|Country United States|
Branch Air National Guard
|Active 1942–1945; 1946–present|
The 103d Airlift Wing (103 AW) is a unit of the Connecticut Air National Guard, stationed at Bradley Air National Guard Base at Bradley International Airport, Windsor Locks, Connecticut. If activated to federal service with the United States Air Force, the 103 AW is operationally-gained by the Air Mobility Command (AMC).
- World War II
- Connecticut Air National Guard
- Korean War activation
- Cold War
- Air Combat Command
- Airlift mission
The 103 AW was first activated in 1943 as the 324th Fighter Group of the United States Army Air Forces. During World War II, the 324th served in combat with Ninth Air Force and Twelfth Air Force, primarily in the Mediterranean, African, and Middle East Theater. It received two Distinguished Unit Citations for engagements in the Mediterranean and the French Croix de Guerre with Palm for supporting French forces during the campaigns for Italy and France from 1944 to 1945.
In 1946 the 324th Fighter Group was redesignated as the 103d Fighter Group and allotted to the National Guard.
The 118th Airlift Squadron, assigned to the wing's 103rd Operations Group, was first established during World War I as the 118th Aero Squadron on 31 August 1917. It was reformed on 1 November 1923, as the 118th Observation Squadron, and is one of the 29 original National Guard Observation Squadrons of the United States Army National Guard formed before World War II.
The "Flying Yankees" of the 103rd Airlift Wing are the third oldest Air National Guard unit in the United States, including a squadron that has served over 90 years in military aviation. They currently fly the C-130H Hercules, a four-engine turboprop military transport aircraft designed and built originally by Lockheed Aircraft, now Lockheed Martin. Capable of using unprepared runways for takeoffs and landings, the C-130 was originally designed as a troop, medical evacuation, and cargo transport aircraft. Its mission is providing theater cargo and passenger airlift.
The 103d Airlift Wing consists of the following major units:
World War II
The wing was constituted as the 324th Fighter Group in 1942 and activated on 6 July at Mitchel Field, New York. Its original squadrons were the 314th, 315th, and 316th Fighter Squadrons. The group moved immediately to Baltimore Municipal Airport, where it trained with Curtiss P-40 Warhawk fighters until October, while its squadrons trained at Baltimore and bases in Pennsylvania and Virginia.
The group moved to the Middle East between October and December 1942 for operations with Ninth Air Force along with its 314th and 316th squadrons, while the 315th remained behind until January 1943. The group trained for several weeks with P-40 aircraft. While group headquarters remained in Egypt, the squadrons of the group began operating with other organizations against the enemy in Tunisia. Reunited in June 1943, the 324th group engaged primarily in escort and patrol missions between Tunisia and Sicily until July 1943. It received a Distinguished Unit Citation (DUC) for action against the enemy from March 1943 to the invasion of Sicily.
The unit trained from July to October 1943 for operations with the Twelfth Air Force. It resumed combat on 30 October 1943 and directed most of its attacks against roads, bridges, motor transport, supply areas, rolling stock, gun positions, troop concentrations, and rail facilities in Italy until August 1944. During the assault on Anzio in January 1944, it patrolled the beaches and protected convoys. It aided the Allied offensive in Italy during May 1944, receiving another DUC during the Battle of Monte Cassino for action from 12 to 14 May when the group bombed an enemy position on Monastery Hill, attacked troops massing on the hill for counterattack, and hit a nearby stronghold to force the surrender of an enemy garrison.
The 324th continued to give close support to ground forces until the fall of Rome in June 1944. The group converted to Republic P-47 Thunderbolts in July and supported the assault on southern France in August by dive-bombing gun positions, bridges, and radarfacilities, and by patrolling the combat zone. The unit attacked such targets as motor transport, rolling stock, rail lines, troops, bridges, gun emplacements, and supply depots after the invasion, giving tactical support to Allied forces advancing through France. The unit aided the reduction of the Colmar bridgehead in January and February 1945, and supported Seventh Army's drive through the Siegfried defenses in March. It received the French Croix de Guerre with Palm for supporting French forces during the campaigns for Italy and France in 1944 and 1945.
The 324th Fighter Group returned to the United States between October and November 1945 and was inactivated in November 1945.
Connecticut Air National Guard
The wartime 324th Fighter Group was redesignated as the 103d Fighter Group, and was allotted to the National Guard, on 24 May 1946. It was organized at Bradley Field, Windsor Locks, Connecticut in July 1946 and was extended federal recognition on 7 August 1946. At the time, the group's mission was the air defense of the State of Connecticut. It was assigned the 118th Fighter Squadron and equipped with Republic P-47D (later F-47D) Thunderbolts. In September 1947, with the establishment of an independent United States Air Force, the 324th Fighter Group became part of the newly established Air National Guard.
The 103d Fighter Wing was formed in the fall of 1950 when the Air National Guard converted to the wing base organization system. In addition to the 103d Fighter Group, the wing included the 103d Air Base Group, the 103d Maintenance & Supply Group, and the 103d Medical Group.
Korean War activation
With the surprise invasion of South Korea on 25 June 1950, and the regular military's lack of readiness, most of the Air National Guard was federalized and placed on active duty alongside the Regular Air Force. The 103d was federalized on 2 March 1951 and the group and wing were subsequently redesignated as fighter-interceptor units.
The 103d Fighter-Interceptor Wing (103 FIW) was assigned to the Eastern Air Defense Force of the Air Defense Command (ADC) and moved to Suffolk County Air Force Base, New York on 1 June 1951, flying air defense missions with their F-47N Thunderbolts. However, ADC was experiencing difficulty under the wing base organizational structure in deploying its fighter squadrons to best advantage. It therefore reorganized its wings on a regional basis and dispersed support units to the locations of the fighter squadrons. On 6 February 1952, the 103 FIW and its assigned groups were inactivated and most of its operational squadrons assigned to the 4709th Air Defense Wing at McGuire AFB, New Jersey. During its period of federalization, the 118th FIS transferred many of its pilots and ground support personnel to Regular Air Force units.
The 103d was reactivated on 1 November 1952 with the end of the units federalization period and redesignated as the 103d Fighter-Bomber Wing, operationally-gained by the Tactical Air Command (TAC). However, air defense remained as a secondary mission.
Upon the 118th's return, the F-47s were sent to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base for storage and the squadron was re-equipped with very long range F-51H Mustangs by TAC with an assigned mission of close air support (CAS). In January 1953, the 103d received several F-84D Thunderjets for maintenance instruction and the squadron was fully equipped with the Thunderjet during the summer of 1953. In the spring of 1955, the F-84Gs were transferred to the Georgia Air National Guard's 128th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron and the 118th converted to the F-94B Starfire. However, the F-94Bs only remained with the 118th for about a year when they were replaced by the F-86H Sabre tactical fighter in 1957. At this time the wing, now designated the 103d Air Defense Wing was inactivated.
The Sabres were then replaced by F-100A Super Sabres during the summer of 1960 and the Wing becoming ADC-gained. The F-100As gave way to Convair F-102 Delta Daggers in January 1966, standing a 24-hour air defense alert. then in 1971 the group transferred back to Tactical Air Command, becoming an F-100D Super Sabre Group.
From 1971 to 1979, the 103d flew the F-100 Super Sabre and its mission was close air support and it began a NATO commitment, deploying frequently in the 1970s to bases in West Germany to reinforce United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE). In 1979, the unit was assigned new A-10 Thunderbolt IIs as part of the "Total Force" concept which equipped Air National Guard units with front-line USAF aircraft. The USAFE commitment continued, deploying the "Warthog" to bases in West Germany and Italy.
In 1990 the 103d was programmed to receive the specialized Block 10 F-16A/B Fighting Falcon, also referred to as the F/A-16 due to its close air support configuration. The 1990 Gulf Crisis, however, delayed this transition. During Operation Desert Storm, the F/A-16 was battle tested and it was discovered that the close air support F-16 project proved to be a failure. Subsequently, the conversion of the wing was cancelled in 1993, and the 118th squadron remained an A-10 Thunderbolt II close air support squadron.
Air Combat Command
In March 1992, with the end of the Cold War, the unit was redesignated as the 103d Fighter Group. In June, Tactical Air Command was inactivated as part of the Air Force reorganization after the end of the Cold War. It was replaced by Air Combat Command (ACC). In 1995, in accordance with the Air Force "One Base-One Wing" directive, the 103d adopted the Air Force Objective Organization plan and was changed in status back to a wing, with the 118th Fighter Squadron being assigned to the new 103d Operations Group.
In mid-1996, the Air Force, in response to budget cuts, and changing world situations, began experimenting with Air Expeditionary organizations. The Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) concept was developed that would mix Active-Duty, Reserve and Air National Guard elements into a combined force. Instead of entire permanent units deploying as "Provisional" as in the 1991 Gulf War, Expeditionary units are composed of "aviation packages" from several wings, including active-duty Air Force, the Air Force Reserve Command and the Air National Guard, would be married together to carry out the assigned deployment rotation.
Subsequently in August 1996, the 118th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (EFS) deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy to assume the primary close air support mission of international forces in Bosnia. Other deployments of the 118th EFS were made to augment combat operations during Operations Deny Flight and Precise Endeavor.
In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to realign Bradley International Airport Air Guard Station by distributing the 103rd's A-10s to the 104th Fighter Wing, Barnes Municipal Airport Air Guard Station, MA (nine aircraft) and retirement (six aircraft). The wing's expeditionary combat support (ECS) elements would remain in place at Bradley and Bradley would retain capability to support a Homeland Defense mission. By combining the two units into one squadron the Air Force would retain the trained A-10 pilots and maintenance technicians in the area and create an optimum-sized and more effective squadron.
In April 2008, the 103d became an Airlift Wing. Its new missions now include; a bridge mission flying C-21A Learjets supporting JOSAC VIP airlift, counter drug operations in the U.S., Central America, South America and the Caribbean, A Centralized Intermediate Repair Facility (CIRF) for TF-34 engines used on A-10 attack aircraft and an Air Operations Center (AOC) responsible for Command and Control operations during wartime.
Sometime between FY 2012 and 2014, the 103d was programmed to receive the new Joint Cargo Aircraft, the C-27 Spartan. However, the Air Force has recently announced the end of the C-27 Spartan program, eliminating the aircraft from Air National Guards units. Instead, in September 2013 the unit received eight C-130H Hercules aircraft, the first aircraft of this type to serve the 103rd Airlift Wing.
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