The 122nd Observation Squadron, was formed in December 1940 at the New Orleans Municipal Airport, (currently known as Lakefront Airport). Two months later, with an assortment of 0-38s, 0-46s, 0-47s, 0-49s and BC-1As to fly, the unit was called to active service at Esler Field in Alexandria, LA, in response to a general military call-up following the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
With the United States' entry into World War II, the 122nd returned to New Orleans in December 1941 to conduct anti-submarine patrol over the Gulf of Mexico. Four missions were flown each day, the aircraft flying in pairs, as far as 100 miles out into the Gulf.
In February 1942, the Squadron was re-equipped with A-20 Havoc Attack Bombers and was deployed first to England as part of Eighth Air Force, then to North Africa as part of Operation Torch invasion forces in November 1943, assigned to Twelfth Air Force. The 122nd first landed at Fedala, French Morocco and participated in the capture of Casablanca. There, the squadron became part of the 68th Reconnaissance Group.
Several months later the A-20s were replaced by P-38 Lightnings, P-39 Cobras and P-40 Warhawks, and the unit was reorganized as a branch of the North African Fighter Training Command. In the summer of 1943, the unit was moved to Bertaux, Algeria, where members trained French and American pilots in navigation and general fighting tactics.
The 122nd was reassigned to HQ Fifteenth Air Force in May 1944 and was re-designated as the 885th Bombardment Squadron (heavy). Equipped with highly modified B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators, the unit transported supplies to partisans and engaged in nighttime special operations missions, flying into Occupied France, Fascist Italy, Yugoslavia and other parts of Occupied Europe supporting partisans and parachuting Allied Agents into enemy territory. Was inactivated in Italy in October 1945.
The wartime 885th Bombardment Squadron was re-designated as the 122nd Bombardment Squadron and was allotted to the Louisiana Air National Guard on 24 May 1946. It was organized at New Orleans Lakefront Airport, Louisiana and was extended federal recognition on 5 December 1946 by the National Guard Bureau. The 122nd Bombardment Squadron was bestowed the history, honors, and colors of the 885th Bombardment Squadron and all predecessor units.
The squadron was equipped with B-26 Invader light bombers and was allocated to the Tenth Air Force, Continental Air Command. The squadron was equipped with 25 aircraft, mostly Douglas B-26C Invaders, but a few "B" models as well, most of the aircraft assigned were newly manufactured at the Douglas plant in Tulsa, Oklahoma at the end of World War II and were never assigned to any wartime units.
During the postwar years, the Air National Guard was almost like a flying country club and a pilot could often show up at the field, check out an aircraft and go flying. However, these units also had regular military exercises that kept up proficiency and in gunnery and bombing contests they would often score better than full-time USAF units. The pilots practiced formation bombing with the B-26s as well as low-level intrusion and strafing. Parts were no problem and many of the maintenance personnel were World War II veterans so readiness was quite high and the planes were often much better maintained than their USAF counterparts.
With the surprise invasion of South Korea on 25 June 1950, and the regular military's complete lack of readiness, the ANG was mobilized into federal active duty. The 122nd Bombardment Squadron was federalized and ordered to active duty on 1 April 1951. By then most of the squadron's aircraft and many of its pilots had already been transferred to active-duty units and sent to Japan as replacement and reinforcing aircraft for B-26 units engaged in combat.
The squadron was transferred to Langley Air Force Base, Virginia as part of Ninth Air Force, Tactical Air Command. The 122d became part of the 4400th Combat Crew Training Group, a temporary organization formed by TAC with the mission of training pilots in the B-26 for subsequent deployment to the war zone. The 122d was joined by the PA ANG 117th Bombardment Squadron. On 1 November 1952 the training unit at Langley was inactivated and returned to Louisiana State Control on 1 January 1953.
Following the end of the Korean War, the B-26s began to be withdrawn from active service and replaced by jet-powered equipment such as the Martin B-57 Canberra and the Douglas B-66 Destroyer. The 122nd was re-equipped with former active-duty B-26s and continued training with the versatile light bomber under the Texas ANG 136th Fighter-Bomber Wing, being operationally gained by Tactical Air Command.
In 1957, the 136th Fighter-Bomber Wing was transferred from TAC to Air Defense Command, being re-designated as an Air Defense Wing. The B-26s were sent to storage at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona (many would be later used in the Vietnam War as counter-insurgency aircraft), and the 122nd was re-designated as a Fighter-Interceptor Squadron on 1 June 1957. With the transfer to ADC, the 122nd was initially equipped with some obsolete F-80C-11 (modified F-80A to F-80C standards) Shooting Stars as an interim aircraft, receiving F-86D Sabre Interceptors in late 1957 and lastly the upgraded F-86L Sabre Interceptor at the end of the year with uprated afterburning engines and new electronics.
With the F-86L, the squadron was selected by Air Defense Command to man a runway alert program on full 24-hour basis – with armed jet fighters ready to "scramble" at a moment's notice. This event brought the squadron into the daily combat operational program of the USAF, placing it on "the end of the runway" alongside regular USAF-Air Defense Fighter Squadrons.
In 1958, the 122nd was authorized to expand to a group level, and the 159th Fighter Interceptor Group was established by the National Guard Bureau on 1 April 1958. The 122nd FIS becoming the group's flying squadron. Other support squadrons assigned into the group were the 159th Headquarters, 159th Material Squadron (Maintenance), 159th Combat Support Squadron, and the 159th USAF Dispensary.
In July 1960, the 159th converted to the F-102 Delta Daggers. In 1962, the 122nd Fighter-Interceptor Squadron was assigned to the Gulfport Combat Readiness Training Center, Mississippi, for six weeks of intensive flying training. Involved were 150 officers and airmen, including support elements from the 159th Consolidated Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, 159th Material Squadron and 159th Air Base Squadron.
In December 1970 the 159th was transferred from Aerospace Defense Command to Tactical Air Command. ADC was phasing down its manned interceptor force as the chances of a Soviet Bomber attack on the United States seemed remote. The unit was re-designated the 159th Tactical Fighter Group, and the 122nd Tactical Fighter Squadron was re-equipped with F-100D/F Super Sabres. In 1970, the F-100 was still considered a first-line aircraft, and most of the F-100s in the inventory were serving in South Vietnam flying combat missions. The Super Sabres received by the 122d came from the USAFE 20th Tactical Fighter Wing which was transitioning to the General Dynamics F-111F. With the conversion to the F-100s, the ADC 24-hour alert status ended and retraining in tactical fighter missions began.
The 159th flew the F-100s for almost a decade, retiring the aircraft beginning in April 1979 when the 122nd began receiving F-4C Phantom II aircraft from active-duty units. In 1979 Aerospace Defense Command was inactivated, with Tactical Air Command taking over the Continental US Air Defense Mission. The 159th was assigned to Air Defense, Tactical Air Command (ADTAC), a named unit at the Numbered Air Force level under TAC. Under ADTAC, the 122nd began to fly Air Defense missions again with the F-4C, although the squadron was dual-hatted and continued to fly Tactical Fighter training missions with the Phantom.
The Phantoms were ending their service life in the mid-1980s, and in 1986, the F-4Cs were replaced by F-15A/B Eagles. As the F-15s had no tactical bombing capability at the time, the 122d continued the Air Defense mission under TAC.
In March 1992 the 159th Tactical Fighter Group became the 159th Fighter Group when the unit adopted the USAF Objective Organization, and the 122nd Fighter Squadron was assigned to the new 159th Operations Group. Later in June, Tactical Air Command stood down and was replaced by Air Combat Command (ADC). No change in mission was made and the 159th continued in the air defense role.
In the early 1990s, squadron aircraft and personnel were deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy, flying combat missions over the former Yugoslavia during the Kosovo War as part of Operation Allied Force. On 11 October 1995, in accordance with the "one base-one wing" policy, the 159th Fighter Group was changed in status and was re-designated as the 159th Fighter Wing.
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.
In the late 1990s, the 122nd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron was activated on several occasions, sending packages of personnel and aircraft Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, to fly Combat Air Patrol missions over Iraq as part of Operation Northern Watch. Also the 122nd EFS was activated with a deployment to Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia, flying CAP missions over Southern Iraq as part of Operation Southern Watch.
In response to the 9/11 attacks in 2001, the 122nd Fighter Squadron engaged in Combat Air Patrols over major United States Cities as part of Operation Noble Eagle (ONE). ONE patrols continued into 2002 before being scaled down.
In 2006, the F-15A models were retired and the 122nd was upgraded to the more capable F-15C Eagle. As part of the Global War on Terrorism, the 122nd EFS has been deployed to support Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF); Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) in Afghanistan, Operation New Horizons in Central and South America and Operation New Dawn in Afghanistan.
The most recent deployment of the 122nd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron was completed in October 2012 when the squadron deployed to at Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, and as part of the 380th Expeditionary Operations Group, the 122nd EFS flew missions in support of the Joint Air Defense of the Persian Gulf and Operation Enduring Freedom. The mission included providing air superiority in support of national military objectives and flying Fighter Integration Sorties with F-22 Raptors and F-15E Strike Eagles.Designated 122d Observation Squadron, and allotted to Louisiana National Guard, on 30 Jul 1940
Activated on 2 Mar 1941
Ordered to active service on 1 Oct 1941
Re-designated: 122d Observation Squadron (Light)
on 13 Jan 1942
Re-designated: 122d Observation Squadron (Medium)
on 12 Mar 1942
Re-designated: 122d Observation Squadron
on 4 Jul 1942
Re-designated: 122d Liaison Squadron
on 31 May 1943
Re-designated: 885th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy)
on 12 May 1944
Inactivated on 4 Oct 1945
Re-designated 122d Bombardment Squadron (Light), and allotted to Louisiana ANG, on 24 May 1946
Extended federal recognition on 5 Dec 1946
Federalized and ordered to active service on: 1 April 1951
Inactivated on 1 November 1952
Released from active duty and returned to Louisiana state control, 1 January 1953
Activated on 1 January 1953
Re-designated: 122d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron
on 1 Jun 1957
Re-designated: 122d Tactical Fighter Squadron
on 5 Dec 1970
Re-designated: 122d Fighter Squadron
on 15 Mar 1992
Components designated as: 122d Expeditionary Fighter Squadron
when deployed as part of an Air and Space Expeditionary unit after June 1996.
Louisiana National Guard, 2 Mar 1941
68th Observation (later Reconnaissance; Tactical Reconnaissance) Group, 1 Oct 1941
Fifteenth Air Force, 15 Jun 1944
Attached to Mediterranean Allied Air Forces
15th (later 2641st) Special Group, 20 Jan-20 May 1945
AAF Service Command, MTO, unknown-4 Oct 1945
71st Fighter Wing, 5 December 1946
63d Fighter Wing, 23 May 1948
136th Fighter Wing, 1 November 1950
4400th Combat Crew Training Group, 13 Apr 1951 – 1 Jan 1953
136th Fighter-Bomber Wing, 1 Jan 1953
136th Air Defense Wing, 1 July 1957
159th Fighter Interceptor Group, 1 March 1958
159th Tactical Fighter Group, 5 Dec 1970
159th Fighter Group, 15 Mar 1992
159th Operations Group, 11 Oct 1995–present.