|Country United States|
Branch Air National Guard
|Active 1942-1944; 1948-1952; 1953-2008|
The 170th Fighter Squadron (170 FS) is an inactive unit of the Air National Guard. It was last assigned to the 183d Fighter Wing located of the Illinois Air National Guard at Capital Airport Air National Guard Station, Springfield, Illinois. The 170th last flew the Block 30 General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon. It was inactivated on 30 September 2008.
World War II
The squadron was activated at Dale Mabry Field, Florida as one of the original squadrons of the 338th Fighter Group. The squadron was initially equipped with Bell P-39 Airacobras. It operated as a replacement training unit. Replacement training units were oversized units which trained aircrews prior to their deployment to combat theaters. In 1943, the 338th Group and its squadrons standardized training with the Republic P-47 Thunderbolts, although the squadron also operated a few Curtiss P-40 Warhawks.
However, the Army Air Forces found that standard military units, based on relatively inflexible tables of organization, were proving poorly adapted to the training mission. Accordingly, it adopted a more functional system in which each base was organized into a separate numbered unit, while the groups and squadrons acting as RTUs were disbanded or inactivated. This resulted in the 305th, along with other units at Dale Mabry, being disbanded in the spring of 1944 and its personnel and aircraft were transferred to the 335th Army Air Force Base Unit (Replacement Training Unit Fighter).
Illinois Air National Guard
The 305th Fighter Squadron was reconstituted and redesignated as the 170th Fighter Squadron on 24 May 1946 and allotted to the National Guard. In September 1948 the squadron was organized at Capital Airport, Springfield, Illinois and extended federal recognition. The squadron was equipped with the North American F-51D Mustang and was assigned to the 128th Fighter Group of the Wisconsin Air National Guard. In November 1950, the 126th Composite Wing was organized in the Illinois Air National Guard when the National Guard adopted the wing base organization system and the squadron was assigned to its 126th Composite Group.
Korean War mobilization
On 1 March 1951 the 170th was called to active duty due to the Korean War. It moved to Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas where it was redesignated the 170th Fighter-bomber Squadron and was assigned to the federalized 131st Fighter-Bomber Group. In addition to the 170th, the 131st Group was assigned the 110th Fighter-Bomber Squadron of the Missouri Air National Guard and the 192d Fighter-Bomber Squadron of the Nevada Air National Guard. At Bergstrom, its mission was to replace the 27th Fighter-Escort Group which deployed to Japan as part of Strategic Air Command's commitment to the Korean War.
In November the 131st and its squadrons were transferred to Tactical Air Command and moved to George Air Force Base, California. At George, the unit was scheduled to be re-equipped with Republic F-84D Thunderjets for deployment to Japan, however the F-84s were instead sent to France and the squadron remained in California with Mustangs for the remainder of its federal service. The 170th was released from active duty and returned to Illinois state control on 1 December 1952 and its personnel, equipment and mission at George were transferred to the active duty 435th Fighter-Bomber Squadron.
After returning to Springfield, the 170th was equipped with the North American F-86E Sabre. However, only about a half-dozen Sabres were received before the squadron began receiving Republic F-84F Thunderstreaks. The first F-84F arrived in February 1955. The squadron's mission was changed to what was termed a "Special Delivery" squadron, and the 170th began training on the tactical delivery of nuclear weapons, being renamed the 170th Tactical Fighter Squadron in 1958.
On 1 October 1961, as a result of the 1961 Berlin Crisis, the 170th was again federalized and assigned to the 131st Tactical Fighter Group. The 170th remained at Springfield, while elements of the 131st deployed to Toul-Rosières Air Base, France to form the 7131st Tactical Fighter Wing. The 131st Tactical Fighter Wing, was composed of three federalized National Guard squadrons and their supporting squadrons. However, only its 110th Tactical Fighter Squadron deployed as a unit to France. The 170th rotated personnel to Toul during their period of activation, however aircraft and personnel deployed to Toul were maintained at a level equivalent to a single squadron at any one time.
While in France, the Guardsmen trained with elements of the United States Seventh Army and maintained a 24-hour alert status. The 7131st exchanged air and ground crews with the Royal Danish Air Force's 730th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Skydstrup Air Station, Denmark during May 1962. As the Berlin situation subsided, all activated ANG units were ordered to be returned to the United States and released from active duty, while the 7131st Wing was discontinued in France.
The 170th reformed in Illinois in the fall of 1962, retaining its F-84F Thunderstreaks. On 15 October 1962, the 170th Tactical Fighter Squadron was authorized to expand, and the 183d Tactical Fighter Group was established. The 170th became the new group's flying squadron. Other units assigned into the group were the 183d Material Squadron, 183d Combat Support Squadron and the 183d USAF Dispensary.
The squadron continued to fly the F-84F aircraft throughout the 1960s. The squadron did not see service during the Vietnam War, although, between 1968 and 1971, many of its personnel were activated as individuals and some saw service in Southeast Asia. All F-84Fs were grounded in November 1971, after a 170th pilot was killed when his plane lost a wing during exercises at the Hardwood Gunnery range in Findley, Wisconsin. The accident was caused by the "milkbone" bolt in the wing, weakened by years of flying, failing in-flight. Inspections of other F-84Fs found the same issue affected many other aircraft. The problem was deemed too widespread to justify the costly repair of the aircraft, and the Air Force decided to retire the Guard's fleet of F-84Fs and replace them with more modern aircraft. All F-84s were retired to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC) at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. The 170th flew the Thunderstreak for more than a decade and a half, longer than any other squadron in the active force or the Air National Guard.
In 1972, the squadron was the first Air National Guard unit to receive the McDonnell F-4C Phantom II. Most of its aircraft were planes returning combat from Southeast Asia. Along with the F-4C, a flight of RF-4C Phantom II Reconnaissance aircraft were received. In 1981, the F-4Cs were exchanged for the F-4D.
Post Cold War era
The 170th saw its first General Dynamics F-16A Fighting Falcon on 7 June 1989 when two landed at Capital Airport to replace the squadron's aging F-4D Phantom IIs. By 5 May 1990 the 170th was operational with the F-16A/B. Its mission was fighter attack and the squadron flew the "Block 15" for this mission. On 15 March 1992 the squadron changed designation from the 170th Tactical Fighter Squadron to the 170th Fighter Squadron. Three years later, it would be reassingned to the 183d Operations Group when its parent became the 183d Fighter Wing under the Air Force Objective Wing reorganization plan.
During early 1994 the 170th started to exchange its block 15 F-16A/B for block 30 F-16C/D Fighting Falcons with larger air inlets. Most of the block 15s were retired to AMARC. During the 1990s, the unit conducted numerous overseas deployments, including six to Southwest Asia, two to Denmark, one to Panama, one to Curaçao, and one to Thailand.
Global War on Terrorism
After the 9/11 attacks, the 170th increased its capability by obtaining AN/AAQ-28(V) LITENING targeting pods in October 2001. Training with the new pod started immediately to get ready for a scheduled deployment in March 2002 for Operation Enduring Freedom.
Starting in January 2002 the 170th deployed for two weeks to Tucson Air National Guard Base, Arizona for final training with the LITENING pod. The March 2002 deployment was to be with two other units but this changed due to their Operation Noble Eagle air defense commitments. As a result, the 170th deployed by itself as the 170th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron. The 170th Expeditionary Squadron replaced the 18th Squadron. Besides its duties over Afghanistan, the 170th Expeditionary Squadron performed air interdiction missions over Iraq in support of Operation Southern Watch.
In the very early morning on 17 April 2002 while on deployment in Afghanistan a pilot in a two-ship formation from the 170th mistakenly bombed a Canadian force which was practicing live firing of its weapons near Kandahar, Afghanistan. Four soldiers were killed and eight were injured. This tragedy resulted in non-judicial punishment for one of the pilots involved after their return to Springfield.
After more than two of overseas deployjehts the 170th participated in Operation Iraqi Freedom in October 2004.
BRAC 2005 and Inactivation
The BRAC 2005 committee report recommended the retirement of the Block 30 F-16s and the inactivation of the 170th Fighter Squadron. The BRAC commission recommended the facilities and skills of personnel assigned be realigned into a Centralized Intermediate Repair Facility. Despite a court challenge by the Governor of Illinois, the US District Judge ruled that there was not enough evidence to support the claim that the state would suffer major harm by the closure of the unit. The last F-16 departed on 23 September 2008, marking the end of the flying mission for the 183d Fighter Wing.