th Pursuit Group at Harding Field, Louisiana, where its pilots trained replacements to fly the Bell P-39 Airacobra aircraft.
Named a fighter squadron May 15, 1942, at Dale Mabry Field, Florida, the 310th FS continued training pilots for the P-39 Airacobra, Curtiss P-40 Warhawk and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft. During World War II, the 310th FS saw combat in the Southwest Pacific Theater and earned several awards including the Distinguished Unit Citation for action in the Philippine Islands Dec. 26, 1944, and the Philippine Presidential Unit Citation.
After World War II, the 310th inactivated until 1952, when it was redesignated the 310th Fighter Bomber Squadron in the 58th Fighter Bomber Group July 10, 1952, at Taegu Air Base, Republic of Korea. First equipped with the Republic F-84G Thunderjet from 1952, the squadron adopted the North American F-86 Sabrejet in 1954 and kept it through 1958. During the Korean conflict, the squadron flew primarily air-to-ground missions supporting ground operations.
Participating in the Korea Summer-Fall 1952, Third Korean Winter and Korean Summer-Fall 1953 campaigns, the squadron again distinguished itself, earning the Republic of Korea Presidential Unit Citation. Osan Air Base, Korea, became the home of the 310th FS March 19, 1955, and it stayed there until its inactivation in 1962.
In 1958, the 310th gave up its F-86s when it became the 310th Missile Squadron on June 15, assigned to the 58th Tactical Missile Group. It remained the home of the surface-to-surface Matador missile until 1962, when the missile left service, and the 310th FS inactivated March 25, 1962.
On Dec. 1, 1969, the squadron resurfaced as the 310th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron; two weeks later, on Dec. 15, 1969, it formally joined other units at Luke AFB. It has been here since, training pilots or weapons systems officers, first for the LTV A-7D Corsair II, then the McDonnell-Douglas F-4C Phantom II. In 1989, the first Block 42 F-16C/D in the Air Force inventory was delivered to the 58th Tactical Training Wing at Luke AFB.
On Dec. 26, 1989, the Top Hats were the first unit to deliver live ordnance on an uncontrolled range at night using the Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night, or LANTIRN, navigation pod. Additionally, they became the Air Force’s first and only F-16 LANTIRN training squadron.
On Oct. 1 and Nov. 19, 1997, the 310 FS significantly expanded its mission to include forward air controller airborne and night vision goggles training. Additionally, the 310 FS developed and implemented the first Mobile Training Team concept of training for Air Education and Training Command (AETC). With this concept, AETC is able to train additional students off-station with no loss in training at Luke Air Force Base.
On Nov. 24, 2008, the 310 FS transitioned from dedicated night systems training to teaching all Luke AFB syllabi. The 310 FS graduated its first B-course (initial F-16 student training) Aug. 3, 2009. The 310 FS still remains the Air Force’s only F-16 FACA schoolhouse.
425th Fighter Squadron
Constituted as the 425th Night Fighter Squadron Nov. 23, 1943, and activated Dec. 1, 1943, the 425th Fighter Squadron (FS) was originally assigned to Orlando Air Base, Florida.
On Jan. 30, 1944, the 425th was reassigned to bases in California before arriving at its first European station at Chormy Down, England, May 26, 1944. The 425th flew to its first home base on the European continent, Vannes, France, Aug. 18, 1944. Aircraft, men and equipment of the 425th moved north along with the Allied advance against the Axis and Germany, on May 2, 1945, just six days before VE Day May 8, 1945. During the air war in Europe, the 425th flew the YP-61, A-20, P-61 and P-70 aircraft. The unit flew and fought in support of the Allied war effort in Normandy, Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe.
Between Sept. 9, 1945, and Sept. 1, 1946, the 425th was reassigned to various bases in California before being moved to McChord Field in Washington. On Aug. 25, 1947, the 425th was inactivated.
On Oct. 15, 1969, the 425th was reactivated at Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, as the 425th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron and assigned to the 58th Tactical Fighter Training Wing at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. The squadron’s new mission with the 58th TFTW was to train aircrews from allied nations to fly and fight in the F-5. This training was accomplished at Williams Air Force Base and also at bases in those nations. On April 6, 1973, the first F-5E Tiger II was delivered to the 425th FS and gave the air forces of friendly nations a capability similar to that enjoyed by Soviet client nations whose forces were equipped with the MiG-21.
On June 21, 1989, the squadron’s F-5 training program terminated after having produced 1,499 graduates. The 425th was inactivated Sept. 1, 1989. On Dec. 30, 1992, the 425th was reactivated at Luke AFB under the designation 425th FS “Black Widows.” The squadron re-established its foreign military training mission by providing advanced weapons and tactics continuation for the Republic of Singapore air force’s F-16 aircrew and maintenance personnel. Republic of Singapore’s air forces aircrew and maintenance personnel are assigned to the 425th FS for two years. During their tour of duty they receive advanced tactics training, participate in Red Flag, shoot live missiles at Combat Archer and deploy to locations throughout the U.S. to participate in composite operations and air combat exercises.
56th Operations Group Detachment 1 Tucson
The 56th Operations Group, Det. 1 (56th OG/Det. 1), stationed at Tucson International Airport, supports the 162nd Fighter Wing’s F-16 Formal Training Unit (FTU). The Arizona Air National Guard wing’s mission is to provide F-16-qualified pilots to the active-duty U.S. Air Force, Air National Guard and 25 partner nations. The 56th OG/Det. 1 consists of a small cadre of highly qualified F-16 instructor pilots who bring recent operational experience and expertise in F-16 systems and tactics to the FTU. These instructor pilots instruct in all aspects of the F-16 Basic Course, as well as augment Mobile Training Teams (MTT) sent abroad for “in-country” flight instruction with partner nations. These MTTs are critical to integrating with America’s coalition partners and go a long way to foster stronger international relations.
607th Air Control Squadron
The 607th Air Control Squadron’s (ACS) distinguished history dates back to its activation Dec. 12, 1945, and spans combat operations from the Korean War to Operation Southern Watch. The 607th ACS earned multiple unit decorations and campaign streamers, including two distinguished unit citations, two Republic of Korea Presidential Unit citations and nine campaign streamers earned while deployed during the Korean War. In 1999, the 607th ACS was reorganized and tasked with Command and Control Reporting Center training and remains the Combined Air Forces’ only CRC formal training unit.
The 607th ACS conducts formal undergraduate weapons director qualification training and initial qualification training for five ACS crew positions. ACS personnel specialize in command and control tactics, techniques and procedures, providing air surveillance and battle management. The training provides an understanding of tactical air employment and theater-level execution, increasing mission effectiveness through mission crew and aircrew interface.
The 607th ACS provides highly qualified surveillance technicians, weapons directors, interface control technicians, electronic protection technicians and air battle managers for joint forces and theater commanders with a worldwide mobile command and control capability for the conduct of offensive and defensive missions. Graduates are capable of deploying anywhere in the world on short notice. Today, the 607th ACS is the principal ground control radar support unit for the 56th Fighter Wing and 944th Fighter Wing at Luke AFB, the 355th Wing and 162nd FW from Tucson and other aircraft operating in local airspace. This 180-person unit maintains radar, communications and computer equipment worth more than $110 million.
550TH FIGHTER SQUADRON
The 550th Fighter Squadron reactivated at Kingsley Field, Oregon July 21, 2017. In 2014, a detachment was stood up as a part of the Total Force Integration (TFI), which brought active-duty Airman to Kingsley Field for the first time. They were originally designated as Detachment 2, 56th Operations Group. As a combined operations, maintenance, and support squadron, the 550th “Silver Eagles” is one of the largest squadrons in Air Education and Training Command. The 550th Fighter Squadron falls under the command of the 56th Operations Group at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, but will operate out of Kingsley Field alongside the Oregon Air National Guardsmen.
The TFI is designed to bolster Kingsley’s mission with additional Air Force active-duty Airmen stationed at the Air National Guard base to increase the number of pilots trained in a given period of time. The TFI was initiated after the Chief of Staff of the Air Force directed increased production of F-15C pilots. To achieve this goal the Air Force recognized the need for additional aircraft and manpower at the 173rd Fighter Wing, the sole F-15C training base for the USAF. Currently, nearly 100 active-duty Airmen belonging to the 550th Fighter Squadron reside in the Klamath Basin.