The mission of the 12th FTW is to provide instructor pilot training in the Raytheon-Beech T-6A Texan II, the Northrop T-38 Talon and the Beech T-1A Jayhawk jet trainers. Previously, the wing also conducted Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals (IFF) in the Northrop AT-38 Talon, a role now performed with T-38s.
Until late 2010, the wing also conducted Joint Specialized Undergraduate Navigator Training (JSUNT) and electronic warfare officer (EWO) training in the T-1A Jayhawk and Boeing T-43A medium-range turbofan jet at Randolph AFB. With the retirement of the T-43 in September 2010, this training merged with extant USAF weapons systems officer (WSO) training that had been conducted jointly with the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps at NAS Pensacola, Florida since 1990. The navigator, EWO and WSO training tracks were then merged and all three specialties (which wear the same type of uniform insignia wings upon completion of flight training) became known as Combat Systems Officer (CSO). This updated CSO training is now conducted by the 479th Flying Training Group as a Geographically Separated Unit (GSU) of the 12 FTW at NAS Pensacola utilizing T-6 Texan II and T-1A Jayhawk aircraft.
The wing consists of three flying groups and a maintenance directorate spanning more than 1,600 miles from JBSA-Randolph, Texas to Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, to Pueblo Memorial Airport and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado.
The wing is responsible for numerous aviation training programs. These programs include Pilot Instructor Training, Combat Systems Officer Training, Remotely Piloted Aircraft Pilot Indoctrination, Basic Sensor Operator Qualification, Airmanship programs for U.S. Air Force Academy cadets, and Introductory Flight Screening.
The 12th Flying Training Wing is composed of three operational flying groups, each with specific functions:
The 12th Operations Group controls all Instructor Pilot Training and airfield operations at Randolph AFB and Randolph AFB Auxiliary Field/Seguin Field.
The 479th Flying Training Group is a geographically separated unit (GSU) located at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida and conducts Undergraduate Combat Systems Officer Training (UCSOT).
The 306th Flying Training Group is a geographically separated unit located at the United States Air Force Academy, Colorado. The 306 FTG conducts powered flight training, soaring, and parachute training for Air Force Academy cadets.
The 12th Bombardment Group, as part of Twelfth Air Force, supported the British drive from Egypt to Tunisia during the North Africa Campaign. It was then reassigned to Tenth Air Force in India and flew most of its missions in Burma between April 1944 and May 1945, supporting the British Fourteenth Army. The group was inactivated in January 1946 when it returned to the United States.
Strategic Air Command (SAC) was founded by men who had flown bomb raids against Germany during World War II. They usually encountered swarms of enemy fighters and knew the importance of having fighter escorts, so they had fighter wings placed under their own operational control. As part of the buildup of SAC, therefore, the 12th Fighter Escort Wing was activated at Turner Air Force Base, Georgia, on 1 November 1950. It was assigned to SAC's Second Air Force, with a mission to provide fighter escort for SAC's Boeing B-50 Superfortress and B-36 Peacemaker strategic bombers.
Upon activation, the wing controlled the 12th Fighter-Escort Group, which was activated a few days earlier at Turner. The 12th FEG consisted of the 559th, 560th, 561st Fighter Escort Squadrons.
The Wing did not remain long at Turner as it was moved about a month later to Bergstrom AFB, Texas on 1 December to replace the 27th Fighter-Escort Group that had just departed for service in the Korean War. As the 12th arrived at Bergstrom, the unit received personnel from the 27th that did not deploy to Korea and also personnel that were reassigned from the 31st Fighter-Escort Group at Turner. During December 1950 – February 1951, the Group's squadrons were assigned directly to the Wing and the group was turned into a "paper unit" as part of the Air Force tri-deputate reorganization. It was inactivated on 16 June 1952 without personnel or equipment.
In January 1951, the 559th FES and the 560th FES began sending their pilots to the Matagorda Island Gunnery Range, off the southeastern coast of Texas, for gunnery training. The new 561st did not have any aircraft assigned as yet.
On 27 April 12 FEW made its first very long cross-country (XC) mission in the F-84, to visit the 31st FEW at Turner. On the return leg the following day one F-84 was lost over Louisiana, but its pilot bailed out okay.
On 7 June 12 FEW started a mission to Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio that would result in one of the worst non-combat incidents in history. Eight F-84s were lost, three pilots were killed, two had major injuries, three were "relatively unharmed".
On 3 and 4 July 12 FEW transferred forty of F-84Es to Naval Air Station Alameda, California for sea shipment to Korea, and they returned to Bergstrom on aircraft on the night of the 4th.
On 10 July, a special training mission was flown by B-36D Peacemakers of the 11th Bombardment Wing, 19th Air Division, out of Carswell AFB, Texas, including a high altitude penetration of Eglin AFB, Florida, utilizing F-84 fighter escort from the 12th FEW. On that date, nine B-36s took part escorted by 18 F-84 fighters. The bombers flew out of Carswell south to Port Arthur, Texas. At Port Arthur the bombers picked up their escort fighters and headed east to Florida reaching the Eglin Range. Several F-86 fighters from Eglin AFB intercepted the bombers en route to targets in the area. Completing the scheduled mission the bombers returned to Carswell and the escort fighters recovered at Eglin AFB, returning to Bergstrom AFB the next day.
Then, on 12 July all remaining aircraft were transferred across the flight line to the 27th Fighter-Escort Wing that was just returning from Korea. This left the wing without any operational aircraft.
However, the 12th was ordered reassigned to England and to SAC's 7th Air Division. The majority of the wing's personnel and equipment were deployed to RAF Manston, England by 21 July. At Manston, they obtained the aircraft of the 31st Fighter-Escort Wing that was now headed back to Turner AFB. In England the mission of the wing was to provide escort duties to the deployed B-50 Superfortress and B-36 Peacemaker rotational bombardment wings which were deployed to England as REFLEX wings. In addition to the escort duties, the 12th was tasked for the air defense of Norway. The squadrons began rotating to Wheelus AB Libya in September for gunnery practice.
The 12th, however, only remained at Manston until 30 November 1951 when it was replaced by the 123d Fighter-Bomber Wing, a composite Air National Guard organization, with the 12th being transferred back to the United States. Leaving their aircraft in England, the personnel returned to Bergstom AFB, where the 12th was equipped with the obsolescent F-84Ds, until new F-84Gs could be delivered from Republic.
In April 1953, a new program, Task Force 132.4, was started. By the end of the month the Task Force had thirty-nine officers and 123 airmen assigned. In June this Detachment and the 561st FES was detached from the 12th FEW and sent to Brookley AFB, Alabama for modifications to their F-84Gs to prepare them for nuclear armament delivery. The Task Force also sent a detachment to Indian Springs AFB, Nevada for atomic tests where they remained for six weeks and then returned to the unit, to be monitored for radiation contamination.
On 20 January 1953, the wing was redesignated as the 12th Strategic Fighter Wing and was deployed between May and August to Misawa Air Base, Japan to perform air defense duties in Japan, relieving the 508th SFW, and being relieved in turn by the 506th. Although designated an escort wing, it was learned by aerial combat in Korea that the F-84 was ineffective against the swept-wing MiG-15 in the bomber-escort role over North Korea. They would return to Misawa for another tour in the air defense role between May and August 1954. The 12th FEW would continue with F-84Gs through 1957, with a partial conversion to F-84Fs, while also gaining the 27th Air Refueling Squadron with KB-29Ps in 1955, which continued until 1957.
A major lesson learned by SAC during the Korean War was that its propeller-driven bomber force, the B-50s and B-36s were essentially rendered obsolete by the MiG-15 jet interceptors used by the North Koreans. Under attack by the MiGs, Far East Air Force was forced to switch from daylight bombing to night attacks, which although safer, did not eliminate the MiG threat which the bombers had little effective defense. The .50-caliber machine gun defense by the bombers were ineffective against the jet interceptors.
As a result of lessons learned in Korea, by the mid-1950s, the development of SAC's swept-wing jet B-47 Stratojet medium bomber and B-52 Stratofortress strategic bomber changed SAC's bombing doctrine as well. World War II style bomber formations escorted by fighters was obsolete due to the fact that SAC's jet bombers flew so fast and so high that they were virtually immune from interceptor fighters. In addition, the World War II concept of groups of strategic bombers attacking an individual target with high explosive or incendiary bombs for pinpoint bombing had been replaced by the use of an individual bomber carrying one nuclear weapon to a target for mass destruction, not a formation of them.
In addition, the fact was that the F-84s simply couldn't keep up with high flying fast jet bombers, and the SAC F-84 strategic fighter wings were deemed obsolete. As a result of this change of doctrine, the 12th SFW and Bergstrom Air Force Base were transferred to Tactical Air Command on 1 July 1957. The wing was redesignated as the 12th Fighter-Day Wing with its change of major command.
However, TAC had no use for Bergstrom, nor the F-84s of the 27th as the equipment was considered obsolete for front-line tactical fighter-bomber missions, which TAC's new F-100 Super Sabre was performing. Also there were no funds available to re-equip the wing or fund operations by TAC as Bergstrom. However, congressional pressure in Washington led to the Air Force transferring Bergstrom back to SAC in January 1958 as a strategic dispersal base for B-52 Stratofortress bombers and KC-135 Tankers. The 27th Fighter-Day Wing was inactivated on 1 January 1958, its aircraft being sent to various Air National Guard units.
On 1 July 1962, MacDill AFB, Florida was transferred from Strategic Air Command to Tactical Air Command as a result of Air Force and DoD planners establishing the United States Strike Command (STRICOM). Upon MacDill's transfer to TAC, the 12th Tactical Fighter Wing was reactivated at MacDill. The 12th's designation had been obtained by TAC with its transfer at Bergstom in 1957, and its activation was in keeping with Air Force policy of having low-numbered units active as much as possible. The mission of the 12th TFW was to be prepared for tactical worldwide deployments and operations as part of STRICOM.
From its activation, the 12th TFW was programmed to be the first USAF wing to receive the new McDonnell F-110A Spectre.
The impressive performance of the Navy F4H Phantom II immediately caught the attention of the USAF, which ordinarily would have been quite reluctant even to consider any aircraft that had originally designed for the Navy. However, under pressure from Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara, who wanted to reduce defense expenditures by achieving greater commonality between the aircraft flown by the various services, the Air Force agreed in 1961 to undertake an evaluation of the F4H-1 Phantom II. The results of the trials were impressive. The Phantom met or exceeded all the Air Force's expectations. In January 1962, President John F. Kennedy requested Congressional approval for the procurement of F4H-1 derivatives for the Air Force under the designation F-110. The F-110A was to be the tactical fighter version, with RF-110A being the tactical reconnaissance version. The name Spectre was assigned to the aircraft.
Also, Secretary McNamara was interested in achieving greater commonality between the services. On 18 September 1962, the Defense Department ordered that all Air Force, Army, and Navy aircraft be designated under a common, universal system. In particular, this meant that the F4H naval designation for the Phantom was abolished and replaced by F-4. At the same time, the F-110 Air Force designation for the Phantom was also abolished and replaced by F-4. Henceforth, both Navy and Air Force Phantoms were to be designated the F-4 Phantom II, with Air Force and Navy Phantoms being distinguished from each other only by series letters.
However, upon the activation of the 12th TFW in July 1962, the F-4C Phantom II, the USAF version of the aircraft, was not yet in production. In order to get the wing operational, second-line F-84F Thunderjets were transferred from Air National Guard squadrons to the 12th TFW. Until 1964 the wing flew obsolete Republic F-84F Thunderjets reclaimed from the Air National Guard, and assigned them only to the 559th Tactical Fighter Squadron. Two other squadrons were activated, the 558th and 559th, but remained un-equipped.
At the same time, the 15th Tactical Fighter Wing was activated at MacDill, both wings coming under the newly activated 836th Air Division also stationed at MacDill. The 15th TFW was also programmed to receive the F-4C, but received three squadrons of F-84F's to accomplish its mission until the F-4s were available.
In order to give the Air Force an early start in getting the Phantom into service, the Navy temporarily loaned 27 F4Hs (redesigned F-4B) to the USAF. In February 1963, the first of these aircraft were delivered to the provisional 4453rd Combat Crew Training Squadron at MacDill. Some of these borrowed aircraft may have later gone to the 12th TFW. In January 1964 the 12th TFW began receiving USAF F-4Cs, becoming the first operational Wing to use the model, (the 4453rd having been a Squadron when first receiving the F-4B and C models. The 4453rd did not gain Wing status until 1 April 1964). The 12th TFW achieved initial operational capability in October 1964. As the F-4Cs were delivered, the borrowed F-4Bs were returned to the Navy.
A fourth F-4C squadron, the 555th Tactical Fighter Squadron was activated on 8 January 1964 as part of a wing transition from three squadrons of 25 aircraft to 4 squadrons of 19 aircraft each. The wing was soon involved in F-4C firepower demonstrations, exercises and, ultimately, the Paris Air Show.
The conflict in Southeast Asia was escalating and throughout 1965 the 12th TFW supported PACAF Contingency operations by rotating its F-4C combat squadrons quarterly to Naha AB in the Ryukyu Islands.
12th TFW Combat squadrons initially scheduled for deployment to Vietnam were the 555th, 557th and 558th TFS. Ultimately, the 559th TFS took the place of the 555th when the squadron was diverted to a second TDY with the 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing at Naha Air Base, Okinawa, followed by a reassignment to the 8th TFW at Ubon Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. Still later the 555th was assigned to the 432d TRW at Udon Royal Thai Air Force Base.
As the conflict escalated, it was decided to reassign the 12th TFW to PACAF, leaving the now F-4C equipped 15th TFW at MacDill and STRICOM. The 12th began its permanent deployment to the first Air Force expeditionary airfield at Cam Ranh Bay Air Base, South Vietnam on 6 November 1965.
After the outbreak of the Vietnam War the wing engaged in aerial combat in Southeast Asia beginning on 19 November 1965 – 21 October 1971. The 12th Tactical Fighter Wing was assigned as the host unit at Cam Ranh Bay Air Base on 8 November 1965. The 12 TFW would be the host unit at Cam Ranh Bay AB until the airfield's closure on 30 March 1971.
Operational squadrons of the wing at Cam Ranh were:43d Tactical Fighter: 28 October 1965 – 4 January 1966 (F-4C)
(TDY From 15 TFW, MacDill AFB FL)
391st Tactical Fighter: 26 January 1966 – 22 July 1968 (F-4C Tail Code: XD/XT)
(TDY from 366 TFW, Phan Rang Air Base, aircraft transferred to 558 TFS July 1968 (F-4C Tail Code: XD/XT))
(Former 391 TFS aircraft reassigned to 475 TFW, Taegu AB, South Korea, July 1968 as Det 1., 558th Tactical Fighter Squadron)
557th Tactical Fighter: 1 December 1965 – 31 March 1970 (F-4C Tail Code: XC)
558th Tactical Fighter: 8 November 1965 – 31 March 1970 (F-4C Tail Code: XT)
559th Tactical Fighter: 1 January 1966 – 31 March 1970 (F-4C Tail Code: XN)
(Absorbed aircraft left behind by departing 43 TFS)
At Cam Ranh Bay the wing carried out close air support, interdiction, and combat air patrol activities over both Vietnams and Laos. Following the capture of the USS Pueblo, the aircraft of the 391 TFS were assigned to the 558 TFS and sent TDY as a detachment to augment the 475 TFW in South Korea.
On 30 March 1970, as part of the Vietnamization process and phase out of the F-4C, fighter operations at Cam Ranh Bay AB were halted and the 12th TFW was inactivated. The 557, 558 and 559 TFS were inactivated and the F-4Cs transferred to the Air National Guard.
On 31 March 1970 the 37 TFW at Phu Cat Air Base was re-designated the 12 TFW in a name-only transfer.
As a result of the US withdrawals from Vietnam the 37th TFW at Phù Cát Air Base was inactivated on 31 March 1970. The wing assets remained and were re-designated as the 12th Tactical Fighter Wing when the 12th TFW was moved without personnel or equipment to replace the 37th Tactical Fighter Wing and its units.
Its attached squadrons were:389th Tactical Fighter: 31 March 1970 – 15 October 1971 (F-4D Tail Code: HB)
480th Tactical Fighter: 31 March 1970 – 17 November 1971 (F-4D Tail Code: HK)
On 8 October 1971, the 389th TFS flew its last scheduled combat sortie in Southeast Asia. On 15 October, the 389th TFS was inactivated and a name only transfer without equipment and personnel was made of the squadron to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho.
On 20 October 1971, the 480th TFS flew its last combat mission, which was also the last combat sortie for 12th TFW. The final mission was against portions of the Ho Chi Minh trail network in the tri-border area of South Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia and consisted of four F-4Ds with 12 MK-82 LD bombs each.
With the departure of the aircraft, the 12th TFW was inactivated on 30 November 1971.
The 12th replaced, and absorbed the personnel and equipment of, the 3510th Flying Training Wing at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, in May 1972. The wing became responsible for operation and maintenance of Randolph Air Force Base and operation of the USAF Instrument Flight Center. The Center was responsible also for development, testing, and evaluation of flight instruments and flight instrument systems. From 2 May 1973 – 12 November 1976 the wing provided T-37, T-38, and T-39 pilot requalification training for more than 150 USAF ex-prisoners of war. The wing trained instructor pilots for Air Training Command's undergraduate pilot training program wings and for foreign countries under the Joint Security Assistance Program.
Beginning in 1985, the 12th supported the Accelerated Copilot Enrichment program at various operating locations. The unit designed and fabricated F-16 Falcon aircraft simulation training systems for USAF bases and several NATO nations during 1983–1988; after 1986, it undertook similar efforts for the B-1 Lancer bomber program.
Personnel from the 12th deployed from 1991–1992 to Southwest Asia in support of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm.
From 1991, the wing assumed responsibility for initial flight screening for USAF officers en route to Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT). Historically, this program had been established at Hondo Municipal Airport for USAF officers commissioned through Officer Training School (OTS), since their U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) and Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) counterparts had received similar training through their commissioning sources' respective Pilot Indoctrination Program (PIP) and Flight Instruction Program (FIP). With the demise of FIP in AFROTC, then PIP at USAFA, the Hondo program later incorporated officers from these commissioning sources. This program initially utilzed the T-41 Mescalero until 1994 and the T-3 Firefly from 1994 to 1998. When the T-3 was removed from service due to safety concerns following several high-profile mishaps at Hondo and USAFA, the Hondo program was transferred from the 12 FTW to a contractor-operated program at Pueblo Memorial Airport, Colorado with military oversight as a geographically separated unit (GSU) of the 306th Flying Training Group at USAFA.
In 1992, due to the impending closure of Mather Air Force Base, California, the 12 FTW also assumed responsibility for Undergraduate Navigator Training (UNT) and Interservice Undergraduate Navigator Training (IUNT) from the 323d Flying Training Wing (323 FTW) at Mather when that organization inactivated, with most T-43A aircraft and some of the 323 FTW squadrons reforming at Randolph AFB under the 12 FTW. In 2009, with the transition of UNT to undergraduate Combat Systems Officer training (UCSOT) and pursuant to earlier BRAC directives, the 12 FTW established a new organization, the 479th Flying Training Group (479 FTG), with two new flying training squadrons and an operations support squadron, as a GSU at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida. Although NAS Pensacola is the principal base for student Naval Flight Officer (SNFO) training for the U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps, the 479 FTG operates independently of this program with its own USAF T-6 Texan II and T-1 Jayhawk aircraft. Upon establishment of the 479 FTG at NAS Pensacola, the remaining "legacy" navigator training squadrons that had relocated from the former Mather AFB to Randolph AFB in 1992 were inactivated.Established as 12th Fighter-Escort Wing on 27 October 1950
Activated on 1 November 1950
Redesignated: 12th Strategic Fighter Wing
on 20 January 1953
Redesignated: 12 Fighter-Day Wing
on 1 July 1957
Inactivated on 8 January 1958
Redesignated 12th Tactical Fighter Wing, and activated, on 17 April 1962
Organized on 25 April 1962
Inactivated on 17 November 1971
Redesignated 12th Flying Training Wing on 22 March 1972
Activated on 1 May 1972 by redesignation of the 3510th Flying Training Wing
Groups12th Fighter-Escort (later, 12th Operations) Group: 1 November 1950 – 16 June 1952; 15 December 1991–present
479th Flying Training Group: 2 October 2009–present
Squadrons1st Flight Screening Squadron: 15 July-15 December 1991
27th Air Refueling Squadron: attached 1 April-1 September 1955
43d Tactical Fighter: attached 8 November 1965-c. 4 January 1966
45th Tactical Fighter: attached 8 May-1 July 1962
389th Tactical Fighter: 31 March 1970 – 15 October 1971
391st Tactical Fighter: attached 26 January-22 June 1966, assigned 23 June 1966 – 22 July 1968
480th Tactical Fighter: 31 March 1970 – 17 November 1971
506th Air Refueling Squadron: attached 8 August 1955 – 1 July 1957
555th Tactical Fighter: 8 January 1964 – 25 March 1966 (detached 8 December 1964 – 18 March 1965, 6 November 1965 – 25 March 1966)
557th Tactical Fighter: 25 April 1962 – 8 November 1965; 1 December 1965 – 31 March 1970
558th Tactical Fighter: 25 April 1962 – 31 March 1970 (detached 9 March-16 June 1965, 3 February-22 July 1968)
559th Fighter-Escort (later, Strategic Fighter; Fighter-Day; Tactical Fighter): attached 10 February 1951 – 15 June 1952, assigned 16 June 1952 – 8 January 1958; assigned 25 April 1962 – 8 November 1965 (detached 9 June-7 September 1965); assigned 27 December 1965 – 31 March 1970; assigned 1 May 1972 – 15 December 1991
560th Fighter-Escort (later, Strategic Fighter; Fighter-Day): attached 10 February 1951 – 15 June 1952, assigned 16 June 1952 – 8 January 1958; 1 May 1972 – 15 December 1991
561st Fighter-Escort (later, Strategic Fighter; Fighter-Day; Tactical Fighter): attached 10 February 1951 – 1 April 1952; assigned 16 June 1952 – 8 January 1958 (detached 16 June-16 December 1952)
SchoolUSAF Navigator School: 14 May 1993–Nov 2010
Assumed role from inactivated 323rd Flying Training Wing
Role assumed by 479th Flying Training Group as a GSU of 12 FTW, Nov 2010
USAF Navigators now known as USAF Combat Systems Officers
Turner AFB, Georgia, 1 November 1950
Bergstrom AFB, Texas, 5 December 1950 – 8 January 1958
MacDill AFB, Florida, 25 April 1962 – 31 October 1965
Cam Ranh AB, South Vietnam, 8 November 1965
Phù Cát AB, South Vietnam, 31 March 1970 – 17 November 1971
Randolph AFB, Texas, 1 May 1972–present
Additional GSU at NAS Pensacola, Florida, November 2009–present
Additional GSU at USAF Academy, Colorado, July 2013 – present