|Country United States|
|Active 1944–1946; 1970-1991; 1994-1995|
Branch United States Air Force
Role F-15E Replacement Training Unit
Engagements World War II Asiatic-Pacific Theatre
The 550th Fighter Squadron is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with 56th Operations Group, being inactivated at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona on 30 March 1995.
The unit was originally formed as the 550th Night Fighter Squadron in 1944. After training, it was deployed to Thirteenth Air Force and ordered to the Netherlands East Indies to provide air defense interceptor protection against Japanese night air raids on USAAF airfields. It later served in the Philippines Campaign where in addition to night interceptor missions it also flew day and night interdiction missions against enemy troop movements, bridges and other targets of opportunity. It was inactivated in 1946.
The squadron was later activated in the Cold War as an F-4 Phantom II Replacement Training Unit (RTU) at Luke AFB, Arizona. It later transitioned to the F-15A Eagle in the late 1970s continuing the RTU mission at Luke. It lastly performed interceptor training for Air Defense, Tactical Air Command pilots who flew the F-15 as an interceptor for NORAD committed units. Its last mission was a RTU for the F-15E Strike Eagle before being inactivated in 1995 when the F-15 was phased out from Luke AFB after 21 years.
World War II
The squadron was established on 1 June 1944 as the 550th Night Fighter Squadron at Hammer Field, California. It was the last organized night fighter squadron trained by the Army Air Forces. All training afterwards was for replacement pilots of existing units. It trained at various airfields in the San Joaquin Valley and was ready to deploy into combat by August.
Assigned to Thirteenth Air Force, arriving at Hollandia in the Dutch East Indies part of New Guinea in December 1944. Deployed to forward bases at Middleburg and Wama, but during 1945 aerial targets became increasingly rare, and the squadron turned to long range night-time intruding, carrying out the same mission as the aircraft they had originally been stalking, the P-61's long range enabled attacks on Japanese targets as far as the Philippines.
Moved to newly established bases in the Philippines in March, and the 550th NFS began flying a number of direct infantry support missions, helping with the battle on Negros. Aircraft were modified in the field to accommodate 5-inch High Velocity Aircraft Rockets (HVAR). Rockets were used in the squadron's night intruder missions. Performed joint operations with the 418th and 418th NFS during the invasion of Balikpapan on the east coast of Borneo in late June 1945; staging out of Sanga Sanga in the Sulu Archipelago. Performed pre-invasion intruder strikes, expending large numbers of 5-inch HVARS, and performing night air defense over the invasion Naval task force.
Combat ending by the end of July. Personnel largely demobilized after the end of the war in September, aircraft sent to Okinawa for reassignment. The squadron was inactivated as a paper unit in California in early 1946.
Reactivated in 1970 at Luke AFB, Arizona as an F-4C Phantom II RTU Training Squadron, carried tail code "LA" with a red fin cap, taking over the assets of the provisional 4517th Combat Crew Training Squadron. The task of the 550th was to take experienced pilots and WSO's and train them to fly the F-4 as one of the main providers of fighter pilots for Tactical Air Command and fighter forces worldwide.
The 58th Tactical Training Wing served as the Replacement Training Unit (RTU) for F-15A operations during the initial phases of the introduction of the Eagle into service. The wing had received its first TF-15A Eagle in November 1974, however problems with the reliability of the F100 engines led to the 550th TFTS not being equipped with the aircraft until 1977. The improved F-15C/D model arrived in 1982 for pilot training.
In the late 1980s, the F-15E Strike Eagle ground attack version of the F-15 arrived at Luke, and the 550th was equipped with the new aircraft in March 1989, aircraft carrying a white fin cap. Once qualified the crews were then relocated to an operational squadron at the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing located at Seymour-Johnson AFB, North Carolina. It was inactivated in November 1991 as part of the phasedown of F-15 training at Luke.
However, the 555th Fighter Squadron stationed at Luke AFB was transferred to Aviano AB, Italy in April 1994 as part of reorganization involving both USAFE and Air Combat Command. In its place the 550th Fighter Squadron was reactivated as an F-15E RTU squadron in March, assuming the 555th's aircraft and personnel, with the aircraft carrying Balack tail stripe with silver wings. However, by 1994 all F-15 air defence training had been concentrated at Tyndall AFB, Florida, with the resident Luke F-15 Eagle squadrons reduced to just the 461st and 550th Fighter Squadrons flying the F-15E Strike Eagle. Looking at the costs made and efficiency it was decided to be much more cost effective to make the 58th OG an all F-16 Fighting Falcon group. Therefore, it was decided that Strike Eagle training at Luke was to cease with assets transferred to the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour-Johnson AFB, North Carolina.
In late 1994 the F-15E's from the 550th FS started leaving Luke AFB, and being assigned to the newly formed 333d Fighter Squadron (RTU) at Seymour-Johnson AFB. The last crews graduated at Luke AFB in February 1995 and the last F-15E left Luke AFB in March closing an era of 21 years F-15's at Luke AFB. The 550th FS was inactivated on 31 March.