51st Fighter Wing
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|51st Fighter Wing|
|Active||18 August 1948 — present|
|Part of||Pacific Air Forces|
|Garrison/HQ||Osan Air Base, South Korea|
|Motto(s)||Leading the Charge (1993-present); Deftly and Swiftly (former motto)|
|William D. "Wilbur" Betts|
|Benjamin O. Davis, Jr.
Francis S. "Gabby" Gabreski
The 51st Fighter Wing (51 FW) is a wing of the United States Air Force and the host unit at Osan Air Base, South Korea. The wing has been based entirely in the Far East during its entire existence, including its combat role was as the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing during the Korean War.
The 51st Fighter Wing is under Pacific Air Forces' Seventh Air Force. The unit is the most forward deployed wing in the world, providing combat ready forces for close air support, air strike control, counter air, interdiction, theater airlift, and communications in the defense of the Republic of Korea. The wing executes military operations to bed-down, maintain and employ follow-on forces for the combined arms base that includes three major flying tenants and large multi-service fighting units.
The wing is equipped with General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon and Fairchild Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II squadrons and myriad base support agencies conducting the full spectrum of missions providing for the defense of the Republic of Korea.
The mission of the 51st FW is to provide mission-ready Airmen to execute combat operations and receive follow-on forces. The wing accomplishes this mission through:
- Conducting exercises to ensure our forces maintain the highest degree of readiness to defend Osan AB against air and ground attack.
- Maintaining and administering U.S. operations at Osan and five collocated operating bases—Taegu, Suwon, Kwang Ju, Kimhae and Cheong Ju – for reception and bed-down of follow-on forces.
- Providing timely and accurate air power in support of military operations directed by higher headquarters.
The 51st Fighter Wing is composed of four groups each with specific functions. The Operations Group controls all flying and airfield operations. The Maintenance Group performs maintenance of aircraft, ground equipment and aircraft components. The Mission Support Group has a wide range of responsibilities but a few of its functions are Security, Civil Engineering, Communications, Personnel Management, Logistics, Services and Contracting support, whilst the Medical Group provides medical and dental care.
- For additional history and lineage, see 51st Operations Group
In 1948, assumed air defense of Ryukyu Islands.
- 16th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron: duration (F-80C, F-86F)
- 25th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron: duration (F-80C, F-8)
- 39th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron: attached 1 June 1952- (F-80C, F-86F)
- 68th Fighter-All Weather Squadron: attached 25 September – 9 October 1950 (F-82F/G)
- 80th Fighter-Bomber Squadron: attached 25 September – 20 December 1950 (F-80C)
It entered combat service flying the F-80C Shooting Star on 22 September of that year, when it moved to Itazuke AB, Japan, to support the breakout of the Eighth U.S. Army from the Pusan Perimeter. For nearly 4 years thereafter, the 51st FIW played a key role in the defense of South Korea despite moving to four different locations within a year and operating under austere conditions.
The wing moved to South Korea in October only to return to Japan in December, leaving combat elements behind. In May 1951, the 51st FIW moved to Suwon Air Base, southwest of Seoul, but retained maintenance and supply elements at Tsuiki AB, Japan, to provide rear echelon support. In November 1951 the 51st FIW transitioned to the F-86 Sabre with two squadrons (16th, 25th), adding a third squadron (26th) the following May.
The group operated a detachment at Suwon AB, Korea, beginning in May 1951, and relocated there in October 1951, with maintenance and supply elements remaining in Japan until August 1954. The wing ceased combat on 27 July 1953. The 51 FIW's war record was impressive. Wing pilots flew more than 45,000 sorties and shot down 312 MiG-15s; this produced 14 air aces including the top ace of the war, Captain Joseph C. McConnell. The ratio of aerial victories to losses was 10 to 1. Unfortunately, the wing lost 32 pilots to enemy action; however, nine that became prisoners of war were repatriated later.
- 16th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (F-86D, 1954–59), (F102, 1959-1964)
- 25th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (F-86D, 1954-1960)
- 26th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (F-86D, 1954–59)
At the same time, the wing demonstrated its mobility readiness in response to three regional crises.
From August 1958 to January 1959, the 51 FIW deployed eight F-86Ds to Ching Chuan Kang Air Base Taiwan to fly combat air support missions for Nationalist Chinese forces after mainland Communist Chinese forces shelled the Nationalist-held islands of Quemoy and Matsu. Six years later, the wing deployed 12 F-102s to the Philippines and South Vietnam from August to October 1964 for air defense against possible Communist North Vietnamese air attacks.
During the Vietnam War, crews of the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing provided air defense of Naha AB, Okinawa, with F-102s. During the 1968 Pueblo crisis, the wing deployed 12 of is 33 aircraft to Suwon AB. On 31 May 1971, the 51st FIW was inactivated, ending almost 17 years of service in the Pacific from Naha when it was inactivated as the Air Force began scaling down its activities in Southeast Asia. In 1975 Naha Air Base closed.
The 51st was inactive for only five months. On 1 November 1971, the wing was redesignated the 51st Air Base Wing and activated at Osan Air Base, South Korea. At Osan, the 51st assumed the host responsibilities of the inactivated 6314th Support Wing at to include the Koon-ni range and a variety of remote sites. Operational squadrons of the 51st at Osan have been:
- 25th Fighter Squadron (1992–present A-10, OA-10)
- 36th Fighter Squadron (F-4E 1974-88), (F-16C/D 1988–present)
- 497th Fighter Squadron (F-4E) (1982–84)
On 1 October 1993, after a half-dozen name changes, the wing returned to its original and current designation as the 51st Fighter Wing. Since then, the 51st has stayed true to its proud heritage, ensuring the defense of South Korea as a proven combat force and as an able host ready to receive and integrate follow-on forces on the peninsula.
- Established as 51 Fighter Wing on 10 August 1948
- Activated on 18 August 1948
- Redesignated 51 Fighter-Interceptor Wing on 1 February 1950
- Inactivated on 31 May 1971
- Redesignated 51 Air Base Wing on 20 October 1971
- Activated on 1 November 1971
- Redesignated: 51 Composite Wing (Tactical) on 30 September 1974
- Redesignated: 51 Tactical Fighter Wing on 1 July 1982
- Redesignated: 51 Wing on 7 February 1992
- Redesignated: 51 Fighter Wing on 1 October 1993.
- 1st Air Division, 18 August 1948
- Thirteenth Air Force, 1 December 1948
- Twentieth Air Force, 16 May 1949
- Attached to Fifth Air Force, 25 September 1950 – 1 August 1954
- Further attached to 8th Fighter-Bomber Wing, 25 September – 12 October 1950
- 313th Air Division, 1 March 1955 – 31 May 1971
- 314th Air Division, 1 November 1971
- Seventh Air Force, 8 September 1986–present
- 5th Tactical Air Control (later, 5 Tactical Control; 5 Air Control) Group: 8 January 1980 – 20 June 1982; 1 October 1990 – 1 July 1993
- 51st Fighter (later, 51 Fighter-Interceptor, 51 Fighter, 51 Operations) Group: 18 August 1948 – 25 October 1957 (detached 26 September – 12 October 1950, 16 August 1954 – 15 March 1955) ; 1 October 1990–present
- 16th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron: attached 1 July – 24 October 1957, assigned 25 October 1957 – 24 December 1964
- 19th Tactical Air Support Squadron: 30 September 1974 – 8 January 1980
- 25th Fighter-Interceptor (later, 25 Tactical Fighter) Squadron: attached 1 July – 24 October 1957, assigned 25 October 1957 – 8 June 1960; 1 February 1981 – 31 June 1990
- 36th Tactical Fighter Squadron: 30 September 1974 – 1 October 1990
- 82d Fighter Interceptor Squadron: attached 17 February – 24 June 1966, assigned 25 June 1966 – 31 May 1971 (detached 30 January – 20 February 1968)
- 318th Fighter Interceptor Squadron: attached 11–18 February 1968
- 497th Tactical Fighter Squadron: 1 January 1982 – 24 January 1989
- 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron: attached 11 December 1964 – 15 March 1965 and 11 November 1965 – 25 February 1966
- 558th Tactical Fighter Squadron: attached 12 March – 15 June 1965
- 559th Tactical Fighter Squadron: attached 12 June – 15 November 1965.
- Naha Afld (later, Naha AB), Okinawa, 18 August 1948
- Itazuke AB, Japan, 22 September 1950
- Kimpo AB, South Korea, 10 October 1950
- Itazuke AB, Japan, 10 December 1950
- Tsuiki Air Base, Japan, 15 January 1951
- Suwon AB (K-13), South Korea, 1 October 1951 – 26 July 1954
- Naha AB, Okinawa, 1 August 1954 – 31 May 1971
- Osan AB, South Korea, 1 November 1971–present
The 51st FW’s aircrews have flown a variety of aircraft, including the P/F-51 Mustang, F-80 Shooting Star, F-82 Twin Mustang, F-86 Sabrejet, F-94 Starfire, F-102A Delta Dagger, F-4E Phantom II, RF-4C Phantom II, F-106A Delta Dart, OV-10 Bronco, A-10 and OA-10 Thunderbolt II and several versions of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
- Brig Gen Hugo P. Rush, 18 August 1948
- Col John F. Egan, 25 March 1949
- Col Richard M. Montgomery, 1 April 1949
- Col John W. Weltman, 19 September 1949
- Col Oliver G. Cellini, 24 April 1951
- Col William P. Litton, 1 November 1951 (Crashed 2 November 1951, on mission, missing and presumed dead)
- Col George R. Stanley, 2 November 1951
- Col Francis S. Gabreski, 6 November 1951
- Col John W. Mitchell, 13 June 1952
- Col William C. Clark, 31 May 1953
- Col Ernest H. Beverly, 9 August 1953
- Col William C. Clark, 11 September 1953
- Col Benjamin O. Davis Jr., ca. December 1953
- Col Barton M. Russell, 2 July 1954
- Col Travis Hoover, 1 August 1954
- Col Hilmer C. Nelson, 9 August 1954
- Col Edwin C. Ambrosen, 16 August 1954
- Col John H. Bell, 15 November 1955
- Col Paul E. Hoeper, 2 February 1957
- Col Robert L. Cardenas, 4 May 1957
- Col Walter V. Gresham Jr., 15 July 1957
- Col Elliott H. Reed, 1 August 1957
- Col Walter V. Gresham Jr., 15 August 1957
- Col Lester J. Johnsen, 22 November 1957
- Col William W. Ingenhutt, 25 March 1960
- Col Lester C. Hess, 24 July 1962
- Col Lloyd R. Larson, 11 June 1965
- Col Frank E. Angier, 8 April 1967
- Col John B. Weed, 13 June 1968
- Col Roy D. Carlson, 30 June 1968
- Col Hewitt E. Lovelace Jr., 1 November 1971
- Col John H. Allison, 1 August 1972
- Col Billie J. Norwood, 7 June 1973
- Col Alonzo L. Ferguson, 1 May 1974
- Col Glenn L. Nordin, 30 September 1974
- Col Vernon H. Sandrock, 12 August 1975
- Col Fred B. Hoenniger, 15 June 1977
- Col James T. Boddie Jr., 18 June 1979
- Col John C. Scheidt Jr., 16 May 1980
- Col Eugene Myers, 20 February 1981
- Col Thomas R. Olsen, 16 July 1982
- Col Marcus F. Cooper Jr., 26 May 1983
- Col Barry J. Howard, 18 October 1983
- Col Charles D. Link, 20 July 1984
- Col Henry J. Cochran, 12 August 1985
- Col John C. Marshall, 12 June 1987
- Col James J. Winters, 30 June 1989
- Col Thomas R. Case, 17 July 1990
- Brig Gen Robert G. Jenkins, 23 June 1992
- Brig Gen Robert H. Foglesong, 31 January 1994
- Brig Gen Steven R. Polk, 21 November 1995
- Brig Gen Paul R. Dordal, 15 May 1997
- Brig Gen Robert R. Dierker, 15 September 1998
- Brig Gen David E. Clary, 22 May 2000
- Brig Gen William L. Holland, 18 March 2002
- Brig Gen Maurice H. Forsyth, 29 September 2003
- Brig Gen Joseph Reynes Jr., 8 July 2005
- Col Jon A. Norman, 15 June 2007
- Col Thomas H. Deale, 15 October 2008
- Col Brook Leonard, Jul 2013
- Col Andrew P. Hansen, 16 June 2015 - 27 July 2017 
- Col William D. "Wilbur" Betts, 27 July 2017 – Present 
- Ravenstein, p. 85.
- Okonski, John (26 July 2007). "Wing's shield preserves long heritage". 51st Fighter Wing History Office.
- "Colonel William D. Betts". United States Air Force. July 2017. Retrieved 23 August 2017.
- "Experienced commanders have led 'Mustang Stampede'". 51st Fighter Wing History Office. 26 July 2007. Retrieved 5 February 2017.
- Barreiro, Jake (15 June 2015). "51st FW welcomes new commander". 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs. Retrieved 15 July 2017.
- Ramos, Franklin (28 July 2017). "51st Fighter Wing Change of Command Ceremony". 51st Fighter Wing Public Affairs. Retrieved 28 July 2017.
- USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present
- This article contains information from the Osan Air Base factsheet which is an official document of the United States Government and is presumed to be in the public domain.
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- Ravenstein, Charles A.; United States Air Force, Office of Air Force History (1984). Air Force combat wings lineage and honors histories, 1947-1977. Air Force History & Museums program. ISBN 978-0-912799-12-4.
- Rogers, Brian (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Ian Allen Publishing. ISBN 978-1-85780-197-2.
- Thompson, Warren (1999). F-86 Sabre Fighter-Bomber Units Over Korea Frontline Color 1. Osprey Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1-85532-929-4.
- Thompson, Warren (2001). F-80 Shooting Star Units Over Korea. Osprey Publishing Company. ISBN 978-1-84176-225-8.