363d Air Expeditionary Operations Group

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363d Air Expeditionary Operations Group
363eog-f-16s-princesultan.jpg
F-16 Fighting Falcons wait on the "hot ramp" at a forward-deployed location while maintenance crews ready the weapons for a night mission 21 March. 2003 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Active 1943-1945; 1946-1958; 1992-1993; 1998-2003
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Type Expeditionary Operations Group
Role Fighter
Part of United States Air Force Central Command
Garrison/HQ Prince Sultan AB, Saudi Arabia
Motto VOIR C'EST SAVOIR – "To see is to know"
Engagements

European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Streamer.jpg
World War II (EAME Theater)

  • Air Offensive, Europe Campaign
  • Normandy Campaign
  • Northern France Campaign
  • Rhineland Campaign
  • Ardennes-Alsace Campaign
  • Central Europe Campaign
  • Air Combat, EAME Theater

Streamer AFE.PNG
Armed Forces Expeditionary

Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Streamer.jpg
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary

Decorations Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Streamer.jpg
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Combat "V" Device
15 Jan 2004-31 Oct 2005
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (8x)
Battle honours Cited in the Order of the Day, Belgian Army: 1 Oct-17 Dec 1944; 18 Dec 1944-15 Jan 1945
Belgian Fourragere
Commanders
Current
commander
Col Jonathan M. Owens
Notable
commanders
Col Michael G. Cosby
Insignia
363d Air Expeditionary Operations Group Emblem 363d Air Expeditionary Operations Group - Emblem.png

The 363d Air Expeditionary Operations Group is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was last assigned to the 363d Air Expeditionary Wing, stationed at Prince Sultan AB, Saudi Arabia. It was inactivated on 24 August 2003.

History[edit]

The 363d Air Expeditionary Operations Group has its origins to World War II 363d Fighter Group, being activated on 1 August 1943 at Hamilton Field, California. Initially a IX Fighter Command tactical fighter group, the unit was credited with 41 victories but lost 43 of its own aircraft in the process.

The pressing need for tactical aerial reconnaissance during the Normandy Campaign led the group to be converted to a photo-reconnaissance Group with the 363d Tactical Reconnaissance Group being formed at Le Mans, France in late 1944. The 363d TRG was the 'eyes' of General George S. Patton's Third Army during its advance through France, and later during the Allied invasion of Germany in 1945.

Reactivated in 1948, the 363d TRG flew photographic, electronic and electronic intelligence missions to support both air and ground operations by American or Allied ground forces during the early years of the Cold War.

During the modern era, the unit was reactivated in 1993 as part of the USAF Objective Wing organization as the 363d Operations Group, and in Southwest Asia as the 363d Expeditionary Operations Group, flying a variety of fighter aircraft (F-16, A-10, F-15 and others) on operational missions.

World War II[edit]

363d Fighter Group[edit]

North American P-51B-5 Mustang, AAF Serial No. 43-6830 of the 382d Fighter Squadron.
161st Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron North American P-51D-10-NA Mustang 44-14852 Le Culot Airfield (A-89), Belgium, November 1944.

The 363d Training Group has its origins as the 363d Fighter Group, being activated on 1 August 1943 at Hamilton AAFld, California. The original fighter squadrons (380th, 381st, 382d) trained with Bell P-39 Airacobras at Hamilton and other airfields in California and served as part of the air defense force.

The group moved to England in December 1943 for duty with the Ninth Air Force. At RAF Keevil, the group was re-equipped with North American P-51 Mustang in January 1944 and entered combat in February. Squadron designations were changed to 160th (A9), 161st (B3) and 162d (C3) Fighter Squadrons and assigned Fuselage Codes. The group escorted bombers and fighter-bombers to targets in France, Germany, and the Low Countries; strafed and dive-bombed trains, marshalling yards, bridges, vehicles, airfields, troops, gun positions, and other targets on the Continent.

The 363d supported the D-Day invasion of Normandy in June 1944 by escorting troop carriers and gliders and by attacking enemy positions near the front lines, and moved to the Continent at the end of June to take part in the Allied drive to the German border.

In the two weeks following D-Day, the 363d experienced the most fruitful period of its service in the European Theater of Operations when patrols over France brought it actions with a total of 19 confirmed victories. However, a similar number of Mustangs were lost, albeit mostly to ground fire.

During operations from England, the group was credited with 41 victories but lost 43 of its own aircraft in the process.

363d Tactical Reconnaissance Group[edit]

On the continent, the 363d was reorganized into a Reconnaissance group flying the F-5 photo-reconnaissance version of the P-38 Lightning and the F-6 photo-reconnaissance version of the P-51 Mustang at Le Mans airfield, France (A-35). The 380th, 381st and 382nd squadrons were redesignated as the 160th, 161st and 162nd Reconnaissance Squadrons respectively. The group flew photographic missions to support both air and ground operations; directed fighter-bombers to railway, highway, and waterway traffic, bridges, gun positions, troop concentrations, and other opportune targets; adjusted artillery fire; and took photographs to assess results of Allied bombardment operations.

It received two Belgian citations for reconnaissance activities, including the group's support of the assault on the Siegfried Line and its participation in the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944 – January 1945). The 363d assisted Ninth Army's drive across the Rhine and deep into Germany during the period from February 1945 to V-E Day, eventually being stationed at Wiesbaden, Germany (Y-80) at the end of hostilities in May

The 363d returned to the United States in December 1945 and was inactivated on 11 December 1945 at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.

Cold War[edit]

Douglas RB-26C-45-DT Invader AF Serial No. 44-35663 of the 41st Night Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron.
Formation of four Block 15-LO Lockheed RF-80As. AF Serial No.s visible are 44-85242, 44-85019, 44-85448, and 44-85386.
Republic RF-84F-10-RE Thunderflash AF Serial No. 51-1875.
McDonnell RF-101C-65-MC Voodoo AF Serial No. 56-0068 of the 363d Tactical Reconnaissance Group. This aircraft is currently on static display at the Keesler AFB, Mississippi Air Park.

The 363d Tactical Reconnaissance Group was reactivated on 29 July 1946 at Brooks AAFld, Texas. Equipped initially with two squadrons (161st & 162d Reconnaissance Squadron) flying Lockheed FP-80A Shooting Stars for daylight (161st RS) and Douglas FA-26C Invaders (162d RS) for night reconnaissance. In June 1948, the FP-80A was redesignated the RF-80A, and the FA-26C to RB-26C.

The FA/RB-26C was a B-26 with all guns removed and cameras installed throughout the aircraft. Additionally, aircraft intended for night reconnaissance were equipped with photo flash bombs. Some aircraft were also modified for electronic reconnaissance with the installation of radar and signal intelligence gathering equipment.

The FP/RF-80A was an F-80A, with a longer and deeper nose to house cameras in place of the guns in the nose of the aircraft. After the end of the Korean War, the RF-80As were partially brought up to F-80C standards. These RF-80Cs had improved camera installations in a nose of modified contour

The group was placed under the newly activated 363d Reconnaissance Wing on 15 August 1947. It was reassigned to Langley AAFld, Virginia in December 1947 by the newly established USAF. It was redesignated the 363d Tactical Reconnaissance Wing on 27 August 1948. For budgetary reasons unit was inactivated on 26 April 1949, however it was again activated on 1 September 1950 at Langley.

Due to the pressing needs of Far East Air Forces in Japan the 162nd TRS, flying RB-26s, and the photo-processing 363d Reconnaissance Technical Squadron (RTS) were reassigned from Langley to Itazuke AB Japan for Korean War service and began operations in August 1950 as part of the 543rd Tactical Support Group.

On 1 April 1951, the 363d TRG was transferred to Shaw AFB, South Carolina. The group's mission was to fly photographic, electronic and electronic intelligence missions to support both air and ground operations by American or Allied ground forces.

In 1954, the RF-84F Thunderflash was assigned to the 363d TRG. The RF-84F was the photographic reconnaissance version of the F-84F Thunderstreak. It had many components in common with the F-84F, but differed in having the jet engine fed by a pair of wing root air intakes, the nose being taken up by a bank of cameras. The USAF was in need of a replacement for its aging Lockheed RF-80 Shooting Star unarmed reconnaissance aircraft, and concluded that the F-84F with its wing root air intakes made a good camera-carrying reconnaissance aircraft.

The aircraft camera bay in the nose could accommodate up to six cameras in forward- facing, trimetrogen and individual oblique and vertical installations. The vertical camera bay had hydraulically operated retractable doors, and behind these doors was an aperture for a vertical viewfinder with a periscope presentation on the cockpit panel. Photoflash ejectors could be carried in underwing tanks for nighttime photographic reconnaissance missions.

Deliveries of the RF-84F Thunderflash began in March 1954, with the 363d Tactical Reconnaissance Wing being the first USAF recipient. The service life of the RF-84F with the 363d TRW was relatively short, and were replaced by the McDonnell RF-101 Voodoo aircraft in 1957/1958.

The first USAF RB-66Bs were issued to the 9th TRS in January 1956. They replaced the obsolescent RB-26 Invader for night reconnaissance missions. Two more squadrons were equipped with RB-66Bs by the end of the year. The RB-66B very soon became the primary night photographic reconnaissance weapon system of the Tactical Air Command.

In addition to the RB-66B, RB-66C models entered service with the 9th TRS in February 1956. RB-66C models carried additional ECM equipment in wingtip pods. Chaff dispensing pods could be carried underneath the wing outboard of the engine nacelles. Later examples had the tail turret removed and replaced by additional ECM equipment installed in an extended tailcone. After the tail guns were removed, the gunner's position was usually left empty unless occupied by an instructor pilot or instructor navigator.

In January 1953, the USAF had asked McDonnell to develop an unarmed photographic reconnaissance version of the F-101 Voodoo as a possible replacement for the Republic RF-84F Thunderflash. The first RF-101A was delivered to the 17th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron on 6 May 1957 as a replacement for the subsonic RF-84F. The RF-101A had a redesigned and longer nose housing four cameras designed for low-altitude photography. In addition, two high-altitude cameras were mounted behind the cockpit in place of the ammunition boxes of the fighter variant.

In September 1957, the RF-101C began deliveries to Shaw. The C model combined the strengthened structure of the F-101C with the camera installation of the RF-101A. In addition, the RF-101C differed from the RF-101A in being able to accommodate a centerline nuclear weapon, so that it could carry out a secondary nuclear strike mission if ever called upon to do so. The RF-101Cs served for a brief time alongside the RF-101A, but quickly replaced them by May 1958.

In a reorganization on 8 February 1958, the 363d Tactical Reconnaissance Group was inactivated and its personnel and equipment were assigned directly to the 363d TRW.

Modern era[edit]

F-16C 92-3923 of the 79th Fighter Squadron

On 1 May 1992, the 363d Operations Group (363 OG) was activated as a result of the 363d Fighter Wing implementing the USAF objective wing organization. Upon activation, the 363 OG was bestowed the lineage and history of the 363d Tactical Reconnaissance Group. The 36th OG was assigned the Fighter Squadrons of the Wing upon activation. All aircraft carried the "SW" Tail Code.

With the closure of Myrtle Beach Air Force Base South Carolina and the inactivation of the 354th Fighter Wing, the 21st Tactical Fighter Squadron was activated at Shaw and received 30 Republic A/OA-10 Thunderbolt IIs from the inactivating 355th Fighter Squadron on 1 April 1992. All A-10 aircraft with the 21st TFS were designated as OA-10A.

As a result of the August 1992 destruction of Homestead AFB Florida by Hurricane Andrew in September 1992, the 31st Fighter Wing's 309th Fighter Squadron was initially evacuated to Shaw AFB prior to the hurricane making landfall. With Homestead unusable for an extended period after the hurricane, on 1 October 1992 the squadron was permanently assigned to the 363 OG. The 33rd TRS was inactivated on 15 November 1993. Its F-16C/D aircraft were transferred to the Air National Guard.

As a result of the end of the Cold War, the Air Force made several dramatic changes with the inactivation and re-designation of wings and their units. The 363d OG and all of its squadrons were inactivated on 1 January 1994, being replaced at Shaw by the 20th Operations Group, being reassigned to Shaw from RAF Upper Heyford, England.

The 363d Expeditionary Operations Group (363 EOG) was activated on 1 December 1998 when the United States Air Force inactivated all MAJCOM wings. The 363 EOG was the primary United States Air Force Air Expeditionary Group responsible for Operation SOUTHERN WATCH (OSW), which involved patrolling the Southern No-Fly Zone over Iraq below the 33rd Parallel. The Wing was inactivated after the onset of Operation Iraqi Freedom when all American combat forces left Saudi Arabia in 2003

Lineage[edit]

Emblem of the 363d Tactical Reconnaissance Group
  • Constituted as 363d Fighter Group on 11 February 1943
Activated on 1 March 1943
Redesignated as 363d Tactical Reconnaissance Group 4 September 1944
Redesignated as 363d Reconnaissance Group in June 1945
Inactivated on 11 December 1945
  • Activated on 29 June 1946*
Redesignated as 363d Tactical Reconnaissance Group in June 1948
Inactivated on 26 April 1949
Reactivated on 1 September 1950
Inactivated on 8 February 1958
  • Redesignated as 363d Operations Group on 1 May 1992 and activated
Inactivated on 30 December 1993
  • Converted to provisional status and allocated to Air Combat Command to activate or inactivate any time after 1 October 1998.
  • Redesignated as 363d Air Expeditionary Operations Group on 1 December 1998 and activated
Assumed personnel and equipment of 4404th Operations Group (Provisional)
Inactivated on 26 August 2003

*Note: Became subordinate component of 363d Reconnaissance Wing on 29 July 1947

Assignments[edit]

Components[edit]

Expeditionary Squadrons*

* Note: Other squadrons assigned to the 363d Expeditionary Operations Group are undetermined.

Stations[edit]

Aircraft operated[edit]

References[edit]

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

  • Freeman, Roger A. UK Airfields of the Ninth: Then and Now. After the Battle, 1994. ISBN 0-900913-80-0.
  • Freeman, Roger A. The Ninth Air Force in Colour: UK and the Continent-World War Two. After the Battle, 1996. ISBN 1-85409-272-3.
  • Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1983. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  • Martin, Patrick. Tail Code: The Complete History of USAF Tactical Aircraft Tail Code Markings. Schiffer Military Aviation History, 1994. ISBN 0-88740-513-4.
  • Miller, Kent. The 363d Fighter Group in World War II: in Action over Germany with the P-51 Mustang. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, 2002. ISBN 0-7643-1629-X.
  • Mueller, Robert. Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982 (USAF Reference Series). Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1989. ISBN 0-912799-53-6
  • Rogers, Brian. United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications, 2005. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.
  • Johnson, David C. (1988), U.S. Army Air Forces Continental Airfields (ETO), D-Day to V-E Day; Research Division, USAF Historical Research Center, Maxwell AFB, Alabama.

External links[edit]