390th Fighter Squadron [390th FS]
(Base Code: MO)
The mission of the 390th Fighter Squadron is to plan and conduct air superiority operations as part of the USAF's air expeditionary wing. Generates, mobilizes, deploys, and employ 18 PAA F-15C/D aircraft and 250-plus personnel in defensive and offensive counterair missions. It also trains air and ground personnel to sustain combat operations in any theater and executes missions in support of worldwide Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) and contingency operations.
Today's 390th Fighter Squadron traces its history back to a World War II, with the unit constituted on 24 May 1943 as the 390th Fighter Squadron. It existed only on paper until its activation on 1 June 1943 at Richmond Army Air Base, Virginia as part of the 366th Fighter Group. At Richmond, and later at Bluethenthal Field, North Carolina, the squadron had initial training in the P-47 Thunderbolt. By the end of the year, training had progressed to the point that the squadron could be reassigned, with the rest of the 366th group, to the European Theater.
Membury, England was the first overseas home of the 390th Fighter Squadron, with the unit arriving at the new base on 10 January 1944. At Membury, activities centered on gaining additional training to prepare the squadron for combat, with 390th pilots learning from flyers who already had combat experience. A move to a new base at Thruxton, England took place on 1 March 1944, with the squadron flying its first combat missions shortly after the relocation. By 16 March the unit gained its first victory over enemy aircraft.
Most of the missions flown during the war involved bombing tactical targets such as airfields, gun emplacements and enemy transportation, as well as any targets of opportunity that presented themselves. The 390th flew such missions during the D-Day invasion and throughout the push through Europe. Shortly after the Normandy invasion, the 366th Fighter Group, and thus the 390th Fighter Squadron, earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for actions in the St. Lo breakthrough. Group aircraft on a fighter sweep behind enemy lines located and destroyed a tank column that Allied forces had not known about, preventing a surprise attack.
To allow the deepest possible penetration into enemy territory, the squadron periodically moved to new bases as Allied armies gained ground. The unit operated from three separate bases in France, reaching Belgium by November 1944 and into Germany by April 1945. Along the way, the 390th supported many major actions, including the Battle of the Bulge. After the Nazi surrender in May 1945, the squadron remained in Germany as part of the occupation forces. On 20 August 1946 the 390th, and the rest of the 366th Fighter Group, became inactivated.
This period of inactivity lasted until 1 January 1953, with the squadron again activated at Alexandria (later England) Air Force Base, Louisiana. Prior to this activation, the unit received a new designation, with the name changed to the 390th Fighter-Bomber Squadron on 15 November 1952. Again the 390th served as part of the 366th group, which had been redesignated as the 366th Fighter-Bomber Group and assigned under the newly created 366th Fighter- Bomber Wing. Initially the squadron flew the F-51 Mustang, but later moved on to such early jet aircraft as the F-84 Thunderstreak, F-86 Sabre and F-100 Supersabre. Activities at Alexandria included participation in various exercises and deployments, training to remain combat ready and, later, periodic rotations to Europe. On 25 September 1957 the 366th Fighter-Bomber Group became inactivated and the 390th was assigned directly under the 366th Fighter-Bomber Wing. Less than a year later the unit received a new designation as the 390th Tactical Fighter Squadron when the 366th wing and its flying squadrons changed from Fighter-Bomber to Tactical Fighter organizations on 1 July 1958. On 1 April 1959 the 390th and the rest of the wing again became inactivated.
About three years later the wing and its flying squadrons were activated at Chaumont Air Base, France. This 30 April 1962 activation represented the first peacetime activation of a tactical unit completely overseas. The 390th and its sister squadrons absorbed the personnel and equipment of federalized Air National Guard units which had been serving overseas and returned to state control. Again, the 390th flew the F-84F Thunderstreak. With the 366 TFW stationed at Chaumont and managing three satellite bases, the 390th operated from the nearby airfield at Chambley, France. During the Cuban Missile Crisis the 390th assumed alert duties at Chambley.
By July 1963 the wing was no longer needed in Europe and was transferred to Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. After arrival at Holloman, the 390 TFS began the transition from the aging F-84 to the new F-4C Phantom. Following the aircraft conversion, activities again centered on maintaining combat capability, exercise participation and other routine peacetime operations. With the conflict in Southeast Asia escalating, the 390th Tactical Fighter Squadron deployed to Asia on 29 October 1965. While officially assigned to Da Nang Air Base, South Vietnam, the unit actually operated from Clark Air Base, the Philippines until 17 November 1965 when it made the move to Da Nang. From 29 October 1965 through 7 April 1966 the squadron served as a component of the 6252d Tactical Fighter Wing at Da Nang, joining the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing on 8 April 1966. Six months later the 366 TFW replaced the 35 TFW at Da Nang, with the 390 TFS joining its previous parent organization on 10 October 1966.
The squadron served with the 366th wing in Vietnam until 1972, flying combat missions in the F-4. During the stay at Da Nang, squadron aircraft changed twice, first from the original F-4C to the newer D model Phantom and then from the F-4D to the F-4E. In addition, its six and a half years in Vietnam brought the squadron five Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards and a Presidential Unit Citation.
On 30 June 1972 the 390th left the 366 TFW and returned to the United States, joining the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing at Mountain Home Air Force Base. The move took place without personnel or equipment, with the 390th designation going to an F-111 squadron at Mountain Home. Later that year, the 366 TFW replaced the 347 TFW at Mountain Home, absorbing its personnel and equipment. Thus, the 390 TFS again became a component of the 366th wing on 31 October 1972. Throughout the 1970's squadron activities centered on maintaining readiness in the F-111 aircraft and other routine operations. The two major exceptions included a short-notice overseas deployment and a conversion of aircraft.
An incident in the demilitarized zone between North Korea and South Korea, known as the "Tree Cutting Incident" brought increased tensions and caused the United States to deploy additional forces to Korea as a show of strength. The 390 TFS was included in this August 1976 buildup, reaching full alert status in Korea just 31 hours after receiving launch notification at Mountain Home. Tensions subsided within a few weeks and the 390th returned home, but the rapid response to tasking earned the wing and the squadron another Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.
The conversion of aircraft took place during 1977. In order to modernize its forces in Europe, the Air Force replaced F-4 aircraft at RAF Lakenheath in England with the F-111F fleet of the 366 TFW. The 366th and its squadrons received older F-111A aircraft from Nellis AFB, Nevada to replace the F-111F. This conversion, "Operation Ready Switch", went smoothly, with the unit quickly regaining operational status in the F-111A.
Operations continued unchanged until the early 1980's, when part of the wing's F-111A fighter fleet underwent modification to convert them to EF-111A electronic combat aircraft. The converted aircraft went to the 388th Electronic Combat Squadron at Mountain Home. The conversion program decreased the size of the wing's aircraft fleet to the point where the 366 TFW could no longer support the operations of four flying squadrons, leading to the inactivation of the 390 TFS on 1 October 1982. A few months later, the Air Force redesignated the 390th as an Electronic Combat Squadron and activated the unit on 15 December 1982. On this date the 390th absorbed the personnel and equipment of the 388th Electronic Combat Squadron, which was inactivated on the same day.
For almost ten years, 390th Electronic Combat Squadron activities centered on maintaining readiness to respond to combat tasking and training aircrews in the EF-111A tactical jamming aircraft. In the last few years of its mission as an EF-111A squadron, the 390 ECS participated in combat twice. First, aircraft of the 390 ECS participated in Operation Just Cause, the December 1989 invasion of Panama to restore democracy and oust dictator Manuel Noriega. Then, in August 1990, the squadron deployed aircraft and personnel to Saudi Arabia in Operation Desert Shield. When the war with Iraq began, the 390 ECS flew electronic countermeasures sorties to support coalition air strikes in Desert Storm. Following the six week war, the deployed aircraft returned to Mountain Home and continued the squadron's peacetime mission. The squadron's participation in Operation Desert Storm earned it an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Combat "V", as part of the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing (Provisional).
With the inactivation of the 389th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron in June 1991, the 390 ECS remained the only flying squadron of the 366 TFW. Ongoing commitments in the Middle East brought additional deployments in 1992. In January of that year, the 390 ECS sent a small force of EF-111A aircraft to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia to relieve the England-based 42d Electronic Combat Squadron as the EF-111A contingent of USAF forces in Saudi Arabia. Later, another small detachment from the 390 ECS deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, again relieving the 42 ECS at that ongoing operation. The squadron periodically rotated aircraft and personnel to both of these locations, maintaining continuous presence's both at Incirlik and Dhahran.
The new composite wing structure for the 366th Wing brought major changes to the 390th in late 1992. The squadron transferred its EF-111A forces to the 429th Electronic Combat Squadron on 11 September 1992. In effect, all the personnel, equipment and aircraft of the 390 ECS began operating as the 429 ECS on this date, moving all of the assets and functions of one squadron to another. This was not, however, a redesignation of the 390 ECS as the 429 ECS. Instead, on the same date, the squadron became redesignated as the 390th Fighter Squadron. With this new designation came entirely new personnel and equipment, with the 390th Fighter Squadron equipped with the F-15C Eagle. This change came about due to the planned relocation of EF-111A forces to Cannon AFB, New Mexico and the ongoing reorganization of the 366th Wing as the Air Force's first composite air intervention wing.
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