51st Fighter Wing [51st FW]
[Base Code: OS]
The 51st Fighter Wing, Osan Air Base, South Korea. The wing plans, supports and executes military operations to include counterair, interdiction, close air support and intertheater airlift. The 51st Fighter Wing consists of more than 5,000 personnel in five groups to include an F-16 fighter squadron, an A/OA-10 fighter squadron and a C-12 flight. The wing also supports six major associate units directly involved in warfighting activities. In addition, it maintains and administers a total of 48 geographically separated units at 18 sites throughout the Korean peninsula, including seven munitions sites.
The 51st Air Base wing was relocated from Naha Air Base, Okinawa, to Osan November 1, 1971, and took over support responsibilities. On July 1, 1982, the 51st Composite wing was redesignated the 51st Tactical Fighter Wing. Ten years later, in February 1992, the wing was redesignated the 51st Wing and on October 1, 1993 it was redesignated the 51st Fighter Wing. The 7th Air Force and 51st Fighter Wing Headquarters buildings are located at the base of the now famous Hill 180.
The 51st Fighter Wing, headquartered at Osan Air Base, Republic of Korea, is the most forward deployed wing in the world, providing combat ready forces for the close air support, air strike control, counter air, interdiction, theater airlift, and communications in the defense of the ROK. The 51st FW executes military operations to beddown, maintain and employ follow-on forces for the combined arms base that includes three major flying tenants and large multiservice fighting units.
The wing accomplishes this mission through:
- Conducting exercises to ensure our forces maintain the highest degree of readiness to defend Osan AB against air and ground attack;
- Maintaining and administering U.S. operations at Osan and five collocated operating bases -- Taegu, Suwon, Kwang Ju, Kimhae and Cheong Ju for reception and beddown of follow-on forces;
- Providing timely and accurate air power in support of military operations directed by higher headquarters.
The overall responsibility for directing the mission falls upon the wing commander. The job of achieving mission goals is divided among the wings four groups.
The 51st Operations Group leads and manages the 51st FWs flying operations, tasked with air strike control, interdiction, counterair, close air support, air rescue and operational airlift missions. The group provides supervision for two fighter squadrons, a rescue flight, an airlift flight, two range squadrons and the operations support squadron. The 36th Fighter Squadron performs air interdiction, close air support, and counter-air missions with LANTIRN (low altitude Navigation and Targeting Infrared for Night) equipped F-16C/D model fighters. The 25th Fighter Squadron uses A/OA-10 Thunderbolt IIs to conduct day and night flying operations on air strike control, close air support, interdiction and combat search and rescue missions. The Operations Support Squadron is responsible for training, weapons and tactics, intelligence, plans, airfield management, weather observation and air traffic control for the entire 51st Operations Group.
The 51st Support Group provides wartime readiness, survivability and ground base defense for Osan AB through civil engineering, security police, air base operability, explosive ordnance disposal, communications, recreation and services, and personnel assets. The 51st SPTG develops and enforces policies providing mission support to more than 10,000 people at 122 units.
The 51st Medical Group provides medical and dental care to the wing community and its geographically separated units. Its unique hospital, the first of its kind in the world, contains more than 92,000 square feet and is capable of sustained operation in a chemical environment. Its 30-bed peacetime capacity accommodates 245 patients in its wartime configuration.
The 51st Logistics Group is responsible for a myriad of logistics concerns. As of 1999 the 51st Maintenance Squadron provided intermediate maintenance for 28 LANTIRN F-16s, 21 A/OA-10s, an HH-60 and five MH-53 helicopters, as well as tenant U-2S aircraft [as of 1996, there were 30 LANTIRN F-16s, 21 A/OA-10s, 2 HH-60 and 5 MH-53 helicopters]. The squadron also maintains 636 pieces of Aerospace Ground Equipment and repair/calibrate 6,537 items of precision measurement equipment. The 51st Transportation Squadron controls and maintains a 2,400 vehicle daily use and war reserve material fleet. The squadron also provides traffic management support for all air and surface movements of materiel and personnel. The 51st supply Squadron provides supplies, equipment and fuel to a "fight in place" combat wing and manages $700 million worth of accountable assets. The 51st Logistics Support Squadron plans, programs and initiates actions for the rapid reception and beddown of U.S. forces deploying to the Republic of Korea during contingencies or wartime by maintaining five collocated operating bases and seven munitions storage sites.
About 215 aircraft armament systems specialists assigned throughout the 51st Operations Group, 25th Fighter Squadron, 36th Fighter Squadron and 51st Maintenance Squadron make sure the aircraft at Osan are not just flying around the skies, but are fully capable weapons systems. Since different aircraft carry different munitions, weapons loaders must get certified on the aircraft and munitions at each of their duty stations. That's where 51st OG Weapons Standardization Section comes in. Weapons loaders spend a week training with the section after arriving at Osan. Members qualify or re-qualify and train following Osan-specific weapons guidelines.
The 51st FW was activated on Aug. 18, 1948. Though not involved as a wing in World War II operations, the wing was granted "temporary bestowal" of the honors achieved by its predecessor, the 51st Pursuit Group. Following the 1948 activation, the 51st provided air defense of the Ryukyus Islands during the U.S. occupation of Japan and Okinawa.
During the Korean War, the 51st FW moved operations to Kimpo Air Base on Sept. 22, 1950. By Dec. 10, 1950, the bulk of the wing was forced to retreat back to Itazuke AB and Tsuiki AB, Japan. Missions were flown from Japan; planes landed at Taegu AB to refuel, rearm and fly another mission before returning to Japan. The 51st moved to Suwon AB, Republic of Korea, Oct. 1, 1951, but left rear echelon maintenance facilities at Tsuiki AB.
During the Korean War, the wings crews flew combat air patrol, air interdiction, bomber escort and reconnaissance missions in support of United Nations ground forces. The worlds first all-jet air combat was fought between 51st pilots in their F-80s and North Korean MiGs. Capt. Joseph M. McConnell Jr., with 16 MiG kills, became the Air Forces leading ace of the conflict. His aircraft is on display near Doolittle Gate.
During the Vietnam Conflict, crews of the 51st Fighter Interceptor Wing provided air defense of Naha AB, Okinawa, with F-102s. During the 1968 Pueblo crisis, the wing deployed 12 of is 33 aircraft to Suwon AB. On May 31, 1971, the 51st FIW was inactivated, but for only five months; on Nov. 1, 1971, the wing was redesignated the 51st Air Base Wing and activated at Osan.
The 51st FWs aircrews have flown a variety of aircraft, including the F-80 Shooting Star, F-82 Twin Mustang, F-86 Sabrejet, F-94 Starfire, F-102 Delta Dagger, F-4E Phantom, F-106 Delta Dart, OV-10 Bronco, A-10 and OA-10 Thunderbolt II and several versions of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
The 51st was redesignated several times over the next two decades: 51st Composite Wing (Tactical), Sept. 31, 1974; 51st Tactical Fighter Wing, June 1, 1082; and 51st Wing, Feb. 7, 1992. A final redesignation of the 51st FW brought it full circle on Oct. 1, 1992, as part of the Air Force-wide plan to preserve the lineage and heritage of its most prestigious units as the force reduced in size.
One of the most important 1999 events at Osan was the base's combat employment readiness inspection in April. Both 7th AF and the wing garnered "Excellent" ratings after a week of preparing personnel, weapons systems and equipment for their wartime contingency taskings and sustaining combat operations through simulated hostilities. "Warfighting" didn't stop after the CERI for Osan. The base was under "attack" for a week during Foal Eagle '99. More than 700 U.S., 750 Republic of Korea and 3,800 home reserve forces provided protection from aggressors from the 8th Security Forces Squadron at Kunsan AB who tried to penetrate the base perimeter during the largest Joint Chiefs of Staff-directed exercise in the world. Osan also participated in the largest command post exercise in August. The 25th Ulchi Focus Lens had more than 76,000 participants. The exercise, designed to maintain a high state of combat readiness to defend the ROK, provided senior leaders and their staffs with an advanced training environment for improving their command and control, staff procedures, decision making and warfighting skills. The wing also honed its warfighting capabilities at Cope Thunder, a joint force employment exercise at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska, in February. Twelve F-16s and about 170 people from the 36th Fighter Squadron braved the frozen tundra and kept the jets flying for two weeks to practice composite-force tactics against a known adversary, as the Air Force moves toward an Air Expeditionary Force.
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