55th Fighter Squadron [55th FS]
The "Fighting Fifty-Fifth Fighter Squadron" is a combat ready F-16C/D squadron tasked with air-to-air, air-to-surface and Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses missions as directed by the wing or component commander in support of friendly forces. The squadron maintains and operates Block 50 Mini-D variant F-16 Fighting Falcons in support of complex training and munitions and operational taskings, while maintaining proficiency in the employment of a full array of munitions and tactics. The squadron is one of four F-16 units assigned to the 20th Fighter Wing, Shaw Air Force Base, S.C., under the direction of Headquarters 9th Air Force/U.S. Central Command Air Forces and Headquarters Air Combat Command.
The origin of the 55th dates back to the earliest days of military aviation. The squadron was first organized during World War I on Aug. 9, 1917, at the Third Aviation Instruction Center, Kelly Field, Texas, as the 55th Aero Squadron. By November 1917, the 55th was flying combat missions over the battlefields of Northern France. The squadron was demobilized on March 16, 1919, following the war.
The squadron was reconstituted and redesignated the 55th Pursuit Squadron on March 24, 1923, and reactivated Nov. 15, 1930, at Mather Field, Calif., flying Boeing P-12 biplanes which were later joined by DH-4 aircraft in 1931. The squadron was then attached to the 20th Pursuit Group. The squadron moved to Barksdale Field, La., in October 1932, where it acquired P-26 and P-36 aircraft. The unit returned to California on Nov. 19, 1939, this time at Moffett Field. By September 1940, the squadron was flying a new aircraft, the P-40 Warhawk, from its new home at Hamilton Field, Calif.
By the time America entered World War II, the 55th was sending people to other units fighting overseas and continued to train new aviators for squadrons in Europe and the Pacific. On May 15, 1942, the squadron was redesignated a fighter squadron and transitioned to the P-39 Airacobra, operating from several locations in North Carolina, Washington, Florida and California before acquiring P-38 Lightnings.
The 55th found itself in the skies over Europe by August 1943, operating from Royal Air Force Station Witthering, England, while the main body of the 20th Pursuit Group was operating several miles away at King's Cliffe Airfield. The squadron flew 175 combat missions with the Lightning before acquiring the P-51 (F-6) Mustang in 1944. In April 1944, the squadron joined the rest of the 20th at King's Cliffe flying daily strafing, long-range patrol and bomber escort missions. In June 1944, the 55th took part in the massive D-Day invasion at Normandy (France), providing air cover for Allied naval forces. As the war progressed, the 55th performed escort and fighter-bomber missions supporting the Allied advance through Central Europe and the Rhineland. In December 1945, the 55th took part in the Battle of the Bulge, escorting bombers to the battle area. The squadron's 175th, and last combat mission in the P-51 was flown in April 1945, the day after American and Soviet forces met at the Elbe River. The squadron was demobilized Oct. 18, 1945, as part of the post-war drawdown, but was reactivated July 29, 1946 at Biggs Field, Texas, flying air power demonstrations and training operations in the P-51.
The 55th entered the jet age in February 1948, when it received F-84G Thunderjets. The squadron was redesignated the 55th Fighter-Bomber Squadron Jan. 20, 1950. The squadron returned to England at Royal Air Force Station Wethersfield in June 1952. In December 1955, the squadron set an Air Force record for F-84F time, compiling 1,211 hours in just 30 days. During the summer of 1957, the squadron transitioned to the F-100 Super Sabre and on July 8, 1958, the squadron was redesignated the 55th Tactical Fighter Squadron.
In June 1970, the 55th moved with the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing to Royal Air Force Station Upper Heyford in Oxfordshire, England. In April 1971, the 55th received its first F-111E Aardvark and began training for conventional and strike tactical operations, becoming fully operational in November 1971. During the 1970s and 1980s, the 55th participated in North Atlantic Treaty Organization and United States exercises and operations demonstrating the capabilities of NATO air power and deterring aggression from forces in Eastern Europe. Some of the events included Shabaz, REFORGER, Display Determination, Cold Fire, Ghost Rider, as well as Green and Red Flag exercises at Nellis Air Force Base, Nev. The squadron also completed numerous weapons training deployments to Zaragoza Air Base, Spain, and Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.
In January 1991, elements of the 55th deployed to Turkey as part of the 7440th Composite Wing (Provisional), the model for multi-type aircraft wings. During Operation Desert Storm the 55th flew more than 144 sorties, amassing 415 combat hours without a loss. During those missions they dropped ordnance on key chemical, nuclear, biological, petroleum and weapons facilities in Northern Iraq. Many of the missions, some of the longest of the Gulf War, were flown to targets near Baghdad.
On Oct. 1, 1991, the unit was redesignated the 55th Fighter Squadron. The squadron absorbed elements of the 520th Aircraft Generation Squadron and 55th Aircraft Maintenance Unit on Feb. 1, 1992, consolidating aircraft, maintainers and aircrew members under one commander as part of the Air Force's restructuring. During the early 1990s, the 55th participated in NATO exercises Dragon Hammer at Aviano Air Base, Italy, and Central Enterprise in the Federal Republic of Germany.
The 55th Fighter Squadron was inactivated in December 1993, then transferred and reactivated Jan. 3, 1994, at its present home Shaw Air force Base, S.C. In July 1996, the squadron transferred it's OA/A-10A aircraft to Pope Air Force Base, N.C. and stood down. In July 1997, the 55th stood up as an F-16 squadron.
Squadron decorations include the Distinguished Unit Citation; Air Force Outstanding Unit Award; World War I Theater of Operations and World War II American Service Streamers; and Air Combat EAME, Air Offensive Europe, and the Liberation and Defense of Kuwait Campaign Streamers.
In late 2002 through early 2003 the 55th was deployed to Incirlik in support of Operation Northern Watch. Upon completion of their rotation in March 2003 the unit will be deactivated. Flying the F-16CJ Fighting Falcon, the squadron added to the more than 50 British and U.S. aircraft that work as one team to enforce the northern no-fly zone.
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