421st Fighter Squadron [421st FS]
The 421st Fighter Squadron is one of three fighter squadrons assigned to the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. The unit operates and maintains Low Altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night, or LANTIRN, F-16s.
As part of the world's largest LANTIRN F-16 wing, the 421st FS conducts flying operations and equipment maintenance to maintain combat readiness of a 18-aircraft F-16C LANTIRN squadron. It prepares to deploy worldwide to conduct air-to-air and air-to-ground operations for daylight and nighttime missions.
The squadron was activated May 1, 1943, as the 421st Night-Fighter Squadron, in Orlando, Fla. Following six months of flight training, the squadron arrived at Milne Bay, New Guinea, and assumed duty with the 5th Fighter Command, 5th Air Force, in the southwest Pacific. For the next 14 months, the squadron and its detachments moved several times throughout New Guinea providing cover for U.S. Army assault landings and shipping reconnaissance; flying patrols; and engaging in bombing and strafing while protecting the various new air bases.
By the end of November 1944, squadron pilots had victories flying the P-38 Lightning, P-70 Havoc and P-61 Black Widow. The 421st received P-61s, the first fighter designed for night fighting, in June 1944. In October 1944, squadron members moved to the Philippines and after bitter fighting, established a camp at San Marcelino in February 1945. Throughout this six-month period, the squadron's activity was intense as aerial combat, bombing and strafing missions became an everyday occurrence.
Following the Japanese surrender, the squadron became part of the occupation forces at Itazuke Air Base, Japan. On Feb. 20, 1947, the squadron inactivated with 16 victories to its credit.
Fifteen years later, July 8, 1962, the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron was activated under the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, George Air Force Base, Calif. For two years the squadron flew the F-105 Thunderchief. The squadron later deployed to Kadena Air Base, Japan, in Southeast Asia.
From April 1966 to April 24, 1967, the 421st TFS was stationed at Korat Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, with the 388th TFW. For the next two years, the squadron was stationed with three different stateside wings -- in name only. On April 23, 1969, the 421st TFS transferred to Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, furnishing F-4 Phantom IIs for defense alert. On June 27, 1969, the squadron transferred to Da Nang Air Base, Republic of Vietnam and remained there through October 1972 when it moved to Udorn Royal Thai Air Base, Thailand, with the 432nd Reconnaissance Wing. Combat missions continued in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia until 1973 when the squadron changed to a training environment and participated in countless tactical air exercises. During April 1975, squadron pilots participated in the evacuation of Phnom Phen, Cambodia and Saigon, Republic of Vietnam. In May 1975, the squadron flew in tactical missions associated with the recovery of the U.S.S. Mayaguez and its crew.
In December 1975, the 388th TFW transferred to Hill Air Force Base, Utah, and by June 30, 1977, the 421st TFS was combat ready flying the F-105D Thunderchief.
In June 1980, the unit received their first F-16A Fighting Falcon. The 421st was the second fighter squadron to achieve combat ready status in the F-16. After attaining combat readiness in the F-16, the 421st was tasked to provide formal training to pilots transitioning to the F-16A. In November 1981, the squadron deployed to Egypt where it trained Egyptian pilots in exercise Bright Star. From July 1, 1982, until Jan. 1, 1983, the 421st TFS trained pilots from Britain, Egypt and Pakistan, as well as U.S. pilots.
The squadron completed conversion to the newer F-16C Block 40 aircraft in February 1990, the second squadron to do so.
When Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, the 421st TFS found themselves facing armed opponents for the first time since Vietnam as it deployed to Southwest Asia in Support of Operation Desert Shield. The squadron once again returned to its proud combat heritage as a nighttime fighter squadron. Once open hostilities began in Operation Desert Storm, it became the first F-16 unit to fly the LANTIRN system in combat. Pilots dropped more than 2,000 tons of conventional munitions on strategic and tactical sites in Iraq and Kuwait during more than 1,300 combat sorties -- 1,200 of them at night, without combat losses or battle damage to aircraft.
The squadron was welcomed back to Hill Air Force Base in March 1991 after more than six months in Southwest Asia.
In October 1991, the squadron was redesignated the 421st Fighter Squadron as part of a command-level realignment.
Since Operation Desert Storm ended, the 421st FS has deployed to Southwest Asia for at least 90 days a year in support of Operation Southern Watch.
Approximately 300 people are assigned to the squadron. Equipment includes 18 LANTIRN capable F-16s, worth about $21 million each.
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