159th Fighter Squadron
|159th Fighter Squadron|
159th Fighter Squadron F-15s over Jacksonville Beach, FL. Aircraft are McDonnell Douglas F-15C-21-MC Eagles, AF Ser. No. 78-0487; 78-0527 and 78-0493
|Active||1 October 1942-Present|
|Branch||Air National Guard|
|Role||Air Defense Fighter|
|Part of||Florida Air National Guard|
|Garrison/HQ||Jacksonville Air National Guard Base, Florida|
|Tail Code||Blue tail stripe with white trim, "Florida" in white letters on the outboard, 125th FW on the inboard, blue lighting bolt|
|159th Fighter Squadron emblem|
The 159th Fighter Squadron (159 FS) is a unit of the Florida Air National Guard's 125th Fighter Wing located at Jacksonville Air National Guard Base, Florida. The 159th is equipped with the F-15C and F-15D Eagle.
The squadron primarily flies the single seat F-15C Eagle aircraft, along with a smaller number of twin-seat F-15D, in the air superiority/air dominance role. As part of the Florida Air National Guard, the 159 FS and 125 FW report to the 1st Air Force (1 AF) and are operationally-gained by the U.S. Air Force's Air Combat Command (ACC). The squadron is based at Jacksonville Air National Guard Base at Jacksonville International Airport, Florida and also maintains a permanent rotational alert detachment at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Florida.
To provide air defense for the southeastern United States, as directed by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), from Charleston, South Carolina to the southern tip of Florida and across the Florida panhandle. In addition, to provide the Continental NORAD Region (CONR) commander rapid response to invasions of the sovereign airspace of the United States and respond with appropriate defense measures against all hostile actions directed at the people and property of the United States, and to be available to other combat commanders for forward deployment in order to perform air superiority/air dominance missions in other theaters outside of the United States.
World War II
Established in late 1942 as a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter squadron, it trained under I Fighter Command in the mid-Atlantic states. The 159th also flew air-defense missions as part of the Philadelphia Fighter Wing. The squadron was deployed to the European Theater of Operations (ETO), being assigned to VIII Fighter Command in England in June 1943.
The unit served primarily as an escort organization, covering the penetration, attack and withdrawal of B-17 and B-24 bomber formations that the USAAF sent against targets on the European continent. The squadron also engaged in counter-air patrols, fighter sweeps, strafing and dive-bombing missions. It attacked such targets as airdromes, marshalling yards, missile sites, industrial areas, ordnance depots, oil refineries, trains and highways. During its operations, the unit participated in the assault against the Luftwaffe and aircraft industry during the Big Week, 20–25 February 1944 and the attack on transportation facilities prior to the Normandy invasion and support of the invasion forces thereafter, including the Saint-Lô breakout in July.
The squadron supported the airborne attack in the Netherlands in September 1944 and upgraded to P-51 Mustangs in October. It deployed to Chievres Airdrome, (ALG A-84), Belgium between February and April 1945 flying tactical ground support missions during the airborne assault across the Rhine. The unit returned to England and flew its last combat mission on 20 April 1945. It was demobilized during the summer of 1945 in England and inactivated in the United States as a paper unit in October 1945.
Florida Air National Guard
The early post-war years
At the conclusion of World War II, work began to organize an Air National Guard unit for Florida. A National Guard Bureau document dated 16 March 1946, gave states permission to request an Air Force unit allotment. Months later, Florida accepted the 159th Fighter Squadron with an authorized strength of 50 officers and 303 enlisted men. Governor Millard F. Caldwell formally accepted the unit on 30 August 1946, and full federal recognition was granted 9 February 1947.
A facility for housing the units became available in temporary World War II buildings on the west side of the Thomas Cole Imeson Airport in Jacksonville, Florida. Upon the arrival of the unit’s first aircraft, the P-51D Mustang, (later redesignated the F-51D) at Imeson Airport, the 159th became the first operational Air National Guard unit in Florida. During the second year of operation, the FLANG became one of the first six Air National Guard squadrons in the United States equipped with jet aircraft. The conversion from the F-51D Mustang to the F-80C Shooting Star became official on 1 August 1948, when the unit was re-designated the 159th Fighter Squadron, Jet Propelled (159 FSJ).
Combat in Korea
In the fall of 1950, the United States’ involvement in the Korean War required extensive air power commitments from the United States Air Force. To alleviate the strain on active duty forces, President Truman activated the FLANG on 10 October 1950; the pilots were ordered to report to George Air Force Base, California. On arrival at George AFB, the 159th Fighter Squadron joined the 116th Fighter Group – an organization consisting of Air National Guard units from Florida, Georgia (the 158th) and California (the 196th). The group and squadrons reorganized under the Wing-Base Plan on 1 November 1950, and were redesignated the 116th Fighter Bomber Group, commanded by Lieutenant Colonel Howard L. Galbreath. The group received instructions to move to the Far East, which overrode their original orders to Europe to replace an active duty U.S. Air Force squadron slated to go to Korea.
By 10 August 1951, upon arrival overseas, the 159th Fighter Squadron operated under the command of Major Dan Sharpe, USAF. The 116th Fighter Group was then assigned to the 5th Air Force commanded by Lieutenant General Thomas C. Waskow at its new home, Misawa Air Base, Japan. A primary requirement of the Florida Air National Guard during the Korean War was one of Air Defense coupled with combat missions over Korea. There, the 159 FSJ concentrated on flying dangerous ground attack missions against enemy supply lines and troops in the field. Pilots flew 92 combat sorties in four days with very credible results. For its part in the war, the unit earned the Korean Service Citation with Bronze Service Stars.
Upon its release from active duty, the unit returned on 9 July 1952, with their new commander to Imeson Municipal Airport. The unit’s F-84Es and all its ground equipment were turned over to the U.S. Air Force and left in Japan. On 10 July 1952, the 159th Fighter Squadron, Jet Propelled, was re-designated the 159th Fighter Bomber Squadron, dissolving the 159th Utility Flight and integrating it into the unit. Six months later, the 159th Fighter Bomber Squadron was re-equipped with F-51H Mustangs and re-designated the 159th Fighter Bomber Squadron Augmented (159 FBSA). From October to December 1954, the 159 FBSA was equipped with nine different types of aircraft such as the T-6 Texan, B-26 Invader, C-45 Expeditor, C-47 Skytrain, C-54 Skymaster, F-51H Mustang, T-33 Shooting Star, F-80 Shooting Star, and F-86A Sabre. By the end of December 1954, things settled down and the 159 FBSA had an entire squadron of F-80Cs for the second time. There were now 43 officers and warrant officers and 472 enlisted men in the unit.
In July 1955, while still equipped with F-80Cs, the unit was re-designated the 159th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (159 FIS), with a mission change to Air Defense. By 1 July 1956, the parent unit reorganized into 125th Fighter Interceptor Group (125 FIG) and both organizations were operationally-gained by Air Defense Command (ADC). The activation of the 125th coincided with the conversion to the F-86D Sabre, an all-weather interceptor. The F-86 made the 125th a self-sustaining unit capable of performing the Air Defense mission in all types of weather, day or night. In 1959 and 1960, the 125th underwent two aircraft conversions which greatly increased the unit’s inventory and operational costs. In June 1959, the unit converted from the F-86D to the F-86L Sabre. Another major conversion began 1 July 1960, when the unit converted from the F-86L to the F-102A Delta Dagger supersonic fighter.
In the 1960s, the 159 FIS and 125 FIG would also see their operating location change. Due to its limited ability to handle newer commercial jet aircraft, the local government officials in Jacksonville and Duval County in the early 1960s determined that Imeson Airport would need to be replaced by a newer, larger airport with a greater capability for accommodating jet airliner traffic and long term growth. With the scaling back and ultimate closure of Imeson Airport, and its replacement by the new Jacksonville International Airport during 1967 and 1968, the 125 FIG and 159 FIS subsequently relocated to a newly constructed Air National Guard installation at the new airport and was fully in place and operational by 1968. That same year, the active USAF gaining command's name was changed to Aerospace Defense Command (ADC).
The 1970s to the present
In 1974, the 125th Fighter Interceptor Group converted from the F-102 Delta Dagger to the F-106 Delta Dart. By the end of the year, with the conversion complete and the F-106 formally integrated into the 125 FIG weapons inventory, alert status resumed at Jacksonville International Airport. Pilots and ground-crew members received extensive training in the operations and maintenance of the new aircraft and they soon gained the expertise needed to handle the sophisticated all-weather supersonic fighter-interceptor. Concurrent operation of the T-33 Shooting Star also continued, functioning as a simulated target aircraft for intercept training and for other pilot proficiency training.
In October 1979, in anticipation of the inactivation of Aerospace Defense Command, the USAF gained command responsibilities which shifted to Tactical Air Command (TAC) and a sub-organization equivalent to a numbered air force designated as Air Defense, Tactical Air Command (ADTAC). In 1985, ADTAC was redesignated as the 1st Air Force (1 AF) and remained the numbered air force for all Air National Guard fighter units.
The 159th Fighter Interceptor Squadron flew the F-106 Delta Dart for 12 years, but by the end of 1986, the US Air Force began to phase out the F-106, converting Regular Air Force units flying the Delta Dart to the F-15 Eagle and most Air National Guard F-106 units to the F-4 Phantom II. However, it was determined that the multipurpose F-4 was not the ideal fighter for the continental air defense mission and the Air Force and the National Guard Bureau decided to transition the 159 FIS and 125 FIG to the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
In January 1987, the unit converted to the F-16A, followed by a small number of additional twin-seat F-16Bs. On 1 April 1987, the 159 FIS became the first F-16 unit to sit alert in an Air Defense role as a fighter interceptor unit on a 24/7/365 basis. This conversion also marked the 11th fighter aircraft conversion for the unit. Following avionics upgrades tailored for the Air Defense mission, these aircraft would become known as the F-16ADF.
In June 1992, after the inactivation of Tactical Air Command, the 159 FIS was once again redesignated as the 159th Fighter Squadron (159 FS). The 125 FIG was concurrently redesignated as the 125th Fighter Group (125 FG) and both organizations operationally-gained by the newly established Air Combat Command (ACC).
In 1995, the 159th Fighter Squadron converted from the F-16ADF to the A and B versions of the F-15 Eagle as its primary fighter aircraft. That same year, the parent unit for the 159 FS, the 125 FG, was redesignated the 125th Fighter Wing (125 FW), placing the unit on a par organizationally with Regular US Air Force fighter units. Five years after the conversion to the F-15, Fighter Data Link (FDL) technology was incorporated into the F-15, allowing the pilots to link flight data with multiple users, providing realtime information on air and ground threats. The 159th continued to incorporate newer technology in its 1970s era F-15As and F-15Bs under the F-15 Multistage Improvement Program (F-15 MSIP), such as the upgrade to Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-220E model engines.
During the late 1990s, the 159 FS was also fully integrated into the USAF Air and Space Expeditionary Force (AEF) and routinely deployed aircraft and personnel to the 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing at Prince Sultan Air Base, Al Kharj, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH, enforcing the No-Fly Zone over southern Iraq. Since 11 Sep 2001, the squadron has been extensively involved in Operation NOBLE EAGLE, performing its historic continental air defense mission in the southeastern United States, as well as continuing to deploy aircraft and personnel to U.S. Central Command Air Forces (USCENTAF), now known as U.S. Air Forces Central (USAFCENT), in Southwest Asia in support of Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM. Another Operation NOBLE EAGLE task of the 159th Fighter Squadron was to fly armed Air Sovereignty patrols around the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida while enforcing a 30 Nautical Mile No-Fly Zone of Temporary Restricted Airspace during the launch of a NASA Space Shuttle Orbiter ( STS ) Mission or a U.S. Air Force, NASA, or SpaceX Rocket launch. This was controlled by the Florida Air National Guard 114th Range Squadron in support of the U.S. Air Force 45th Space Wing at Patrick Air Force Base near Cocoa Beach.
In 2006, the 159 FS replaced its previous F-15A/B Eagle (MSIP) aircraft with its current F-15C and F-15D variants.
In 2015, the 159 FS (redesignated the 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron) deployed as the first ever Air National Guard Theater Security Package to augment United States Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa. They deployed again in 2017, this time to Romania and then Iceland in support of the Icelandic Air Policing mission during Operation Atlantic Resolve. Also on the evening of February 18, 2017 the NORAD Southeast Air Defense Sector alerted the 125th Fighter Wing Detachment 1 Alert Force at Homestead Air Reserve Base in South Florida of the precence of 8 un-responsive civilian aircraft that entered into the Restricted Airspace No-Fly Zone around President Donald Trump's Mar-A-Lago Estate in Palm Beach, Florida 90 miles to the North while the President was in town. The 159th Fighter Squadron Launched a pair of McDonnell Douglas F-15C Eagle Air Superiority Fighters to Intercept the planes and to find out there intentions. As they pushed-up their afterburners they went to supersonic speeds above 760 mph breaking the sound barrier, resorting in many residents of Palm Beach and Broward Counties calling the police about the loud booming sounds heard as the shockwaves passed their homes! The F-15s visually inspected the aircraft and escorted them out of the airspace. Once it was confirmed that the aircraft were not hostile the 159th FS F-15 pilots reported the all clear to the FAA's Miami Air Route Traffic Control Center ( Miami Center ) ZMA. They then made the RTB ( Return to Base ) call and then proceeded back to Homestead Air Reserve Base 25 Miles South of Miami, Florida. This was just another important mission of the 159th Fighter Squadron while in support of Operation Noble Eagle since 9/11.
- Constituted as the 352d Fighter Squadron (Single Engine) on 29 September 1942
- Activated on 1 October 1942
- Inactivated on 18 October 1945
- Redesignated: 159th Fighter Squadron, Single Engine and allotted to Florida ANG, on 24 May 1946
- Extended federal recognition on 9 February 1947
- Redesignated: 159th Fighter Squadron, Jet on 1 August 1948
- Federalized and placed on active duty, 10 October 1950
- Redesignated: 159th Fighter-Bomber Squadron on 1 November 1950
- Released from active duty and returned to Florida state control, 10 July 1952
- Redesignated: 159th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron on 10 July 1952
- Redesignated: 159th Fighter Squadron on 15 March 1992
- 353d Fighter Group, 1 October 1942 – 18 October 1945
- 54th Fighter Wing, 9 February 1947
- 116th Fighter Group, 10 October 1950
- 116th Fighter-Bomber Group, 11 November 1950
- 116th Fighter-Interceptor Group, 10 July 1952
- 116th Fighter-Bomber Wing, 1 December 1952
- 116th Fighter Group (Air Defense), 1 July 1955
- 125th Fighter Interceptor Group, 1 July 1956
- 125th Fighter Group, 15 March 1992
- 125th Operations Group, 1 August 1995 – present
- Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, AL: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4
- Florida ANG 60th Anniversary History Document
- 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).