Military


563rd Flying Training Squadron [563rd FTS]

The 563rd Flying Training Squadron is the home of the United States Air Force's only Electronic Warfare Officer Training School. The school moved to Randolph from Pensacola NAS, FL, in May 1999, providing specialized training for undergraduate navigator students selected to train as electronic warfare officers and weapon system officers.

The 563rd Flying Training Squasron provides academic, simulator and flying training to USAF officers; leading to duty as Weapons Systems Officers, Electronic Warfare Officers, and Navigators.

It also conducts specialized electronic combat courses taught through graduate levels for select DoD personnel and supports U.S. security assistance programs by conducting electronic combat courses for International Officers.

The 563rd FTS has had seven "lives" since its inception. The squadron came to life as a fulfillment of the Army's strategic vision of a vast fleet of bombers to engage the Germans. First activated in 1942 at Gowen Field, near Boise, ID, the 563rd Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) trained in B-17Fs early in 1943 at Wendover Field, UT. In the spring of 1943, the unit deployed to Knettishall, England. As part of the Eighth Air Force, the unit flew several combat missions from 17 July 1943 to 21 April 1945 over Germany, France, Poland, Belgium, Norway, Romania and Holland. While in combat the unit received two Distinguished Unit Citations: one for the ill-fated attack on Regensburg, Germany, 17 August 1943, and another for separate attacks on Hanover, the Ruhr, and a "shuttle-bombing" raid. After V-E day, the unit went back to the US, awaiting movement to the Pacific, but the Japanese surrender altered these plans. The unit was inactivated in August 1945.

The squadron was reactivated in the Reserves from 12 June 1947 to 27 June 1949, flying the AT-6, AT-11, C-46 (1949), C-47 (1949), and B-26 (1949), at Orchard Place (now O'Hare International) Airport, Chicago, IL.

The 563rd was reactivated for its third life in reaction to Secretary of State John Foster Dulles' promise to provide NATO with four fighter wings. The unit became a fighter-bomber squadron at Clovis Air Force Base, NM, 23 November 1953, where its members trained in the F-86F. The unit moved to Bitburg Air Base, Germany, in 1954, and then to Etain/Rouvres Air Base, France, in the summer of 1955. The unit flew support for the Suez Canal and Hungarian crises. It converted to the F-100D on 2 April 1957 and was inactivated shortly after on 10 December 1957.

The squadron was reactivated 1 May 1962 as the 563rd Tactical Fighter Squadron, at McConnell Air Force Base, KS, flying the F-100D and then the F-105D by the end of 1963. In April 1965, the unit was sent into combat in Southeast Asia. The 563rd deployed to Takhli Royal Thai AB, Thailand, and flew 1508 combat sorties over North Vietnam and Laos. On 27 July 1965, the unit participated in the first destruction of a surface-to-air missile site in North Vietnam. In addition, there were several attacks as part of the first increment of ROLLING THUNDER, other IRON HAND missions, and several dangerous attempts to destroy the Thanh Hoa and Paul Doumer bridge. The 563rd lost 10 of its original 18 F-105Ds. Two pilots were killed by enemy action and three became POWs in that five month tour. In 1966, the squadron became a Replacement Training Unit back at McConnell. The unit trained ten classes of pilots for the F-105D between 1966 and 1970 and later transitioned to the F-105 "Thunderstick II" until its inactivation, 31 July 1972.

On 31 July 1975, the 563rd TFS was reactivated for its fifth and longest "life" at George AFB, CA. The unit initially flew "Thunderstick II"'s, but added F-4Cs in September 1975. In October 1978, the 563rd received new aircraft from Nellis Air Force Base, NV, to become the first operational squadron to fly the advanced F-4G Wild Weasel. The unit served with this electronic warfare aircraft in many exercises until it was inactivated in October 1989.

The squadron was reactivated on 14 May 1993 as the 563rd Flying Training Squadron, a part of Joint Specialized Undergraduate Navigator Training at Randolph Air Force Base, TX. The unit trained navigators and both Air Force and international Systems Officers until 26 June 1996. As part of the Department of Defense's move toward joint services training, the unit was inactivated and Systems Officers' training was combined with the Navy at Corry Station, Pensacola, FL.

The 563rd Flying Training Squadron was reactivated for its seventh and present "life," 30 April 1999 as the home of the United States Air Force's only Electronic Warfare Officer Training School. As part of the 12th Flying Training Wing at Randolph AFB, the 563rd is a key element of Joint Specialized Undergraduate Navigator Training, producing the most technically specialized members of the navigator career field.

An Electronic Warfare Officer, better known as an EWO or "E-Dub," is a rated navigator who has received advanced training in enemy threat systems and electronic warfare principles and applications. EWOs are the United States Air Force's airborne specialists in finding, identifying and countering radar, infrared and optically guided weapons systems such as surface-to-air -missiles, anti-aircraft artillery and enemy fighters. In attack aircraft that penetrate enemy airspace such as the B-52H, B-1B, F-15E, MC-130E/H, and AC-130H/U, EWOs protect their aircraft using radar jammers and chaff and flares to deceive potential threats. In aircraft that have a standoff role such as the EC-130H and RC-135S/V/W/U, EWOs provide electronic warfare force enhancement to various military operations.



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