366th Air Expeditionary Wing [366th WG]
(Base Code: MO)
The 366th Air Expeditionary Wing is one of the Air Force's two prepackaged, crisis response teams. The 366th Air Expeditionary Wing is unique in that it is a composite air wing made up of five different types of planes, including: F-15 Eagles, F-15E Strike Eagles, F-16 Flying Falcons, B-1 Lancers and KC-135 Stratotankers. The variety of aircraft gives the air wing a "total package" able to accomplish almost any show of force or air strike mission the nation might require.
With the wing's requirement to have everything in the air and on the way to a crisis within 48 hours, Mountain Home Air Force Base brings together a variety of different personnel and units to get the job done. The wing incorporates everything from cooks and personnel clerks to bomb builders and fighter pilots to create a one-stop shop for air power.
The Air Expeditionary Wing fits in as a part of the Air Force's new Expeditionary Aerospace Force (EAF) concept, which allows airmen who will regularly deploy together the opportunity to train together. The 366th Air Expeditionary Wing acts as the "tip of the spear" in the EAF concept, a model of what's in store for the Air Force in the new millennium.
The U.S. Army Air Force activated the 366th Fighter Group at Richmond Army Air Base, Virginia, on June 10, 1943. At Richmond, and later at Bluethenthal Air Field, North Carolina, the group trained its pilots for combat in the P-47 Thunderbolt. By December 1943, with basic training complete, the group left for the war.
In January 1944, the group arrived in England. For the next several weeks, the group's pilots learned combat techniques from experienced veterans of the air war with Nazi Germany. The group moved to Thruxton, England, on March 1, 1944, and flew its first combat mission as a group on March 14. Early operations involved fighter sweeps over France until the June 1944 D-Day invasion when the group shifted to a ground support mission. Three days later, the 366th served as the lead air unit attacking German positions near St. Lo, France. The invasion established an Allied foothold in Europe and soon the 366th Fighter Group moved to a base on French soil. The group then followed Allied ground advances, periodically moving to new bases in freshly conquered territory, to remain close to the action. In December 1944, the group participated in the Battle of the Bulge attacking German forces and flying armed reconnaissance missions.
After Victory in Europe Day in May 1945, the group remained in Germany as part of the occupation forces, staying at three different bases until its inactivation on August 20, 1946. During its fourteen months of fighting in the European Theater, the 366th Fighter Group earned confirmed kills on 78 enemy aircraft. The 366th Wing flag carries the six campaign streamers and the distinguished unit citation earned by the 366th Fighter Group in World War II. The officially approved wing emblem worn today reflects these honors as well. It displays a small escutcheon, a small inner shield that contains six crosses.
After World War II, the "366th" designation remained inactive until January 1, 1953, when the Air Force activated the 366th Fighter-Bomber Wing at Alexandria AFB, Louisiana. At first, the new wing operated the F-51 Mustang, the same aircraft that had served so well in World War II as the "P-51." Soon, however, the wing entered the jet age, converting to the F-86 Sabre before the end of 1953. In September 1954, the wing began deploying squadrons of Sabres to Europe, operating for six-month stretches in France and Italy. As it did so, the wing also began converting to the F-84F Thunderstreak. In 1957, the wing also added the F-100 Super Sabre to its inventory while continuing to operate the F-84.
On 1 July 1958, as part of an Air Force-wide renaming of units, Air Force redesignated the 366th Fighter-Bomber Wing as the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing. Shortly thereafter, however, a general draw-down in U.S. forces prompted the wing's second inactivation, which occurred April 1, 1959. But the intensification of the Cold War in the early 1960s brought the 366th TFW back to life at Chaumont AB, France, in April 1962. This marked the first peacetime activation of a wing at an overseas location. Throughout its time in France, the wing flew the F-84F, deploying regularly to Libya for gunnery training.
Tensions in Europe decreased slightly over the next year and the wing returned to the United States in July 1963 to its new home at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. There, the wing began converting to the new F-4C Phantom II in February 1965. Later that year, the wing sent its first squadron to the Republic of Vietnam. The 390th Fighter Squadron was assigned to Da Nang AB, Republic of Vietnam, and the 391st went to Cam Ranh Bay AB in early 1966. By March, the rest of the wing entered the conflict and moved to Phan Rang AB, Republic of Vietnam.
The 366th TFW moved to Da Nang AB and regained the 390th FS in October 1966. While at Da Nang, pilots noted they were missing opportunities to shoot down enemy MiGs because the F-4C lacked a cannon and its missiles were ineffective at short ranges. So wing maintainers mounted an external 20-millimeter Gatling gun pod on the F-4Cs, and in less than a month the wing's pilots had scored four MiG kills. The gun pod innovation and the MiG kills that followed earned the wing the nickname it carries today, the "Gunfighters." During this period, the wing earned a Presidential Unit Citation for shooting down 11 enemy aircraft in a three-month period.
By May 1968, the wing had upgraded to the F-4D aircraft, and then in 1969, two squadrons of F-4E's joined the wing. After this, the F-4D's assumed forward air control duties, while the more advanced F-4E's concentrated on aircraft escort duties and conducted ground attack missions. By November 1971, the 366th was the only United States tactical fighter wing still stationed in Vietnam. Between 1966 and 1972, the Gunfighters logged 18 confirmed MiG kills in Vietnam. Upon the wing's returned to the United States in October 1972, Captain Lance P. Sijan, a 366th pilot shot down in 1967, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions as a prisoner of war.
Upon its arrival at Mountain Home, the 366th absorbed all the people and equipment of the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing, the previous host Unit. Before the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing's arrival at Mountain Home, the 389th, 390th, and 391st Tactical Fighter Squadrons had returned from Vietnam, joined the 347th, and began converting to F-111F aircraft. For the first time since it left for Vietnam, the wing once again had its three original flying units. Operations continued unchanged for several years. The wing tested its readiness in August 1976 when a border incident in Korea prompted the United States to augment its military contingent in South Korea as a show of force. The 366th deployed a squadron of 20 F-111 fighters. They reached Korea only 31 hours after receiving launch notification. Tensions eased shortly afterward and the detachment returned home.
Later, the Air Force sent the F-111F aircraft from Mountain Home to the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, England, in a move to modernize its European forces. In return, the 366th received F-111A aircraft from Nellis AFB, Nevada.
In March 1980, the Air Force announced plans to base EF-111A Raven electronic combat aircraft at Mountain Home. The Raven variant was specifically design to blind enemy radars with powerful electronic signals. The 366th gradually sent part of its F-111A fleet to the Grumman Aerospace Corporation where they underwent extensive modification and were converted to the EF-111A configuration. In support of these changes, on July 1, 1981, Air Force activated the 388th Electronic Combat Squadron to receive the newly modified Ravens. However, a year later, Air Force redesignated 390th Tactical Fighter Squadron as the 390th Electronic Combat Squadron, which replaced the 388th and began serving as the wing's only EF-111A squadron.
Operations throughout the early 1980s remained stable with the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing training F-111A and EF-111A aircrews while maintaining combat readiness in both aircraft. The aging F-111A fleet was retired in the early '90s, which prompted the inactivation of the 391st Tactical Fighter Squadron in June 1990 and of the 389th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron in June 1991. But as the F-111As were being retired, the wing's Ravens saw extensive service. In December 1989, the 366th deployed its EF-111As in support of Operation Just Cause in Panama. The 390th Electronic Combat Squadron contributed a small force of EF-111A aircraft to jam enemy radars during the brief invasion.
Likewise, in August 1990, most of the 390th ECS deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield. The wing also deployed people to many different locations in the Middle East as forces were built up to defend against Iraqi aggression. The largest of the wing's contingents was the 390th ECS at King Fahad AB near Taif, Saudi Arabia. Here, the wing's EF-111A aircraft served with the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing (Provisional) which flew the F-111F. In January 1991 coalition forces began Operation Desert Storm, initiating offensive operations against Iraqi forces. The deployed 390th flew electronic jamming missions during the six-week war, protecting coalition aircraft from Iraqi air defenses and contributing to the Allies' overwhelming control of the air. The deployed Ravens and most of the deployed Gunfighters returned to Mountain Home AFB in late March 1991.
In early 1991, the Air Force announced that the 366th would become the Air Force's premier "air intervention" composite wing. The wing would grow from a single-squadron of EF-111As to a dynamic, five squadron wing with the ability to deploy rapidly and deliver integrated combat airpower. This resulted from General Merrill A. McPeak, then Chief of Staff of the Air Force (CSAF) and his belief that creating standing composite wings, wherein one commander would control all types of aircraft to defeat an enemy, would streamline and shorten tactical planning. General McPeak expressed that a composite wing would make "smaller mistakes because it works and trains together in peacetime.it knows the playbook.in other words, it can exploit the inherent flexibility of airpower".
The air intervention composite wing's rapid transition from concept to reality began in October of 1991 when redesignated as the 366th Wing. The wing's newly reactivated "fighter squadrons" became part of the composite wing in March 1992. The 389th Fighter began flying the dual-role F-16C Fighting Falcon, while the 391st Fighter Squadron was equipped with the new F-15E Strike Eagle. These two squadrons provide Gunfighters round-the-clock precision strike capability.
In June 1992, as part of Air Force restructuring, Strategic Air Command and Tactical Air Command merged to form Air Combat Command. A month later, the 366th also gained the 34th Bomb Squadron. Located at Castle AFB, California, the 34th flew the B-52G Stratofortress, giving the composite wing deep interdiction bombing capabilities as the only B-52 unit armed with the deadly, long-range HAVE NAP missile. Next, in September 1992, Air Force redesignated the 390th Electronic Combat Squadron as the 390th Fighter Squadron, which began flying the Air Force's premier air superiority aircraft, the F-15C Eagle. With its internal 20-millimeter cannon and air-to-air missiles, the F-15C protects the wing's high-value assets from enemy air threats. At the same time, Air Force activated the 429th Electronic Combat Squadron, which assumed control of the wing's EF-111A aircraft as they prepared to transfer to Canon AFB, New Mexico.
During this buildup, however, the wing's Ravens remained busy flying combat missions over Iraq, both from Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Calm, and from Incirlik AB, Turkey, in support of Operation Provide Comfort. In June 1993, however, the wing transferred its remaining EF-111As and the 429th ECS to Cannon AFB, ending Mountain Home's long association with the various models of the F-111 aircraft.
In October 1992, the composite wing gained its final flying squadron when the 22nd Air Refueling Squadron was activated and equipped with the KC-135R Stratotankers. These tankers give the wing its ability to deploy globally at a moment's notice.
In another change, on April 1, 1994, the 34th Bomb Squadron transferred its flag to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota. At the same time the squadron's B-52Gs were retired, making way for the squadron to be equipped with the technologically advanced B-1B Lancer. Next, a gradual transfer of the B-1s from Ellsworth to Mountain Home began in August 1996. The squadron completed a move to Mountain Home on April 1, 1997, when its flag was officially transferred to the Gunfighter home base. Also in 1996, the wing gained yet another operational squadron. On June 21st, the 726th Air Control Squadron was reassigned from Shaw AFB, South Carolina, to Mountain Home. The new squadron brought mobile radar surveillance, and command and control capabilities to the composite wing.
In the summer of 1996 some 500 people, 36 jets and tons of equipment moved to Incirlik as the 366th Wing from Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, mounted the largest single unit swap out in the five-year history of Operation Provide Comfort. The 366th Wing deployment brought a force equal to nearly half of all Air Force people assigned to OPC. They replaced the 23rd Fighter Squadron from Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, along with the 492nd and 493rd Fighter Squadrons from RAF Lakenheath, England.
In late October 1996, the wing's senior leadership also announced a new name for the 366th Wing. Henceforth, it would be known as the "Air Expeditionary Wing" while deployed in keeping with an Air Force decision to stand up a "battle lab" at Mountain Home to refine the new concept. The wing would soon begin working out the most efficient procedures for moving an airpower expeditionary force to pre-selected locations around the world. The Air Expeditionary Force Battlelab (AEFB) activated by paper only on 1 April 1997, stood up at MHAFB on 22 Oct 1997.
While all these changes in the wing's composition were going on, the Gunfighters met numerous operational challenges. They have supported numerous deployments in the United States and around the world from the time of composite wing implementation. Only the highlights of this hectic pace are described here. Twice, in 1993 and again in 1995, the wing served as the lead unit for Bright Star, a large combined exercise held in Egypt. In July 1995, the wing also verified its combat capability in the largest operational readiness inspection in Air Force history. The Gunfighters deployed a composite strike force to Cold Bay, Canada, and proved they could deliver effective composite airpower. Then in 1996, the wing deployed to Incirlik AB, Turkey, in support of Operation Provide Comfort.
In November 1997 the 366th Air Expeditionary Wing, nicknamed the Gunfighters, accomplished a series of firsts while deployed to Bahrain in support of Operation Southern Watch. It was the first time an Operational Readiness Inspection was completed in theater during a real-world contingency; the first time bombers, fighters and tankers from the same wing deployed to a location in support of a contingency; and the first time the B-1B Lancers from the 34th Bomb Squadron have bedded down with the wing in a deployed location. Conducting an ORI during a real-world contingency came as an ACC initiative to lower operational tempo in a unit.
The 366th deployed twice to Shaikh Isa AB, Bahrain, to support Operation Southern Watch in 1997 and 1998. These Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) deployments showed that the 366th Wing could employ and sustain its composite force while conducting the mission. Gunfighters returned on a second rotation relieving the unit who had replaced them after the wing's first visit to Bahrain. This historical first set the pace and made way for operational advancements. The 366th Wing then helped develop the way the Air Force will fly and fight in the next century through its participation as the lead AEF unit during Expeditionary Force Experiment 98. This CSAF experiment combined actual flights and combat simulations to create realistic warfighting environments. It aimed to rapidly mature initiatives that integrated air and space competency while applying decisive air and space power, thus dramatically improving command and control.
The 14 Sep 1998 announcement by CSAF Michael Ryan that the whole Air Force will reorganize into an 'Aerospace Expeditionary Force' came as no to surprise to Gunfighters. Consequently, the 366th Wing ('Air Expeditionary Wing' (AEW), when deployed) is and has been leading the way as the model from which other wings will be built.
In early 1999, the wing's three fighter squadrons flew combat missions over southern Iraq, with the 391st dropping more bombs than any other unit since the end of Desert Storm. From April-June 1999, the 22 ARS supported Operation Allied Force, the NATO air campaign against Serbia. During this period, the squadron refueled 600 aircraft and off-loaded over 7 million pounds of fuel. The 726th Air Control Squadron also supported Kosovo operations from May-July 1999. They were the first American unit to deploy to Romania in 53 years. In September 1999, the Gunfighters participated in JEFX 99, the latest in a series of exercises focused on testing emerging command and control technologies for deployed air expeditionary forces. Immediately following JEFX 99, the wing hosted Red Flag 00-1.1, the first red flag exercise in history not conducted at Nellis AFB, Nevada. Flown completely at night, the exercise combined traditional composite strike aircraft packages with low-observable F-117s and B-2s in a simulated interdiction campaign.
In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to realign Mountain Home Air Force Base, ID. It would distribute the 366th Fighter Wing assigned F-15Cs (18 aircraft) to the 57th Fighter Wing, Nellis Air Force Base, NV (nine aircraft), to the 125th Fighter Wing, Jacksonville International Airport AGS, FL (six aircraft), and to retirement (three aircraft). The 366th Fighter Wing would distribute assigned F-16 Block 52 aircraft to the 169th Fighter Wing McEntire AGS, SC (nine aircraft), the 57th Wing, Nellis Air Force Base, NV (five aircraft), and to backup inventory (four aircraft). DoD also recommended to realign Elmendorf Air Force Base. The 366th Fighter Wing, Mountain Home Air Force Base, ID, would receive F-15E aircraft from the 3d Wing, Elmendorf Air Force Base, AK (18 aircraft), and attrition reserve (three aircraft). At the time of this recommendation, Mountain Home operated several types of aircraft; this recommendation would realign Mountain Home to fly only F-15Es, streamlining operations at a location that would be well suited for air-to-ground, low-level and air-to-air flight training. This recommendation would also align common versions of F-16s and F-15Cs.
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