4th Fighter Wing [4th FW]
4th Air Expeditionary Wing
(Base Code: SJ)
The 4th Fighter Wing is one of two on-call rapid response aerospace expeditionary wings in the U.S. Air Force and is the host unit at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, a major Air Combat Command base. The wing is composed of 2 operational groups, the 4th Operational Group, flying the multi-role, all-weather F-15E Strike Eagle aircraft which are assigned to two operational and two training fighter squadrons; and the 23rd Fighter Group, based at Pop AFB, NC, which flies A-10s. This combination of 2 Operational Groups within an Air Force Wing is a rarity in Air Force organization.
The wing also provides logistics support for an Air Force Reserve Command KC-135R wing and a federal prison and administrative support for the 23rd Fighter Group. The wing is also responsible for managing the storage and beddown of the Southwest Asia prepositioned vehicle package. The general manages and controls assets in excess of $4.8 billion and executes an annual operations and maintenance budget of $193 million.
The 4th Fighter Wing had its beginnings in the Royal Air Force of Great Britain. In 1940, American volunteers, eager to join the war in Europe, enlisted in the British Royal Air Force. These Americans were formed into three Eagle Squadrons. When the United States entered the war, these units, and the American pilots, were transferred to the U.S. Army Air Forces, forming the 4th Fighter Group under the 8th Air Force on Sept. 12, 1942.
The 4th Fighter Group set records throughout the air war in Europe. The 334th, 335th, and 336th Fighter Squadrons dominated the skies above the European theater. Their P-51 Mustangs were continually chastised by Radio Berlin. The 4th set several records in air combat history. They were the first to use external fuel tanks, providing long-range bomber escort over Berlin, the first to accomplish the England-to-Russia shuttle and the first to down jet fighters. Pilots of the 4th were credited with destroying 1,016 enemy aircraft, making the 4th the top fighter group in the European theater. Thirty-seven pilots became aces while flying with the 4th.
When the war ended in 1945, the 4th Fighter Group was sent home and deactivated. The 4th was reactivated early in 1948 under the pressures of the Cold War and flew the F-80 Shooting Star. On March 7, 1949, the 4th Fighter Group received the F-86 Sabre jet as its primary aircraft. In December 1950, the 4th Fighter Group became the first to conunit the F-86 to the Korean War. By war's end, 4th Fighter -Interceptor Wing pilots had destroyed 502 aircraft-54 percent of the total number of enemy aircraft destroyed. Twenty-four of the 3 8 aces from the war were assigned to the 4th.
When the Korean War ended, the 4th moved to Japan. The unit moved to Seymour Johnson on Dec. 8, 1957. The group was redesignated the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing in July 1958 and transitioned from the F-86 Sabre to the F-100 Super Sabre aircraft. Within two years, the unit was the first to transition to the F- 105 Thunderchief aircraft.
In 1965, the 4th began rotational tours in Southeast Asia. In early 1967, the wing transitioned to the F-4 Phantom 11 aircraft. In March of 1968, Colonel Chuck Yeager took the Wing to Korea in response to the Pueblo crisis.
The 4th again gained notoriety with its development of the first operationally ready bare-base squadron in 1970. In April 1972, the wing deployed to Southeast Asia again. Operating from Ubon Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, they were the first F-4 wing to augment elements of Pacific Air Forces. Aircrews from the 4th flew more than 8,000 combat missions during the conflict.
On April 1, 1985, the 337th Tactical Fighter Squadron was assigned to the 4th. This made it one of the largest tactical fighter units in the Air Force. The squadron was deactivated on July 1, 1985. With the arrival of the first F-15E Strike Eagle on Dec. 29, 1988, the 4th become the first operational unit to receive the E model and by 1991 the first operational F- 15E wing in the Air Force.
When Iraqi troops invaded Kuwait in August 1990, the 4th responded with the deployment of the 336th TFS on Aug. 9. The 335th TFS joined the 336th on Dec. 27. These two squadrons formed the backbone of the 4th TFW (Provisional). Most of this unit was made up of members and commanded by officers from the 4th. During Operation Desert Storm, the 336th flew 1,088 combat missions. The unit dropped more than six-million pounds of bombs on Scud missile sites, bridges and airfields. Most of the missions were flown at night. The 335th flew more than 1,200 combat missions during the war. Most significantly, they made Air Force history by using a laser guided bomb to down an enemy helicopter. The 335th destroyed 45 Iraqi aircraft, 23 radio relay stations, 36 bridges, 478 armored vehicles and 48 Scud missiles. The 4th lost two aircraft during the war. Two air crewmen were killed in action and two were captured and released after the war.
On April 22, 1991, the 4th merged with the 68th Air Refueling Wing, a Strategic Air Command unit at Seymour Johnson, and became the 4th Wing, the first composite wing in the Air Force. In addition to the tactical mission of the F-15Es, the wing took on the mission of the 68th-using KC- IO tankers for airlift and air refueling requirements.
In October 1994, the 333rd Fighter Squadron was relocated to Seymour Johnson and began preparations to assume the mission of training F- 15E aircrews. The 3 34th FS began transitioning from an operational squadron to an F- 15E training squadron in 1995, giving the 4th two F- 15E training squadrons. With the transfer of the KC-10s, aircrews, and support personnel to Air Mobility Command in 1994 and 1995, the 4th lost it's status as a composite wing and was redesignated the 4th Fighter Wing Dec. 1, 1995.
Since the end of the Gulf War, the Fourth has maintained a near constant presence in Southwest Asia. The Fourth has deployed 15 times to Dhahran Airbase and twice to Prince Sultan Airbase Saudi Arabia in support of the newly designated Operation SOUTHERN WATCH (OSW). They conducted the first ever F-15E operations from Al Jaber Airbase, Kuwait, again supporting OSW. In June 1996 and Feb 1997, the 4 FW deployed as the 4 Air Expeditionary Wing (AEW), to Doha, Qatar, in AEF III and IV respectively. With minimum notice, the Fourth proved their ability to rapidly deploy and conduct combat operations from a near bare base location immediately upon arrival.
An Air Expeditionary Force of 30 aircraft deployed to Qatar in February 1997 to support Operation Southern Watch. Called the 4th Air Expeditionary Wing, the AEF included aircrews, support people and equipment and was commanded by Brig. Gen. Lance Smith, commander of the 4th Fighter Wing. Deploying aircraft include F-15E Strike Eagles from Seymour Johnson, and F-16 Falcons from the 169th FW, McEntire Air National Guard Base. S. C.; 27th FW, Cannon AFB, N.M.; and 20th FW, Shaw AFB, S.C. Operation Southern Watch is a coalition force tasked to enforce United Nations sanctions restricting air and ground operations in Southern Iraq. The deployment last until May 1997.
Deployment of this AEF was based upon consultation between the government of Qatar, the United States and other states in Southwest Asia. The AEF augmented existing U.S. Forces in the region while validating the Air Force's capability to rapidly reinforce in-place forces during periods of increased tension in the region. The deployment also assists in improving interoperability with Gulf Cooperation Council partners in the region. The 4th FW was the host unit for the AEF. In addition to sending aircraft, the 4th FW sent more than 600 people and equipment to provide the bulk of support functions at the deployed base. This was the second AEF deployment for the 4th FW as a core unit. The last AEF was also deployed to Qatar in the summer of 1996. Previous AEFs have been deployed to Bahrain and Jordan. The Fourth again demonstrated their expeditionary capability during the Balkans crisis in 1999. The 4th Air Expeditionary Wing deployed over 700 personnel to Balikisir, Turkey in May, and completed a 2200 man tent city with an Air Transportable Hospital in six days. Three days later, the Fourth was ready to receive F-15Es and F-16CJs to support Operation ALLIED FORCE (OAF) in Kosovo. Although the aircraft were not needed in OAF, they were used to relieve overextended units from RAF Lakenheath. In April 1999, the 336 FS deployed 4 F-15E's and support personnel to Incirlik AB, Turkey to participate in Operation NORTHERN WATCH. The 335 FS replaced the 4 Rocket aircraft with 10 F-15E's and both squadrons combined, completed the longest continuous deployment by the 4 FW since Desert Shield/Desert Storm in December 1990.
The 335th demonstrated that Safety is paramount when the 4th trains and fights when, in August 1999, it surpassed 80,000 accident-free hours. The 335th (Chiefs) hold this distinction with only four other active F-15 fighter squadrons--The Chiefs obtained it twice. In August 1999, eight F-15E Strike Eagles and 107 personnel from the 336th participated in COMBAT ARCHER. The 336th flew 99 sorties and expended seven air-to-air missiles.
The 335th and 336th deployed 22 F-15Es and over 350 personnel in support of exercise RED FLAG, 5 to 19 February 2000. Both squadrons performed Offensive Counter Air and Interdiction roles in a day/night high-threat scenario. Additionally, the 4th covered the core unit responsibilities for seventy additional personnel from various base support agencies during RED FLAG, including the Deployed Force Commander and Deputy Deployed Force Commander.
The 4th exercised as an Aerospace Expeditionary Wing during a Phase II exercise for the first time in nearly two years. The purpose of the exercise was for aircrew and support people to practice their war-fighting skills from a simulated deployed location. The focus of the exercise was to practice aircraft launches and evaluate the wings "Ability To Survive and Operate" procedures in austere situations. Specific ability to survive and operate procedures included, identification and marking of unexploded ordinance, protection of forces and proper wear of chemical protective clothing.
In May 2000, aircraft and members of the 336th (Rocketeers) joined other ONW forces in actively patrolling the Iraqi northern no-fly zone. The Rocketeers flew more than 60 combat sorties and dropped more than 69,000 pounds of ordnance. The 4th supported exercise ROVING SANDS 2000 June 19 to 23 2000, at Nellis AFB, Nevada. Eight aircraft, 25 aircrew, and 147 personnel comprised the 336th team. The Joint Theater Air and Missile Defense exercise consisted of both simulated and live operations conducted at multiple locations.
The 23rd Fighter Group became part of the 4th due to the reassignment of the 347th Wing at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. (previous parent organization of the 23rd), from Air Combat Command to Air Education and Training Command. The 23rd will continue to operate from Pope. The group flies and maintains 48 A-10A Thunderbolt II aircraft. Their primary mission is forward air control, close-air support, interdiction and combat search and rescue operations. The ceremony brought together two organizations whose histories predate the United States involvement in WWII when both units served as American volunteer groups.
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