144th Fighter Wing
|144th Fighter Wing|
Block 25 F-16C Fighting Falcon 84-1247 of the 194th Fighter Squadron
|Branch||Air National Guard|
|Part of||California Air National Guard|
|Garrison/HQ||Fresno Air National Guard Base, Fresno, California|
|Col Sami Said|
|144th Fighter Wing|
|Fighter||18 F-16C Fighting Falcon|
|Trainer||1 F-16D Fighting Falcon|
|Transport||1 C-26A Metroliner|
The 144th Fighter Wing (144 FW) is a unit of the California Air National Guard, stationed at Fresno Air National Guard Base, California. As part of the Air Reserve Component of the United States Air Force, the wing is operationally gained by the Air Combat Command.
The 144th Fighter Wing's mission is to provide air defense protection for California and the United States from the Mexican border to Oregon utilizing the F-16 Fighting Falcon jet fighter aircraft. The 144th also supports the nation's Counter Drug Program and responds to state emergencies when requested by the Governor of California. The wing's current inventory of aircraft includes 18 F-16Cs, one F-16D (a two place fighter trainer), one F-15C fighter and one C-26A transport.
The 144th Fighter Wing is composed of the following units:
- 144th Operations Group
- 144th Maintenance Group
- 144th Mission Support Group
- 144th Medical Group.
World War II
Activated in October 1943 as the 372d Fighter Group at Hamilton Field, California. During World War II, the squadron was an Operational Training Unit (OTU), equipped with second-line P-39 Aircobras and P-40 Warhawks. Its mission was to train newly-graduated pilots from Training Command in combat tactics and maneuvers before being assigned to their permanent combat unit. Initially assigned to IV Fighter Command, then transferred to III Fighter Command in 1944, being re-equipped with P-51D Mustangs. It took part in air-ground maneuvers and demonstrations, participating in the Louisiana Maneuvers in the summer of 1944 and in similar activities in the US until after V-J Day.
Inactivated in November 1945.
California Air National Guard
The wartime 372d Fighter Group was re-activated and re-designated as the 144th Fighter Group, and was allotted to the California Air National Guard, on 24 May 1946. It was organized at Naval Air Station Alameda, California, and was extended federal recognition on 2 June 1948 by the National Guard Bureau. The 144th Fighter Group was bestowed the lineage, history, honors, and colors of the 372d Fighter Group and all predecessor units. The Group was assigned to the California ANG 61st Fighter Wing.
Upon activation, operational squadrons of the 144th Fighter Group were:
- 191st Fighter Squadron, Utah ANG, Salt Lake City Municipal Airport, Salt Lake City, Utah
- 192d Fighter Squadron, Nevada ANG, Hubbard Field, Las Vegas, Nevada
- 194th Fighter Squadron, California ANG, Naval Air Station Alameda, California,
The three squadrons were all re-designations of the 372d Fighter Group's operational squadrons during World War II. All were initially equipped with F-51D Mustangs, with a mission of air defense of their respective states.
The postwar era was a time of organization and expansion of the Air National Guard. The units had to be organized, federally recognized, equipped and stationed. The first several years were difficult as units had to contend with worn-out World War II aircraft while the Air Force converted to modern jet fighters. Air Guard units were under-funded and largely left to themselves to conduct training with little assistance and supervision by the Air Force.
However, as a result of using wartime aircraft, parts were no problem and many of the maintenance personnel were World War II veterans so readiness was quite high and the planes were often much better maintained than their USAF counterparts. In some ways, the postwar Air National Guard was almost like a flying country club and a pilot could often show up at the field, check out an aircraft and go flying. However, the unit also had regular military exercises that kept up proficiency and in gunnery and bombing contests they would often score at least as well or better than active-duty USAF units, given the fact that most ANG pilots were World War II USAAF combat veterans.
144th Fighter Wing
In 1949, the 144th and its assigned 194th Fighter Squadron moved from NAS Alameda to the former Hayward Army Airfield, designated as Hayward Air National Guard Base. At the end of October 1950, the Air National Guard converted to the wing-base (Hobson Plan) organization. As a result, the 61st Fighter Wing was withdrawn from the California ANG and was inactivated on 31 October 1950. The 144th Fighter Wing was established by the National Guard Bureau, allocated to the state of California, recognized and activated 1 November 1950; assuming the personnel, equipment and mission of the inactivated 61st Fighter Wing. The 144th Fighter Group was assigned to the new wing as its operational group with the three fighter squadrons.
Air Defense Mission
With the surprise invasion of South Korea on 25 June 1950, and the regular military's complete lack of readiness, most of the Air National Guard was federalized placed on active duty. The squadrons of the 144th Fighter Group were retained by the Air National Guard and not deployed, however numerous pilots from all three of the groups squadrons volunteered for combat duty. The F-51Ds were exchanged for F-51H Mustangs in 1951, as the "D" model of the Mustang was needed for close air support missions in Korea. The F-51H was a Very Long Range version of the Mustang, which was developed to escort B-29 Superfortress bombers to Japan, but not considered rugged enough to be used in Korea. The increased range, however was well-suited for air defense interceptor alert flights. During its years with the P-51H, the unit earned prominence as one of the Air Force's most respected aerial gunnery competitors. In June 1953, while still flying the Mustang, the unit qualified for the first all-jet, worldwide gunnery meet. Using borrowed F-86A Sabre jets, the 144th, which
With the increased availability of jet aircraft after the Korean War, the squadron's aircraft were upgraded from the piston-engine, propeller driven F-51H to its first jet aircraft, the F-86A Sabre Day Interceptor in 1954. At the same time, the 194th relocated to Fresno Yosemite International Airport, followed by the wing in 1957. On 7 July 1955, the 144th was re-designated as the 194th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, a designation kept by the squadron for the next 37 years. With the F-86A, the 144th began standing dusk-to-dawn alerts, joining its Air Defense Command active-duty counterparts.
The 194th continued to fly the F-86A until 31 March 1958. On April 1, 1958, the transition was made to the F-86L Sabre Interceptor, which was designed from the onset as an interceptor, had all-weather capability and was able to be used in all weather. In addition, the F-86L could be controlled and directed by the SAGE computer-controlled Ground Control Interceptor (Radar) sites which would vector the aircraft to the unidentified target for interception.
In 1958, the Nevada and Utah Air National Guard were authorized to expand to a Group level. The 152d Fighter-Interceptor Group, Nevada ANG was federally recognized on 19 April 1958; the 151st Fighter-Interceptor Group, Utah ANG on 1 July 1958. With Nevada and Utah forming their own command and control structure, command and control of the 191st and 192d FIS were transferred to their state organizations.
On July 1, 1964, the 194th began flying the F-102A Delta Dagger Mach-2 supersonic interceptor and continued flying this aircraft until 24 July 1974. On 25 July 1974, the 194th brought the improved F-106 Delta Dart into service, and continued to fly this aircraft until 31 December 1983. On 1 October 1978 Aerospace Defense Command was inactivated, its units being re-assigned to Air Defense, Tactical Air Command (ADTAC). which was established compatible to a Numbered Air Force under TAC. TAC replaced the aging F-106s on 1 January 1984 with F-4D Phantom IIs, being used in the air defense interceptor mission.
The 144th Fighter-Interceptor Wing started receiving their first F-16A Fighting Falcons on 1 October 1989. These were of the block 15 type, replacing the F-4D in the air defense and attack roles. The block 15 aircraft weren’t exactly suited to the dedicated air defense mission the squadron was tasked to. This was fixed with the Air Defense Fighter (ADF) upgrade these aircraft received during 1990.
Effective 16 March 1992, the 144th Fighter-Interceptor Wing was re-designated as the 144th Fighter Wing (144th FW), with all related Fighter Interceptor Groups and Squadrons becoming Fighter Groups and Fighter Squadrons. On 1 June 1992, the 144th FW was reassigned to Air Combat Command.
During this time the 194th FS also had an alert detachment at George AFB in Victorville, California. George AFB was closed in 1992 due to BRAC action as part of the overall downsizing of the US military after the Cold War and the alert detachment moved to March Air Force Base, since renamed March Air Reserve Base due to a later BRAC action. In 1995, the squadron transitioned to the more F-16C Fighting Falcon Block 25 aircraft.
The 144th Fighter Wing was the busiest dedicated air defense wing in the country during 1999, with deployments to eight countries and more than a half-dozen states. Combat training had many highlights throughout the year. Fifty wing members deployed five F-16s to Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, to participate in the Navy's annual joint combat training exercise. Members of the unit also traveled to Tyndall AFB, Florida for Combat Archer which provided an opportunity for live fire weapons training. To top off the year, six dozen members and six aircraft deployed to Nellis AFB, Nevada between October 24 and November 7 for Red Flag. During the opening minutes of the exercise, a 144th Fighter Wing four-ship flight killed four actual MiG-29s. These were the first-ever MiG-29 kills in a Red Flag exercise.
Other squadrons within the Wing also had a chance to travel during 1999. The Civil Engineering Squadron's Fire Department deployed to Sheppard AFB, Texas for training, and 44 members of the Services Flight trained at Tyndall AFB, Florida. Fifty- five members of the Medical Squadron received medical readiness training at Alpena, Michigan.
After having flown for 11 years with the F-16 Block 25 aircraft, a number of those came to the end of their operational lifespan. It was therefore decided that the aircraft of the 194th FS were to be replaced with F-16C Block 32 aircraft. The conversion to these block 32 models started in December 2006 and was gradually completed by the end of 2007.
The 144th FW started the conversion process to F-15C Eagles from the Montana Air National Guard with the arrival of the first of 21 F-15s on June 18, 2013.  The 144th FW launched it's first two F-15 training sorties on October 16, 2013 and the last F-16 departed the 144th FW on November 7, 2013, accompanied by two F-15's.
- Constituted as 372d Fighter Group on 12 October 1943
- Activated on 28 October 1943
- Re-designated 372d Fighter-Bomber Group in April 1944
- Re-designated 372d Fighter Group in June 1944
- Inactivated on 7 November 1945
- Re-designated 144th Fighter Group and allotted to California ANG on 24 May 1946.
- Extended federal recognition and activated on 2 June 1948
- Established as 144th Fighter Wing and allotted to California ANG, 31 October 1950
- Organized and received federal recognition, 1 November 1950, assuming personnel and equipment of 61st Fighter Wing (Inactivated)
- 144th Fighter Group assigned as subordinate unit
- Re-designated: 144th Fighter-Bomber Wing, 1 December 1952
- Group re-designated 144th Fighter-Bomber Group
- Re-designated: 144th Fighter-Interceptor Wing, 7 July 1955
- Group re-designated 144th Fighter-Interceptor Group
- 144th Fighter-Interceptor Group inactivated 30 June 1974
- Re-designated: 144th Fighter Wing, 16 March 1992
- Group re-activated and re-designated 144th Operations Group
- IV Fighter Command, 28 October 1943
- III Fighter Command, 29 March 1944-7 November 1945
- 61st Fighter Wing, 2 June 1948
- California Air National Guard, 31 October 1950
- Gained by: Western Air Defense Force, Air Defense Command
- Gained by: San Francisco Air Defense Sector, Air Defense Command, 1 July 1960
- Gained by: 26th Air Division, Air Defense Command, 1 April 1966
- Gained by: 26th Air Division, Aerospace Defense Command, 1 January 1970
- Gained by: Air Defense, Tactical Air Command (ADTAC), 1 October 1979
- Gained by: First Air Force, Tactical Air Command, 9 December 1985
- Gained by: Northwest Air Defense Sector (NWADS), 1 July 1987
- Gained by: Western Air Defense Sector (WADS), 1 October 1997-Present
- 144th Operations Group, 16 March 1992 – Present
- 407th Fighter Squadron: 15 October 1943-7 November 1945
- Re-designated: 191st Fighter (later Fighter-Bomber; Fighter-Interceptor) Squadron, 18 November 1946-1 July 1958 (Utah ANG)
- 408th Fighter Squadron: 15 October 1943-7 November 1945
- Re-designated: 192d Fighter (later Fighter-Bomber, Fighter-Interceptor) Squadron, 25 June 1948-19 April 1958 (Nevada ANG)
- 409th Fighter Squadron: 15 October 1943-7 November 1945
- Re-designated: 194th Fighter (later Fighter-Interceptor, Fighter-Bomber, Fighter-Interceptor, Fighter) Squadron, 2 June 1948-Present
- Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
- Rogers, B. (2006). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. ISBN 1-85780-197-0
- Cornett, Lloyd H. and Johnson, Mildred W., A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization 1946 - 1980, Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center, Peterson AFB, CO (1980).
- 144th Fighter Wing@globalsecurity.org
- 144th Fighter Wing website history page