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.