Northrop F-61C Black Widow
With the end of World War II, large numbers of wartime pistoned-engined fighters were allocated for air defense mission. The long range P-47N/P-51H models, developed for the invasion of Japan, were especially well-suited for the air defense role and were used into the mid-1950s by Air National Guard units. Generally P-47s were based east of the Mississippi River, while P-51s were stationed to the west. The twin-engined P-61 night fighter was the first American aircraft specifically designed from the outset for the night fighting role, and with its long range was also well-suited for air defense. On June 11, 1948, the newly formed United States Air Force eliminated the P-for-pursuit category and replaced it with F-for-fighter.
North American F-82F/G Twin Mustang
In 1948, the F and G night-fighter versions of the Twin Mustang were placed in service with the Air Defense Command. They were painted all-black and had flame-damped exhausts and replaced the F-61 Black Widow by 1949. It was anticipated that the service life of the Twin Mustang would be relatively brief, since the F-82 was seen as only an interim type, filling in the gap only until adequate numbers of jet fighters could be made available. In 1950, some units based in the United States were already beginning to replace their Twin Mustangs with jets.
Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star
In 1948, F-80Cs began to reach operational ADC units, the first being the 57th Interceptor Group (64th, 65th, and 66th Squadrons) based in Alaska. However, during the Korean War the introduction of the MiG-15 into Korean combat On November 1, 1950, proved to be a nasty surprise. It was soon apparent that the F-80C was no match for the swept-wing MiG-15, being almost 100 mph slower than its Russian-built opponent. F-80s were withdrawn from Korea and served in ADC units for a few years before being sent to Air Force Reserve squadrons where they were flown until the late 1950s.
Lockheed F-94 Starfire
Between 1950 and 1953, the F-94 played a vital role in the defense of the continental United States from attack by nuclear-armed Soviet Tu 4 bombers. It was the only jet-powered all-weather interceptor available in quantity at that time, and filled in a vital gap until more advanced equipment could be provided.
Republic F-84 Thunderjet
Versions of the F-84 were used by ADC groups in the early 1950s, however during the Korean War it was found that the straight-winged F-84E was much too slow to match the swept-wing Soviet MiG-15. The total air-to-air score ended up as nine MiGs downed as opposed to 18 Thunderjets lost, which gave the Thunderjet a 2 to 1 inferiority against the MiG-15.
Northrop F-89 Scorpion
The Northrop F-89 Scorpion was one of the primary defenders of North American airspace during the Cold War. Production was authorized in January 1949, with the first production F-89A entering USAF service in September 1950. The final production model, the F-89H served with the ADC through 1959 and with the Air National Guard through 1969.
North American F-86D/L Sabre
The F-86D was the interceptor version of the F-86 Sabre air superiority fighter. The F-86D was originally designated as the F-95A, however for political reasons the designation of the F-95 was changed to F-86D on July 24, 1950. The F-86D entered ADC service in 1953 however it only saw active ADC service for a few years. The phaseout of the F-86D from the ADC began in August 1956, and was essentially complete by April 1958. As ADC F-86Ds were phased out, some of them were turned over to the Air National Guard. Many of the ANG's F-86Ds were quickly supplanted by F-86Ls, and by June 1961, the F-86D no longer appeared on either the USAF or ANG rolls. The F-86L was the designation given to late-1950s conversions of existing USAF F-86Ds to use the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) datalink system. During the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, six ANG F-86L squadrons were on alert. The last F-86Ls were withdrawn from ANG service during the summer of 1965.
Convair F-102 Delta Dagger
The single-seat F-102 was ADC's first supersonic interceptor that could exceed Mach 1 in level flight with area ruling and internally carried Falcon and Genie missiles. It soon became the backbone of the United States air defenses beginning with its introduction in 1956, replacing subsonic types. F-102s served in large numbers with both Air Force and Air National Guard units well into the 1970s. George W. Bush, later President of the United States, flew the F-102 as part of his Air National Guard service in the late 1960s and early 1970s. In the mid-1970s, F-102s began to be converted to QF-102 drones under the Full Scale Aerial Target (FSAT) program.
Lockheed F-104A Starfighter
By 1958, delays in the delivery and development of the Convair F-106A Delta Dart Mach 2+ fighter-interceptor for ADC Command had at that time become worrisome, and the USAF decided to go ahead and accept the F-104As originally destined for the TAC and assign them to the ADC as a stopgap measure. The selection of the F-104A for the ADC was sort of curious, since it had not been originally designed as an interceptor and it lacked an adequate endurance and had no all-weather capability. However, its high climb rate made it attractive to the ADC and it was hoped that the Starfighter could fill in until the F-106 became available. The F-104A was not very well suited for service as an interceptor. Its low range was a problem for North American air defense, and its lack of all-weather capability made it incapable of operating in conjunction with the SAGE (Semi-Automatic Ground Environment) system. Most F-104As were replaced by the end of 1960, however the 319th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Homestead AFBFlorida retained their F-104As until the unit was inactivated in 1969. The last USAF F-104 aircraft remained in service with the Puerto Rico Air National Guard until 1975.
McDonnell F-101B/F Voodoo
With the relative failure of the F-104A in the interceptor role, ADC units were re-equipped with the F-101B Voodoo. The F-101Bs were modified versions of the SAC F-101A nuclear attack aircraft (designed for one-way missions carrying tactical nuclear weapons) by modifying the avionics systems and fire control systems for air-to-air missiles. The last F-101Bs were delivered in March 1961, and once the teething troubles with its fire control system issues were corrected, the F-101B proved to be a quite successful interceptor. Along with the F-101Bs, The dual-seat F-101F trainer was also flown. F-101Fs were equipped with dual controls, but carried the same armament as the F-101B and were fully combat-capable. The F-101 was operated by both Regular Air Force and Air National Guard ADC units.
Convair F-106A Delta Dart
The Convair F-106A Delta Dart was considered by many as being the finest all-weather interceptor ever built. It was the primary air defense interceptor aircraft for the US Air Force from the 1960s through the early 1980s. It was also was the last dedicated interceptor in U.S. Air Force service to date. It was gradually retired during the 1980s, though the QF-106 drone conversions of the aircraft were used until 1998 as aerial targets under the FSAT program.
During the 30-plus years of its existence the Air/Aerospace Defense Command underwent many changes. This is a list of the active fighter interceptor squadrons assigned to the command as its alert force. Not listed are 76 Air National Guard Squadrons, several Naval Squadrons, radar squadrons, training squadrons and support units. ADC squadrons were very mobile, and were transferred, redesignated and inactivated/reactivated frequently.
2d through 49th Fighter-Interceptor Squadrons