198th Airlift Squadron
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|198th Airlift Squadron|
Lockheed C-130E-LM Hercules 64-0515 from the 198th Airlift Squadron, 156th Airlift Wing, Puerto Rico Air National Guard
|Active||1944 – present|
|Branch||Air National Guard|
|Part of||Puerto Rico Air National Guard|
|Garrison/HQ||Muñiz Air National Guard Base, Carolina, Puerto Rico|
|198th Airlift Squadron emblem|
The 198th Airlift Squadron (198 AS) is a unit of the Puerto Rico Air National Guard 156th Airlift Wing located at Muñiz Air National Guard Base, in Carolina, Puerto Rico. The 115th is equipped with the C-130E Hercules.
World War II
Established in late 1944 at Peterson Field, Colorado as the 463d Fighter Squadron. Trained under XXII Bomber Command as a Very Long Range P-47N Thunderbolt bomber escort squadron, programmed for B-29 Superfortress escort duty from Okinawa. For four months they received combat training for long-range escort, strafing, and dive-bombing. Training delayed due to P-47N aircraft non-availability, finally equipped in the late spring of 1945 with the long-distance fighters.
Deployed to Okinawa in June 1945 as part of the 507th Fighter Group and prepared for the invasion of Japan along with the 413th and 414th Fighter Groups, all equipped with P-47N. On 1 July 1945 it began flying airstrikes from Ie Shima, targeting enemy ships, railroad bridges, airfields, factories, and barracks in Japan, Korea, and China. On 8 August 1945 the group escorted B-29 bombers on a raid, shooting down several Japanese fighters.
The squadron flew some long distance fighter-bomber sweeps over Japanese Home Islands 1 July 1945-14 August 1945 but never performed operational B-29 escort missions due to the end of the war in August.
Remained in Okinawa until inactivated in May 1946.
Puerto Rico Air National Guard
The wartime 463d Fighter Squadron was re-designated as the 198th Fighter Squadron, and was allotted to the Puerto Rico Air National Guard, on 24 May 1946. It was organized at Isla Grande Airport, San Juan, Puerto Rico, and was extended federal recognition on 23 November 1947 by the National Guard Bureau. The 164th Fighter Squadron was bestowed the lineage, history, honors, and colors of the 463d Fighter Squadron. The squadron was equipped with F-47N Thunderbolts and was assigned to the Puerto Rico Air National Guard, operationally gained by Fourteenth Air Force, Air Defense Command.
Air Defense mission
The mission of the 198th Fighter Squadron was the air defense of Puerto Rico. 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 combat veterans.
On 10 April 1954 the 198th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron entered the jet age with the arrival of the F-86E Sabre. However the short runways of Isla Grande Airport at the time did not allow safe jet operations. The squadron was forced to move its aircraft to the runways at the still under-construction San Juan International Airport maintaining the rest of its organization at Isla Grande Airport. In May 1956, all Puerto Rico National Guard activities were consolidated at the International Airport and the 198th was upgraded to F-86D day/night/all-weather Sabre Interceptors.
Tactical Fighter mission
On 15 October 1962, the Puerto Rico Air National Guard was expanded to a Group status, and the 156th Tactical Fighter Group was recognized and activated by the National Guard Bureau. The 156th was transferred to Tactical Air Command, with the 198th becoming at Tactical Fighter Squadron and assigned to the 156th TFG. Other squadrons assigned into the group were the 156th Headquarters, 156th Material Squadron (Maintenance), 156th Combat Support Squadron, and the 156th USAF Dispensary. With the transfer to TAC, the 198th received F-86H Sabre tactical fighters.
In 1967, F-104C Starfighers (and an F-104D two-seat trainer) were assigned to the 156th, upgrading the group to Mach-2 supersonic tactical fighter-bombers, replacing the elderly F-86H Sabre fighter-bombers. The F-104C was equipped to carry bombs or rocket pods on under-wing and fuselage points. The upward-firing Lockheed C-2 rocket-boosted ejector seat was standard. The internal 20-mm rotary cannon of the F-104A was retained, as well as the ability to carry an AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile on each wingtip to fill an air defense interceptor mission.
In 1975, the F-104s were retired, the 198th being the last USAF unit to fly the Starfighters. They were replaced by A-7D Corsair II ground support aircraft. Although designed primarily as a ground attack aircraft, it also had limited air-to-air combat capability.
On 12 January 1981 a group of terrorists destroyed and damaged ten A-7D and a Starfighter F-104 static display. The terrorist attack was the largest on American Air Force Base since the Vietnam War. The hostage situation in Iran at the time overshadowed this incident in the news media. The eleven National Guard planes at Muñiz Air Base were alleged by socialist organizations to be destined for use against popular insurgents in El Salvador. These allegations were never proven and may have been self-serving.
At the time, the base had 25 pilots and 900 military personnel. This loss was calculated at $45 million. The security increased from 11 to 22 personnel with 100 percent federal funding. The Air Force/Air National Guard invested $5.5 million in Electronic Security Equipment (ESE), a Master Surveillance Control Facility (MSCF), and fencing to secure the flight line and operations area. In addition, Muñiz Air National Guard Base was provided a security police manpower package of 18 AGR security police personnel and 46 civilian contract guards.
On 1 August 1987, the 156th Tactical Fighter Group reorganized into a Four-Deputy structure according to the new Air National Guard policy.
In 1992 the A-7Ds were being retired, and they were replaced by Block 15 F-16A/B Fighting Falcons modified for Air Defense. The F-16 ADF was a standard block 15 model converted to air defense fighters for the Air National Guard, and would take over the fighter interception mission, providing the primary defense of North America against bombers and cruise missiles.
The unit took part, from 24–28 June 1991, in Granada South exercise, Panama. From 11–18 August 1991, it deployed to Iquique, Chile for Condor II Exercise and then from 18–24 August 1991, to Asuncion with the Paraguayan Air Force for training. From 7–20 September 1991, it deployed to Fortunata II, Volk Field, Wisconsin and then again from 2–6 December 1991, to Granada South, Panama.
In March 1992, with the end of the Cold War, the 156th adopted the Air Force Objective Organization plan, and the unit was re-designated as the 157th Fighter Group. A few months later, on 1 June, Tactical Air Command was inactivated as part of the Air Force reorganization after the end of the Cold War. It was replaced by Air Combat Command (ACC).
From 20 February to 6 March 1993, the unit took part in the "Caminos de Paz" exercise at Golfito, and then deployed from 12–21 August 1993, to Asunción, Paraguay, marking its First F-16 Deployment. From 5–13 November 1994, the unit took part in the Condor III Exercise held in Iquique, Chile.
In October 1995, in accordance with the Air Force "One Base – One Wing" policy, the status of the 157th was upgraded to a Wing; the 198th Fighter Squadron being assigned to the new 157th Operations Group.
On 22 November 1997, unit received its first C-130s while celebrating its 50th federal recognition Anniversary. On 10 February 1998, the Air Force announced conversion of the 156th Fighter Wing from its F-16 fighter aircraft to C-130E Hercules Airlifters. On 3 March 1998 the last F-16 departed from the 156th Fighter Wing. On 11 September 1998 a ceremony was held to mark the arrival of the first C-130. On 1 October 1998, the Department of the Air Force issued the official order designating the 156th Fighter Wing as 156th Airlift Wing. The 156th was transferred to Air Mobility Command, being re-designated as the 156th Airlift Wing.
Beginning in June 1999, the major mission for the Wing became support of Operation Coronet Oak, which was transferred from Howard AFB, Panama when the base was closed as part of the turnover of the Panama Canal. Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) and Air National Guard C-130 aircraft, aircrews and related support personnel deploy from the United States to Muniz AGB to provide theater airlift support for the U.S. Southern Command. The main Coronet Oak mission is to deliver special forces to any location in theater as directed by Southern Command. One C-130 of the unit is on alert 24/7/365 for that contingency.
Coronet Oak shares the Muñiz flight line with the Puerto Rico Air National Guard, which also flies C-130s. That makes for a good partnership, when C-130s need repairs or spare parts. The mission also includes any other kind of contingency and logistics support. Aircrews provide theater mobility, embassy support and airdrops. They also fly people, food and mail.
- Constituted 463d Fighter Squadron on 5 October 1944
- Activated on 12 October 1944
- Inactivated on 27 May 1946
- Re-designated: 198th Fighter Squadron, and allotted to Puerto Rico ANG, on 24 May 1946.
- Received federal recognition and activated, 23 November 1947
- Re-designated: 198th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 1 July 1952
- Re-designated: 198th Tactical Fighter Squadron, 10 April 1958
- Re-designated: 198th Fighter Squadron, 15 March 1992
- Re-designated: 198th Airlift Squadron, 1 October 1998
- Allocated to: Caribbean Air Command
- 156th Tactical Fighter Group, 10 April 1958
- 156th Fighter Group, 15 March 1992
- 156th Operations Group, 1 October 1995 – present
- Bruning Army Airfield, Nebraska, 20 October 1944
- Dalhart Army Airfield, Texas, 15 December 1944 – 30 April 1945
- Ie Shima Airfield, Okinawa, 24 June 1945
- Yontan Airfield, Okinawa, 29 January-27 May 1946.
- Isla Grande Airport, San Juan, Puerto Rico, 23 November 1947
- Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport, Carolina, Puerto Rico, 1 May 1956
- Designated: Muñiz Air National Guard Base, 23 November 1963 – present
- Maurer, Maurer. Combat Squadrons of the Air Force: World War II. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1982.
- 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).
- Muniz AGB at Globalsecurity.org
- 156th Airlift Wing at Globalsecurity.org