68th Fighter Squadron [68th FS]
The 68th Fighter Squadron "Lightning Lancers" began deactivation on 1 December 2000 and inactivated on April 30, 2001. The squadron prepared and delivered its 18 aircraft to Hill, Aviano, and Cannon AFB. The closure of the 68th represents an end to 26 years of fighter operations at Moody AFB and a return of the base to its original pilot training mission.
The 68th Fighter Squadron, traditionally associated with the 347th Fighter Wing since World War II, has played an extensive role in the air operations of the U.S. Air Force. Originally designated as the 68th Pursuit Squadron, on Nov 20, 1940, the unit was activated Jan 15, 1941 at Selfridge Field, Michigan. The unit moved to Harding Field, Louisiana, in October 1941 for training. Upon completion of training, the unit sailed to Australia in February 1942 and from March until May ferried P-39 and P-40 aircraft to various fields in Australia. In May of that year, the unit was redesignated the 68th Fighter Squadron. From May through October 1942, the 68th became actively involved in the air defense of Tongatabu, Tonga Islands flying the P-40 aircraft.
The 68th was engaged in extensive combat operations and air defense throughout the South and Southwest Pacific from November 1942 until August 1945. During most of 1943, the 68th operated from Guadalcanal as part of the 347th Fighter Group, which later became the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing.
From November 2, 1945 to October 1, 1946, the 68th was non-operational and became, in name only, part of the large occupational force stationed in Japan. Then, in October 1946, the squadron began search and patrol missions and participated in exercises and maneuvers out of various bases in Japan flying the P-51 and later the P-61 aircraft. The 68th began its jet conversion to the F-82 in September 1947.
In 1950, the 68th began combat operations in Korea. Based at Itazuke Air Base, Japan, the unit was deployed to several locations in Korea, flying the F-82 and F-94 aircraft. The 68th holds the honor of having one of its pilots, Lt William G. Hudson, score the first U.S. Air Force aerial victory in the Korean conflict. On June 27, 1950, Lieutenant Hudson shot down an enemy aircraft only minutes before Lt Charles B. Moran, also of the 68th, scored a victory.
From March 1952 through June 1964, the squadron was redesignated the 68th Fighter Interceptor Squadron and provided air defense for Southern Japan, while stationed at Itazuke Air Base, Japan. During this period, the unit flew the F-86D and F-102 aircraft.
The unit moved to George AFB, California, in June 1964 and prepared to receive the McDonnell Douglas F-4 aircraft. Redesignated the 68th Tactical Fighter Squadron, the unit began combat training in November 1964 and later deployed to Southeast Asia. From August to December 1965, the 68th was stationed at Korat Royal Thai AFB and Ubon Royal Thai AFB, Thailand.
The 68th returned to George AFB and became a replacement training unit for F-4 aircrews from February 1966 to October 1968. The unit became nonoperational for a short time, then was assigned to Homestead AFB, Florida and trained for deployment. The unit deployed to Kunsan AB, Korea, where it maintained tactical readiness from June - December 1969.
After another short nonoperational period, the unit moved to England AFB, Louisiana in October, 1970 and trained in the F-100 aircraft. The 68th was inactivated in June 1971 and reactivated in September 1973, at Clark AB, Philippines. In September 1975, the 68th moved to Moody AFB, Georgia. Now flying the F-4E, it became once again, part of the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing.
From 1975 until 2001, the 68th was actively engaged in readying itself for combat worldwide. The unit deployed to Cairo West, Egypt, in 1980 for Proud Phantom as the first United States military presence in that region since World War II. The 68th also deployed overseas in February 1985 to Panama to take part in exercise Kindle Liberty. It regularly deploys to Nellis AFB, NV, for intensive Red Flag and Green Flag mock combat exercises. Throughout the years, it has participated in training operations around the continental United States in preparation for any wartime contingency worldwide.
On April 1, 1987, the squadron began its conversion to the F-16 Fighting Falcon, making it the first of the 347th Tactical Fighter Wing's three fighter squadrons to convert to the new fighter. The squadron became fully mission-capable on Jan 1, 1988.
Moving into the 1990's the 68th Tactical Fighter Squadron, along with its sister squadrons, the 69th and 70th, converted from the F-16A/B to the F-16C/D, an updated version of the Fighting Falcon, with Low Altitude Navigation Targeting Infrared for Night (LANTIRN) --allowing the aircraft to fly low and fast in all kinds of weather at night with greater weapons delivery precision.
The end of the Gulf War in February 1991 began a new chapter in the unit's history. In May 1991, the 68th was reorganized to incorporate the aircraft maintenance function. Now numbering over 300 officers and enlisted personnel, the unit was again redesignated the 68th Fighter Squadron. It deployed to Saudi Arabia on two Southwest Asia rotations in 1991, to Aviano AB, Italy for Crested Cap '92, and again to Southwest Asia in 1993, and 1994.
In the summer of 1995, the 68th deployed to Saudi Arabia and accomplished a record setting 1,524 sorties for 4,114 flying hours in a single rotation. In March of 1996, the squadron rapidly responded to no-notice National Command Authority tasking to deploy in support of Operation STANDBY IV. Shortly afterward, the 68th deployed to Jordan on Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) II, successfully proving the AEF concept. Shortly after the squadron redeployed to Saudi Arabia, where it led Operation SOUTHERN WATCH (OSW), 23rd Rotation, enforcing the UN-sanctioned "no-fly" zone below the 33rd parallel. This period of Southwest Asia (SWA) rotations culminated in the Lancers participating as the lead fighter unit in the USAF's first true Rapid Air Expeditionary Force deployment to SWA, responding to Iraqi non-compliance of UN sanctions. The squadron deployed 12 aircraft, 60 tons of equipment and 135 personnel within 96 hours to SWA. Within 2 hours of arrival, the squadron was ready for combat operations.
In 1999 the 68th conducted two deployments to Al Jaber Air Base Kuwait in support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. During the two deployments the Lancers flew 460 combat sorties dropping their first bombs in combat since the Viet Nam War. The 68th was credited with the destruction of numerous 57 and 100 MM AAA guns, radar/cable relay stations, ammunition storage facilities, and surface to air missile sites. Of particular note; during the first deployment the 68th delivered 14 GBU-12 and 6 GBU-10 laser guided bombs (LGBs) on Iraqi targets with a perfect 100 percent hit rate for the entire rotation, a US Air Force record. In light of the squadron's superb performance in both combat and at home the Lancers were recognized as the outstanding squadron for the 347th Operations Group in 1999.
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