|Active||1940–1946, 1955–1960, 1962–1970, 1971–present|
|Branch||United States Air Force|
|Role||Fighter, Airlift and Air Refueling|
|Part of||Pacific Air Forces|
|Garrison/HQ||Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii|
|Motto||Prosequor Alis (I Pursue with Wings) (1942-1992)|
|Engagements||Pacific Ocean theater of World War II|
|Decorations||Distinguished Unit Citation
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
|Colonel John J. Roscoe|
|15th Wing emblem (approved 15 March 1963 based on emblem approved 5 October 1942)|
Its history goes back to World War II, when the 15th Pursuit Group was largely destroyed during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941. It later became a Twentieth Air Force group, providing Very Long Range (VLR) fighter escorts for the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers that attacked the Japanese home Islands.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (October 2012)|
The mission of the 15 WG states: Warrior Airmen projecting peace and power in the Pacific and beyond.
The first priority of the wing is ensure safe and reliable mission execution---effectively providing the Combatant Commander with flight-in-place capability and deployable forces.
The second priority is to maintain the health of the fleet to ensure safe and reliable mission execution---partnership with the 15th and 154th Maintenance Groups to provide persistent weapons systems sustainment and mission readiness in support of Design Operational Capability statements and OPlan taskings.
The third priority is to optimize the human weapons system and enhance family readiness---maintaining professional, fit and resilient Airmen who feel a sense of community and whose families are supported and understand their role in maximizing their role in mission readiness.
The fourth priority is to ensure seamless integration of installation support into the 15 WG's combat mission execution---creating zero road blocks in the ability of the wing to accomplish assigned missions.
A major responsibility of the wing is providing maintenance and refueling for aircraft transiting JBPHH between the Continental U.S. and the Western Pacific, as well as housing and feeding transient personnel.
The 15 WG is composed of three groups each with specific functions. The operations group controls all flying and airfield operations. The maintenance group performs aircraft and aircraft support equipment maintenance. The medical group provides medical and dental care. The remaining functions of the wing fall under the Wing staff agencies.
JBPHH is also host to numerous tenant organizations. The Air Force side of the installation supports 140 tenant and associate units.
World War II
The unit was originally constituted as the 15th Pursuit Group (Fighter) and was activated at Wheeler Field, Hawaii, on 1 December 1940 as part of the defense force for the Hawaiian Islands. The original squadrons of the group were:
A little more than a year later, on 7 December 1941, it engaged in combat action during the Japanese attack on military installations in Hawaii. Bombing and strafing attacks that morning by carrier-based planes of the Japanese strike force destroyed many assigned aircraft and caused heavy casualties; however, 12 of the group's pilots succeeded in launching their Curtiss P-36 Hawk and Curtiss P-40 aircraft from Wheeler and Haleiwa Fields, flew a total of 16 sorties, and destroyed 10 Japanese planes. Second Lieutenants George S. Welch and Kenneth M. Taylor, P-40 pilots assigned to the 47th Pursuit Squadron, shot down four and two, respectively, and were later cited for extraordinary heroism during the attack. Both received the Distinguished Service Cross.
With the outbreak of war, the group's primary mission remained the air defense of the Hawaiian Islands; but training pilots for combat became its secondary task. Aircraft flown for training during the war included the Curtiss A-12 Shrike, Grumman OA-9 Goose amphibious observation plane, Martin B-12, Boeing P-26 Peashooter, Curtiss P-36 Hawk, Bell P-39 Airacobra, Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, and the Republic P-47D Thunderbolt.
On 12 February 1942, the unit was redesignated the 15th Pursuit Group (Interceptor). Several months later, the unit was redesignated the 15th Fighter Group. That summer, the group's mission changed. Although defense of the islands continued to be an important responsibility, continuing to provide combat training for pilots became the primary mission for the next two years.
Additional squadrons, including the 6th Night Fighter Squadron, the 12th Fighter Squadron, and the 78th Fighter Squadron, were added to the group. The group deployed squadrons to the Central and South Pacific for operations against Japanese forces. Then, in April 1944, the remaining elements of the 15th Fighter Group returned to Hawaii and began training for very-long-range (VLR) bomber escort missions, obtaining North American P-51 Mustangs later in the year.
In January 1945, ordered into combat, the group left Hawaii for Saipan in the Marianas Islands, remaining there until a landing strip could be secured by the Marines on Iwo Jima. The first fighter aircraft to arrive at Iwo Jima were P-51s of the 15th's 47th Fighter Squadron the morning of 6 March, with the 45th and 78th Squadrons following the next day. They supported Marine ground units by bombing and strafing cave entrances, trenches, troop concentrations, and storage areas. By the middle of March, the group also began strikes against enemy airfields, shipping, and military installations in the Bonin Islands.
On 7 April 1945, the 15th flew its first Very Long Range (VLR) mission to Japan, providing fighter escort for the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers that attacked the Nakajima aircraft plant near Tokyo, and was awarded the Distinguished Unit Citation. In late April and early May that year, the 15th struck Japanese airfields on Kyūshū to curtail the enemy's suicide attacks against the invasion force on Okinawa and also hit enemy troop trains, small factories, gun positions, and hangars in the Bonins and Japan.
During the summer of 1945, the 15th Fighter Group (along with the 21st Fighter Group and the VII Fighter Command) were reassigned to Twentieth Air Force. The group continued its fighter sweeps against Japanese airfields and other targets, in addition to flying long-range B-29 Superfortress escort missions to Japanese cities, until the end of the war. After the war, the group remained on lwo Jima until 25 November 1945, when it transferred (without personnel and equipment) to Bellows Field, Hawaii. There it absorbed the personnel and equipment of the 508th Fighter Group. On 8 February 1946, the unit moved to Wheeler Field, where it remained until inactivated on 15 October 1946. Its personnel and equipment were transferred to the 81st Fighter Group, which assumed its mission, personnel land equipment.
Air Defense Command
The 15th was again activated on 18 August 1955 as the 15th Fighter Group (Air Defense) at Niagara Falls Municipal Airport, NY, where it replaced the 518th Air Defense Group as a result of Air Defense Command (ADC)'s Project Arrow, which was designed to bring back on the active list fighter units which had compiled memorable records during the two World Wars. There it was responsible for the air defense of an area that included Western and Northern New York and parts of Ontario, Canada. It was reunited with one of its former units, now designated the 47th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (FIS), which was already at Niagara Falls, where it had been assigned to the 518th. The 47th FIS was equipped with radar equipped and rocket armed North American F-86D Sabres. In the fall of 1957, the squadron upgraded to data link equipped F-86Ls and later, by the summer of 1958 to Convair F-102 Delta Dagger aircraft The group performed air defense operations for the 4707th Air Defense Wing and Syracuse Air Defense Sector until July 1960, when it was discontinued. The group was also assigned several support squadrons to perform its mission as USAF host unit for the active duty portions of Niagara Falls Airport.
Viet Nam War Era
On 1 July 1962, the 15th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) was organized by Tactical Air Command at MacDill AFB, Florida and assigned to the 836th Air Division. Operational squadrons of the wing and squadron tail codes were:
The wing was initially equipped with the obsolescent Republic F-84F Thunderstreak which was obtained from Air National Guard units, in 1964 the wing upgraded to the tail-coded McDonnell-Douglas F-4C Phantom II. The 15 TFW was the second wing to be equipped with the F-4.
The mission of the 15 TFW was to conduct tactical fighter combat crew training. The wing participated in a variety of exercises, operations and readiness tests of Tactical Air Command. The wing traine pilots and provided logistical support for the 12th Tactical Fighter Wing. It was reorganized as a mission-capable unit at the time of the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, returning afterwards to a training mission.
With the departure of the 12 TFW in 1965, the 15 TFW's mission became acting as a replacement training unit for F-4 aircrews prior to their deployment to Southeast Asia. The wing deployed 16 F-4s at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, during the Pueblo crisis in 1968.
In 1965, the wing deployed its 43d, 45th, 46th and 47th Tactical Fighter Squadrons to SEA, where they participated in the air defense commitment for the Philippines from Clark AB and flew combat missions from Cam Rahn Bay Air Base in South Vietnam and Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand. Members of the 45 TFS achieved the first U.S. Air Force aerial victories of the Vietnam War when they destroyed two MIGs on 10 July 1965. Captains Thomas S. Roberts, Ronald C. Anderson, Kenneth E. Holcombe, and Arthur C. Clark received credit for these kills. The 43d TFS was reassigned to Elmendorf AFB, Alaska on 4 January 1970.
Beginning in October 1968, when the 4424th Combat Crew Training Squadron (CCTS) was organized, the wing began Martin B-57G Canberra night intruder tactical bomber aircrew training. On 8 February 1969, the 13th Bombardment Squadron, was organized as a tactical B-57 squadron (Tail Code: FK) Night Intruder tactical bomber aircrew training. The squadron and eleven aircraft deployed to Ubon RTAFB, Thailand on 1 October 1970. Three B-57Gs were left behind at MacDill with the 4424th CCTS as trainers.
In 1969, the wing assumed host USAF responsibility for MacDill from the 836th AD and was assigned the 15th Combat Support Group to carry out this mission. The 15th was inactivated on 1 October 1970, and was replaced by the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing when the 1st TFW was reassigned from ADC to Tactical Air Command and moved from Hamilton AFB, CA to MacDill. The 4424th CCTS remained at MacDill, coming under the 1st TFW and finally discontinuing on 30 June 1972 with the return of the B-57Gs to the United States (to Kansas ANG).
Pacific Air Forces
One year later, on 20 October 1971, the 15th Tactical Fighter Wing was redesignated the 15th Air Base Wing and activated at Hickam AFB, Hawaii on 1 November 1971. Assigned to Pacific Air Forces (PACAF), the 15th assumed the personnel, equipment, mission, and duties previously performed by the 6486th Air Base Wing, which was simultaneously discontinued. This reactivation reestablished the organization in Hawaii, where the 15th Pursuit Group was formed in 1940, and the lineage, history and honors of the 15th Fighter Group were bestowed on the Wing.[note 4]
The 15th ABW managed Hickam, Wheeler, Dillingham, and Johnston Island Air Force Bases, Bellows Air Force Station, and several smaller subsidiary bases. It provided base level support for headquarters PACAF and more than 100 tenant organizations. Its 15th Operations Squadron provided special airlift for the Commander in Chief, Pacific (CINCPAC), and the USAF and US Army components of Pacific Command, initially with VC-118 aircraft until inactivating in 1975, when the wing absorbed its assets. Its 9th Airborne Command and Control Squadron provided airborne Command and control support for CINCPAC. Responsibility for Johnston Island subsequently transferred to the Defense Nuclear Agency on 1 July 1973; but on that same date, the 15th ABW assumed operational responsibility for Wake Island. Dillingham later transferred to Army control on 27 February 1975, as did Wheeler AFB on 1 November 1991. In 1999, the 15th ABW once again assumed responsibility for Johnston Island . Operational control of Wake Island transferred to the 36th Air Base Wing (13th Air Force), Andersen AFB, Guam, on 1 October 2000.
From April to September 1975, the wing sheltered over 93,000 orphans, evacuees, and refugees from Southeast Asia as part of Operation Babylift and Operation New Life. In 1980 the wing participated in Project Lagoon, a program to remove radioactive waste from Enewetak Atoll.
On 13 April 1992 the 15th Operations Group (OG) was activated as the wing implemented the USAF objective wing organization. Upon activation, the 15th OG assumed was reassigned the wing's operational squadr0ns and responsibility from the 15 Air Base Wing for managing operational matters at Hickam AFB and Bellows AFS, Hawaii; and Wake Island Airfield. It also provided command and control for the defense of the Hawaiian Islands and directed tactical control of Hawaii Air National Guard alert F-15 aircraft.
On 28 April 2003, the wing was redesignated the 15th Airlift Wing and begun preparation to stand up a first-of-its-kind active duty/associate Air National Guard C-17 organization. Almost three years later, on 8 February 2006 the wing welcomed in the first of eight C-17 Globemaster III cargo jets changing Hickam's identity and mission from strictly en route support to include performing local and worldwide airlift operations in support of combat and humanitarian missions.
On 18 May 2010, the wing was redesignated the 15th Wing in anticipation of the addition of air refueling to its airlift mission. Four days earlier, its 15th Mission Support Group was inactivated as Hickam AFB became part of JBPHH and the US Navy assumed most support responsibility for the installation. In October, the wing added Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors to the aircraft it flies when the 19th Fighter Squadron moved from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska to become an active duty associate unit of the Hawaiian Air National Guard's 199th Fighter Squadron.
Operational Squadrons[note 5]
Awards and campaigns