8th Fighter Wing [8th FW]
[Base Code: WP]
Kunsan AB is home to the 8th Fighter Wing, which is made up of two F-16 fighter squadrons, the 35th Fighter Squadron and the 80th Fighter Squadron. The 8th Fighter Wing "Wolf Pack", comprised of the 35th Fighter Squadron "Pantons" and the 80th Fighter Squadron "Juvats", performs both air-to-ground and air-to-air missions in support of numerous taskings throughout the Pacific. During peacetime, the 8th fighter Wing reports to 7th Air Force, headquartered at Osan Air Base, ROK. Seventh Air Force reports to headquarters, Pacific Air Forces at Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii. In contingency operations, the 8th Figher Wing becomes part of the Air Component Command, located at Osan, and report to U.S. Forces Korea Command, and the United Nations Command, located in Seoul.
The first group of F-16s transiting from the 35th Fighter Squadron at Kunsan Air Base Korea to Florida left Hickam's flightline in December 2000. The planes, the first in a long series of "swaps" intended to change the basic Kunsan mission arrived 17 November 2000 on their way to the 93rd Fighter Squadron at Homestead Air Reserve Base, FL. The Kunsan birds bound for Homestead continued to come through Hickam Air Force Base in waves of six aircraft until March 2001. The 35th FS changed out all of their Block 30 aircraft and replaced them with Block 40s. The new Block 40 F-16s come equipped with the Low Altitude Navigation Targeting Infrared for Night gear. The gear is one of the main factors in the 35th FS' changing mission. LANTIRN gear allows for night-based flights. Crews from Kunsan used Hickam's flightline as a staging area for the transition.
With the inactivation of the 69th Fighter Squadron at Moody AFB, GA, resulting from the 347th redesignation to a Rescue Wing, the 8th FW was scheduled to receive some of the inactivated unit's F-16C/D aircraft.
February 6, 1918, marked the activation of the 8th Pursuit Group at Camp Waco, TX. By May of that year, the pilots of the 8th experienced their first combat. The group deactivated in 1921 and remained as such until June 1932. In 1934, the 8th helped fly the air corps air mail routes across the United States.
In 1940, the P-40 aircraft became the primary weapon used by the 8th Pursuit Group. When the unit arrived in Brisbane, Australia, in April 1942, three squadrons were assigned: the 35th, 36th and 80th Pursuit Squadrons. Since fighting became the new objective, the unit took on the new designation of the 8th Fighter Group. During the course of World War II in the Pacific, the 8th participated in battles in Port Moresby, Nadaab, Owwi, Zamboandga, the Philippines, Minadoro, IeShima and Japan. The 8th established its new home (after the surrender of the Japanese forces) at Ashiya Air Field on the island of Kyushu. The 8th Fighter Group participated in nine campaigns and received two Distinguished Unit Citations. The 8th spawned twenty-seven "Aces" and accounted for destroying 449 enemy aircraft during World War II.
Activated as the 8th Fighter Wing in August 1948, the wing continued carving its place in the history of the Air Force. Flying P-51 Mustangs out of Ashiya Field, Japan, the 8th FW provided air defense for the Japanese region. While stationed in Japan, the wing changed to the more sophisticated F-80 jet fighter.
On January 20, 1950, the wing gained its new designation as the 8th Fighter Bomber Wing. When war broke out on the Korean Peninsula June 25, 1950, the 8th FBW became the first air unit committed to the conflict and the first American jet wing to fly combat missions during wartime.
The 8 FW is known for the heroic actions of its members, including Major Charles J. Loring, a pilot in the 80th FS, who was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions on November 22, 1952 when he flew his badly damaged F-80 aircraft into an enemy artillery emplacement near Sniper Ridge so that entrenched U.S. Infantry men could escape. During the next three years, the 8th flew more than 60,000 sorties while operating from bases in both Korea and Japan. The wing participated in 10 campaigns and earned three unit citations.
In 1954, the unit moved back to Itazuke AB, Japan and once again assumed an air defense role. Redesignated the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing on July 1, 1958, it remained in Japan until July 1964. During its tenure in Japan the wing flew a variety of aircraft including the F-86, F-100, and the F-105.
In July 1964, George AFB in California became the new home of the 8th TFW until December 1965. While at George AFB, the wing received the F-4 Phantom II fighter aircraft. For the next seven years, the 8th TFW carried out its wartime mission as it led the way for Air Force units during the Vietnam conflict. Based at Ubon Royal Thai AB, Thailand, the wing carried out a number of roles during combat. By the end of 1966, aircrews assigned to the 8th TFW flew nearly 14,000 combat missions into Vietnam. One of the squadrons assigned to wing, the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron, became known as the "Ace" squadron of the conflict. During his tenure from September 1966 to September 1967, Col Robin Olds, Wing Commander, referred to his unit as the "Wolf Pack" because of pilot aggressiveness and teamwork while flying combat missions, much like a pack of wolves, which led to the wing's nickname.
Between 1966 and 1968, the 8th's primary function involved tactical fighter bombing. With the temporary bombing halt in 1969, attention turned toward interdiction of enemy resources bound for South Vietnam. During 1970, the Wolf Pack flew its 100,000th combat sortie. In 1972, the 8th became involved in Linebacker II. Designed to make the enemy more serious about the peace negotiations in progress at Paris, France, the 8th TFW launched 524 sorties for bombing missions against North Vietnam between December 18-31, 1972.
Early in 1973, the Wolf Pack mission included air interdiction into Laos against communist insurgents in Cambodia. After termination of hostilities in Southeast Asia, the 8th TFW assumed a training role. For its efforts, the wing received four Presidential Unit Citations and five Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards. In addition, the wing led the Air Force with 38.5 MiG kills.
Kunsan AB became the new home to the Wolf Pack in September 1974. Seven years later, the Pack recorded another Air Force first by becoming the first active overseas unit to become operationally equipped with the F-16 Fighting Falcon.
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