31st Operations Group

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31st Operations Group United States Air Forces in Europe.png
31stfg-patch.jpg
Emblem of the 31st Fighter Group
Active 1939–1952; 1991–1994; 1994–present
Country United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Part of United States Air Forces Europe
Engagements
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign ribbon.svg
AFEMRib.svg KosovoRib.svg NATO Medal w Służbie Pokoju i Wolności BAR.svg
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary ribbon.svg Afghanistan Campaign ribbon.svg Iraq Campaign ribbon.svg
  • World War II
European Campaign (1942–1945)
  • Expeditionary Service
  • NATO Service
  • Global War on Terrorism
General Dynamics F-16C Block 40A 89-0030 of the 510th Fighter Squadron.
F-16C Block 40K (90-0772) and Block 40J (90-0775) of the 555th Fighter Squadron

The 31st Operations Group (31 OG) is the flying component of the 31st Fighter Wing, assigned to the United States Air Forces in Europe. It is stationed at Aviano Air Base, Italy.

Overview[edit]

The 31st Operations Group ensures the combat readiness of two F-16CG Falcon squadrons, one air control squadron, and one operational support squadron conducting and supporting worldwide air operations. The group prepares fighter pilots, controllers, and support personnel to execute U.S. and NATO war plans and contingency operations.

It trains, equips, plans, and provides weather, intelligence, standardization/evaluation, and command and control sustaining global flying operations.

Components[edit]

The 31st Operations Group was reactivated in late October 1991 at Homestead AFB, Florida. The 31st Tactical Fighter Wing received new equipment the previous March in the form of Block 40 F-16C/D Fighting Falcons and in October of that year the wing resumed its original title (one month short of 44 years since the unit had formed) of 31st Fighter Wing, with the 31 OG as its flying component.

On 24 August 1992 the effects of Hurricane Andrew severely damaged Homestead AFB. The 31 FW's three F-16 squadrons were relocated to Moody AFB, Georgia (and eventually reassigned to other units) and the base declared non-operational because of the damage caused by the hurricane. The result of this was the reassignment of the 31st from Air Combat Command Ninth Air Force to United States Air Forces Europe's Sixteenth Air Force on 31 March 1994 without personnel or equipment. The 31st replaced the 401st TFW at Aviano AB, Italy, and the wing received two new fighter Squadrons, the 526th and 512th (from the 86th Fighter Wing at Ramstein AB, Germany, which converted to an Airlift Wing) which were equipped with F-16CG/DG Block-40's.

These squadrons were then re-designated as:

Both use the tail code "AV" for AViano. Each F-16 has a tailband in the squadron colours – Green with the words "Triple Nickel" in white for the 555th FS and Purple with white edges for the 510th FS.

The Block 40's (as well as the Block 42 F-16's) are equipped with the Martin–Marietta Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infra-Red for Night (LANTIRN) system. This consists of two pods, a AAQ-13 navigation pod carried on the left-hand chin pylon and an AAQ-14 targeting pod on the right-hand chin pylon. To differentiate this version the USAF has applied the designation F-16CG/DG.

Non-flying squadrons of the 31st OG are:

  • 603rd Air Control Squadron "Scorpions"
  • 31st Operations Support Squadron

History[edit]

The group's origins begin just before World War II, when the 31st Pursuit Group (Interceptor) on 22 December 1939 and was activated on 1 February 1940 with the 39th, 40th and 41st Pursuit squadrons. The group fought in North Africa and Italy during the war, returning to Drew Field Florida in August 1945 where it was Inactivated.

A SAC Fighter-Escort group during the early years of the Cold War, the group was inactivated again in 1952. It was reactivated as the 31st Operations Group in 1991.

World War II[edit]

P-39Ds of the 31st PG at Selfridge Field in 1941
Spitfire V of the 309th Fighter Squadron

The 31st Pursuit Group (Interceptor) was constituted on 22 December 1939 and activated on 1 February 1940, at Selfridge Field, Michigan, with the 39th, 40th and 41st Pursuit squadrons. Its first commander was Lt. Col. Harold H. George, previously commander of the 94th Pursuit Squadron, also at Selfridge. The group trained and participated in Army maneuvers. The unit was redesignated the 31st Fighter Group on 15 May 1942 and was deployed to the European Theater. Most of the group moved to RAF Atcham England where it was assigned to Eighth Air Force. The stationing of the group personnel and aircraft was very haphazard, being assigned to various RAF stations in Kent and the East Midlands throughout its tenure in England.

The group consisted of the following squadrons and fuselage codes:

The group arrived in the UK without its assigned aircraft as the Bell P-39 Airacobras they trained with in the United States were found unsuitable for long-distance formation ferry flights. The ground echelon sailed on the RMS Queen Elizabeth on 4 June 1942 arriving Clyde 10 June 1942. Pilots followed later in month. In England, the group was provided with British Supermarine Spitfire VBs by the Royal Air Force.

The 31st Fighter Group was the first group to commence operations with VIII Fighter Command.

It flew its first sorties with the RAF on 26 July, and its first squadron operation on 5 August. The 31st's first combat operation was on 19 August 1942, when it supported the Allied raid at Dieppe, France.

In August 1942, the 31st moved to RAF Westhampnett in Sussex until October before moving into Tafaraoui, Algeria on 8 November 1942 as part of Twelfth Air Force to take part in Operation Torch, the invasion of North Africa.

Once in North Africa, the group attacked motor transports, gun positions, and troop concentrations during the campaign for Algeria and French Morocco. It supported ground troops in Tunisia and provided cover for bomber and fighter aircraft. During May and June 1943, after being re-equipped with Spitfire Mk VIIIs, it escorted naval convoys in the Mediterranean and bombers on raids to Pantelleria. It supported landings on Sicily in July, at Salerno in September, and at Anzio in January 1944. The group provided close air support of Allied ground forces in Italy and flew patrol and escort missions.

In April 1944, after being assigned to Fifteenth Air Force, the group was equipped with North American P-51B, C and D "Mustangs" and engaged primarily in missions to escort heavy bombers to enemy targets in Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania, Yugoslavia, and Greece. The 31st earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for a 21 April 1944 mission to cover a raid on production centers in Romania. It escorted reconnaissance and cargo aircraft participating in the airborne invasion of southern France. The unit strafed airdromes and communications targets. As part of a Fifteenth Air Force task force, it attacked targets in Romania while flying to Russia on 22 July 1944. After escorting P-38 Lightning aircraft from a Russian base for a raid on an airdrome in Poland on 25 July, it attacked a German fighter-bomber force and a truck convoy, earning a second Distinguished Unit Citation. In April 1945, when Allied forces pursued their final offensive in northern Italy, the group strafed enemy rail and highway traffic.

The 31st Fighter Group returned to Drew Field Florida in August 1945, where it was inactivated on 7 November.

Cold War[edit]

F-84C 47-1512 at Turner AFB, 1949
General Motors F-84F-25-GK Thunderstreaks of the 31st Fighter Escort Group, about 1952. Serial 51-9378 identifiable

The 31st Fighter Group was reactivated in Germany on 20 August 1946 where it was assigned to the United States Air Forces in Europe XII Tactical Air Command for duty with the occupation force. The group was activated at AAF Station Giebelstadt, and flew the former 55th's P-51D Mustangs from the airfield, as well as early-model P-80B Shooting Star jet aircraft which had been deployed to the 55th. The unit was reassigned to AAF Station Kitzingen on 30 September where it continued to operate both P-51Ds and P-80Bs.

After a year, the group's personnel and equipment were stood down in place, and the group was transferred without personnel or equipment, to Turner Field (later, AFB), Georgia on 20 November 1947. At Turner the 31st Fighter Group became the operational component of the newly established United States Air Force 31st Fighter Wing on 20 November under Tactical Air Command, and was equipped with surplus P-51D Mustangs. The group consisted of the 307th, 308th and 309th Fighter Squadrons.

At Turner AFB, the 31st FG trained to achieve tactical proficiency from 1947–1950. In the summer of 1948, the 31st Fighter Group became the second Tactical Air Command unit to receive the Republic P-84C Thunderjet. The designation was changed to F-84C on 11 June 1948.

Effective 20 June 1950, Turner AFB was transferred to Strategic Air Command and effective 1 July 1950 control of the 31st Fighter Group was turned over to SAC and the group was redesignated as the 31st Fighter Escort Group. Upon the transfer to SAC, the group was assigned to SAC's Second Air Force on 16 July with a mission to escort SAC's intercontinental Boeing B-29 and Boeing B-50 Stratofortress bomber fleet.

Along with the reassignment to SAC, the 31st was upgraded to the new F-84E model, which was designed for bomber escort duties. As the F-84E model was still a brand-new aircraft, the 31st FEW was charged with performing accelerated service test on them. For these evaluations, the group utilized the air-to-ground gunnery range at Fort Stewart, Georgia and an air-to-air range over the Atlantic Ocean between Savannah and Brunswick. In addition, bomber escort missions were flown with B-29s from the 2d Bombardment Group at Hunter AFB near Savannah.

Beginning in December 1950 through July 1951, all tactical and most support components deployed to RAF Manston, England. The remaining components of the 31st at Turner were backfilled by the Federalized New Jersey Air National Guard 108th Strategic Fighter Wing with 141st, 149th and 153d Strategic Fighter Squadrons.

Between 1 June 1951 and 15 June 1942, the 31st Fighter-Escort Group was reduced to a "paper" status when the operational squadrons were assigned directly to the 31st FEW. In June 1952 the group was inactivated when the Wing completed implementation of the tri-deputate organization.

Modern era[edit]

General Dynamics F-16A Block 15Q Fighting Falcon 83-1080 of the 308th FS

On 1 November 1991, the 31st Operations Group (31 OG) was activated as a result of the 31st Fighter Wing implementing the USAF objective wing organization. Upon activation, the 31 OG was bestowed the lineage and history of the 31st Fighter Group. The 31st OG was assigned the flying components of Wing with a mission to train combat-ready fighter crews for deployment in any part of the world.

On 24 August 1992, much of Homestead Air Force Base's physical plant was destroyed or severely damaged by Hurricane Andrew. Just prior to the storm's landfall in Southeast Florida, the 31 OG dispersed its fighter squadrons to safe areas away from the storm's path. These locations were:

The effects of Hurricane Andrew caused the almost total destruction of Homestead Air Force Base. Although both President George H. W. Bush and President Clinton promised to rebuild Homestead, the BRAC designated the installation for realignment to the Air Force Reserve, with the 31st Operations Group's squadrons being permanently reassigned to their dispersal bases, Moody AFB and Shaw AFB on 1 October 1992. The remaining wing elements worked to clean up and salvage government property at Homestead.

The 31st OG was reassigned to Italy in April 1994 without personnel and equipment, replacing the 401st Operations Group, to control flying operations for the 31st Fighter Wing.

From May 1994 – December 2004, the group participated in the major Balkan operations. Its squadrons also deployed personnel and equipment to support operations in Southwest Asia April 1991 – November 1995. In 2000 the group gained a Combat Search and Rescue Mission (CSAR), along with additional F-16s. The 31st also supported Operation Northern Watch, March–May 2002 and Operation Southern Watch, August–December 2002. Most recently the 31 OG has deployed personnel and equipment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Lineage[edit]

  • Established as 31st Pursuit Group (Interceptor) on 22 December 1939
Activated on 1 February 1940
Redesignated 31st Fighter Group on 15 May 1942
Inactivated on 7 November 1945
Redesignated: 31st Fighter-Bomber Group on 20 January 1950
Redesignated: 31st Fighter-Escort Group on 16 July 1950
Inactivated on 16 June 1952
  • Redesignated: 31st Tactical Training Group on 31 July 1985 (Unit remained inactive)
  • Redesignated: 31st Operations Group on 28 October 1991
Activated on 1 November 1991
Inactivated on 1 April 1994
  • Activated on 1 April 1994.

Assignments[edit]

Components[edit]

Stations[edit]

Emblems[edit]

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • Freeman, Roger A. Airfields of the Eighth: Then and Now. After the Battle, 1978. ISBN 0-900913-09-6.
  • Goebel, Robert J. Mustang Ace: Memoirs of a P-51 Fighter Pilot. Pacifica, California: Pacifica Press, 1991. ISBN 0-935553-03-7.
  • Kucera, Dennis C. In a Now Forgotten Sky: The 31st Fighter Group in WW2. Stratford, Connecticut: Flying Machines Press, 1997. ISBN 0-9637110-9-1.
  • Lamensdorf, Rolland Gilmore. History of the 31st Fighter Group. self-published, 1985.
  • Mackay, Ron. The 31st Fighter Group in World War II. Carrollton, Texas: Squadron/Signal Publishing, Inc., 2007. ISBN 0-89747-514-3.
  • Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1983. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.

External links[edit]