52nd Fighter Wing (52 FW)
The 52nd Fighter Wing maintains, deploys, and employs fighter aircraft and theater airspace control capability and supports strategic mobility operations in support of NATO and combatant command authorities. The 52nd Fighter Wing maintains, deploys, and employs F-16 and A-10 aircraft and AN/TPS-75 radar systems in support of NATO and the national defense directives. The Wing supports the Supreme Allied Commander Europe with mission-ready personnel and systems providing expeditionary air power for suppression of enemy air defenses, close air support, air interdiction, counter air, air strike control, strategic attack, combat search and rescue, and theater airspace control. The wing also supports contingencies and operations other than war as required. In concert with US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) wings at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, the 52nd Fighter Wing directly supports the strategic mobility mission once conducted at Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany. The Wing provides logistics support for C-17 Globemaster and C-5 Galaxy aircraft, crew, passengers and cargo to sustain air mobility operations throughout Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia.
The 52nd Fighter Wing conducts operations at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, one of 16 major operating locations in USAFE as of 2012. At that time, the Wing was authorized about 5,560 active-duty members and about 210 Department of Defense civilians. The Wing was organized with 5 groups responsible for operations, maintenance, mission support and medical operations, as well as headquarters staff. It was assigned 24 F-16 and 18 A-10 aircraft, and 2 AN/TPS-75 radars to provide expeditionary combat capability in mission areas of suppression of enemy air defenses, close air support, air interdiction, counter air, air strike control, combat search and rescue, and theater airspace control.
The 52nd Fighter Wing was established as the 52nd Fighter Wing, All Weather on 10 May 1948, and activated on 9 June 1948. Stationed at Mitchel Field, New York, the 52nd was assigned to First Air Force and attached to Eastern Air Defense Force from 10 November 1949 until 6 February 1952. The Wing moved to McGuire Air Force Base, New Jersey on 4 October 1949. During this time, the Wing briefly flew the P-61 (later F-61) aircraft, before converting to the F-82 aircraft, and then to the F-94 aircraft. The unit was redesignated as the 52nd Fighter-All Weather Wing on 20 January 1950, and then became the 52nd Fighter-Interceptor Wing on 1 May 1951. The Wing was inactivated on 6 February 1952.
On 11 April 1963, the unit was redesignated and activated as the 52nd Fighter Wing (Air Defense) at Suffolk County Air Force Base, New York, from 1 July 1963 until 30 September 1968, when it was again inactivated. During this period, the Wing was assigned F-101 aircraft.
The unit was redesignated as the 52nd Tactical Fighter Wing on 12 November 1971. Headquarters, USAFE, reactivated the 52d Tactical Fighter Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany on 31 December 1971. Upon activation, the 52nd possessed 2 tactical units, the 23rd Tactical Fighter Squadron and the 39th Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron. The 23rd Tactical Fighter Squadron flew F-4D aircraft, while the 39th Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron operated EB-66 aircraft. 39th Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron was inactivated at Spangdahlem Air Base on 1 January 1973, but the Wing gained the 81st Tactical Fighter Squadron, equipped with F-4C aircraft and tasked with the suppression of enemy air defense mission, which moved from Zweibrucken Air Base, Germany, on 15 January 1973. The 52nd Tactical Fighter Wing gained its third fighter squadron with the activation of the 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Spangdahlem Air Base on 15 November 1976. By mid-1982, the unit had exchanged its contingent of F-4C and F-4D airplanes for more advanced F-4E and F-4G jets.
In November 1983, the 52nd Tactical Fighter Wing underwent a major reorganization and became the first and only all-defense suppression wing outside of the United States. Under this configuration, each of the Wing's 3 fighter squadrons flew a mixture of E and G model F-4 fighters. The airplanes were paired into Wild Weasel hunter/killer teams capable of locating and destroying enemy radar-guided, surface-to-air threats in any weather. In April 1987, the Wing began changing with the times and replaced its aging F-4E jets with brand new F-16C/D aircraft just off the production line. The last operational E model F-4 Phantom II aircraft departed Spangdahlem Air Base in December 1987. With this changeover, the 52nd Tactical Fighter Wing secured a place in Air Force history by becoming the first wing to successfully employ 2 completely different fighters in a hunter/killer role within each of its tactical fighter squadrons. Together, the F-4G and F-16C airplanes were capable of delivering almost any munitions in the Air Force inventory with pinpoint accuracy.
Elements of the Wing were deployed in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in 1990-1991. In August 1990, the 52nd Fighter Wing was the first Seventeenth Air Force unit to deploy to Southwest Asia for Operation Desert Shield. During Operation Desert Storm, the Wing deployed 24 F-4G aircraft to Bahrain, and 12 F-4G and 12 F-16C aircraft deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Along with aircraft, the Wing deployed more than 1,300 people and 13 million pounds of equipment. The Wing lost no aircraft or personnel to enemy fire during the war. The 52nd Fighter Wing was credited with flying more than 3,900 sorties and 7,200 combat hours over Kuwait and Iraq, while recording 142 radar site kills during 40 days of combat. Along with other coalition aircraft, were credited with destroying the entire Iraqi air defense system within the first few days of combat. As a result of its accomplishments the 52nd Fighter Wing earned the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Valor for its accomplishments during the Persian Gulf conflict. The Air Force Association also recognized the Wing's distinctive accomplishments in the Gulf War by awarding the 52nd Tactical Fighter Wing its Citation of Honor—the only such Air Force unit to receive this coveted accolade.
As part of a massive Air Force restructuring effort, the unit was redesignated as the 52nd Fighter Wing on 1 October 1991 and converted to an objective wing organizational structure in March 1992. In January 1993, the Wing gained its fourth tactical unit with the activation of the 510th Fighter Squadron. In late June 1993, the 52nd Fighter Wing also began its long awaited conversion to the Block 50 F-16C fighter, the most advanced F-16 aircraft in the Air Force inventory. The Wing's final F-4G fighters departed Spangdahlem Air Base in January 1994. In February 1994, the 510th Fighter Squadron inactivated at Spangdahlem, and was replaced by the 53rd Fighter Squadron from Bitburg Air Base, Germany on 25 February 1994. The 22nd and 23rd Fighter Squadrons subsequently moved to Spangdahlem Air Base from Bitburg Air Base to join the Wing as part of budget constraints and force reductions in Europe.
By October 1994, the 52nd Fighter Wing was the only remaining fighter wing in Germany. The 36th Fighter Wing at nearby Bitburg Air Base had inactivated on 30 September 1994. The 53rd Fighter Squadron was subsequently relocated to Spangdahlem and joined the 52nd Fighter Wing. At that time, the operational portion of Bitburg Air Base was returned to the German government. The housing area and French Caserne became the Bitburg Annex to Spangdahlem Air Base.
During this period of transition, the 52nd Fighter Wing continued to conduct operations, namely in the Balkans and Southwest Asia. The Wing deployed F-4Gs, A-10s, F-16s, and F-15s to Incirlik Air Base, in support of Operations Provide Comfort and Northern Watch, the enforcement of no-fly zones over Iraq. Beginning in July 1993, the Wing also deployed A-10, F-15, and F-16 aircraft to Aviano Air Base, Italy in support of Operation Deliberate Forge, the enforcement of a no-fly zone over Bosnia.
In 1995, the 52nd Fighter Wing's mission shifted from "fight in place" to "deployment/employment." In 1996, the Wing displayed its new deployment/ employment capability when Headquarters, Allied Air Forces Central Europe conducted its first-ever deploy/employ tactical evaluation. Once again, Team Eifel rose to the challenge. The 52nd Fighter Wing also gained 4 new squadrons in August 1996. Headquarters, USAFE activated and assigned the 52nd, 752nd, and 852nd Munitions Support Squadrons to the Wing. Also, Headquarters, USAFE assigned the 470th Air Base Squadron to the Wing. The 4 squadrons were formerly assigned to the 617th Regional Support Group.
The 52nd Fighter Wing conducts its first-ever deployment to a former Warsaw Pact nation in September 1997, when it participated in Exercise Eagle's Talon 97, the first bilateral exercise involving US and Polish Air Forces. Units from the 52nd Fighter Wing deployed under the air expeditionary force (AEF) doctrine and formed the 52nd Combined Air and Space Expeditionary Wing, operating out of Powidz Air Base, Krzesiny Air Base, and Poznan, Poland.
In 1998, the 52nd Fighter Wing received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period from 1 July 1995 to 30 June 1997. Furthermore, the Wing was named winner of the 1998 Commander-in-Chief’s Installation Excellence Award and received $500,000 for use in base quality of life improvements. During the second quarter of FY99, the 52nd witnessed the inactivation of the 53rd Fighter Squadron. As the squadron prepared for its inactivation in March 1999, all of the F-15s were transferred to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, and RAF Lakenheath, England.
On 6 April 1999, the 52nd Fighter Wing, referred to as the 52nd Air Expeditionary Wing, conducted the first combat sorties flown from Germany since World War II in support of Operation Allied Force. In addition to operating from Spangdahlem Air Base, the 52nd Fighter Wing deployed personnel and equipment to Aviano Air Base and Lecce, Italy, to support the operation. Operation Allied Force proved to be the largest military endeavor undertaken by the 52nd Fighter Wing since Operation Desert Storm. Units assigned to the Wing generated over 3,000 sorties in support of the operation. Comprised of more than 4,900 people, 5 operating locations, 4 expeditionary operations groups, and 3 major weapons systems, the Wing played a significant role in bring an end to the 78 day conflict. The 22nd Fighter Squadron flew a total of 632 combat sorties and 2,991 flying hours. The 23rd Fighter Squadron flew 802 sorties in 3,662 flying hours. The 81st Fighter Squadron flew 1,181 sorties in 4,705 flying hours. F-117's assigned to the Wing for the operation flew 315 combat sorties during the campaign.
The deployments began in October 1998, when approximately 6 A-10s, 30 F-16CJs, and 15 F-15Cs and more than 700 airmen from the 52nd Fighter Wing deployed to a forward location in support of possible NATO contingency operations in Kosovo. The A-10 aircraft were from the 81st Fighter Squadron. The F-16CJ aircraft were assigned to the 22nd and 23rd Fighter Squadrons. The F-15Cs were from the 53rd Fighter Squadron. Both the 22nd and the 23rd Fighter Squadrons had recently returned from weapons training deployments in Zaragoza, Spain. The 53rd Fighter Squadron had recently returned from Iceland, where they had performed air defense rotation support. Eventually, the 52nd Air Expeditionary Wing's task organization came to include 4 Expeditionary Operations Groups made up of 7 Expeditionary Fighter Squadrons of F-16CJ, A-10, and F-117A aircraft. Aircraft assigned to the Wing destroyed or disrupted critical lines of communications and re-supply routes, including bridges, road and rail routes. It also targeted military infrastructure and fielded forces. The 606th Air Control Squadron, referred to as the 606th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron, supported the campaign by providing control of airspace within the area of operation. During its participation, the unit controlled more than 4,500 tankers, receivers and defensive counter air missions totaling 8,500 missions over the Adriatic Sea and into the former Republic of Yugoslavia.
In 1990, there were 30 major USAFE installations and an equivalent of 30 fighter squadrons spread from England to Turkey. By the end of the 1990s there were 6 main bases and 9 fighter squadrons, with Spangdahlem Air Base remaining as the only US fighter wing in Germany. As one of only 3 USAFE fighter wings and owner of almost half of the command's fighter squadrons, the 52nd Fighter Wing found itself as a frequent sparring partner. On a typical day in the late 1990s, 12 percent of Spangdahlem's 5,700 people and nearly a third of its 72 fighter aircraft were deployed for either real-world or training missions. In 1997 it simultaneously supported two contingencies, played in three major NATO exercises and deployed for some 20 training exercises.
More than 120 members of the 52nd Fighter Wing returned home on 1 July 2001 after a 2-week deployment to Konya, Turkey, for Exercise Anatolian Eagle. The multinational weapons training exercise was the first of its kind involving the US Air Force, primarily 22nd Fighter Squadron F-16CJs. Members of the 37th Airlift Squadron and Polygon Electronic Warfare Range, Ramstein Air Base, and the 4th Air Support Operations Group, Heidelburg, Germany, also participated.
Following the events of 11 September 2001, the 52nd Fighter Wing began preparing for possible combat taskings in addition to an already busy deployment schedule. By October 2001, the 52nd Fighter Wing had deployed personnel and equipment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom activities over Afghanistan. Within 100 hours of receiving notification, the 22nd Fighter Squadron, referred to as the 22nd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron, began flying operations at a deployed location. Personnel assigned to the 52nd Fighter Wing continued to deploy in support Operation Enduring Freedom after the initial operations.
In an effort to realign maintenance and logistics functions at Spangdahlem Air Base, Headquarters, USAFE reorganized the 52nd Fighter Wing on 1 July 2002. Although the reorganization did not begin until July 2002, the 52nd began active participation in the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Logistics Review designed to streamline and improve USAF logistical and maintenance processes on 24 August 2001. After being selected as one of 17 test cases, the 52nd Fighter Wing began integrating the 52nd Supply Squadron and 52nd Transportation Squadron functions into the 52nd Logistics Readiness Squadron, Provisional. As part of the reorganization, Headquarters, USAFE redesignated several units 1 July 2002: the 52nd Logistics Group became the 52nd Maintenance Group; the 52nd Support Group became the 52nd Mission Support Group; the 52nd Supply Squadron became the 52nd Logistics Readiness Squadron; the 52nd Component Repair Squadron became the 52nd Component Maintenance Squadron; and the 52nd Logistics Support Squadron became the 52nd Maintenance Operations Squadron. In addition, Headquarters, USAFE activated the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron and inactivated the 52nd Transportation Squadron. Lastly, the 52nd Contracting Squadron was moved from the 52nd Logistics Group to the 52nd Mission Support Group.
Beginning in 2003, elements of the 52nd Fighter Wing began supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom, ultimately conducting numerous deployments between 2003 and 2010. In addition, during this period, the 52nd Fighter Wing further consolidated various logistics and support functions with the inactivation of the 52nd, 752nd, and 852nd Munitions Support Squadrons and the activation of other squadrons in their place. These squadrons were ultimately grouped under the 52nd Munitions Maintenance Group, which was activated in 2007. The 470th Air Base Squadron as also inactivated.
On 13 June 2011, the United States and Poland signed a Memorandum of Understanding, establishing a US Air Force aviation detachment in Poland. Aviation Detachment personnel, assigned to Detachment 1, 52nd Operations Group, began arriving in Poland starting in October 2012.
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