The 558th Flying Training Squadron (558 FTS) is a United States Air Force unit assigned to the 12th Flying Training Wing based at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas. The squadron trains individuals on how to properly operate Remotely Piloted Aircraft.
In a response to the dangers of insurgent warfare, Randolph AFB has assigned a new squadron that will eventually train more than 500 airmen annually to fly and operate remotelyrics piloted aircraft.
The May 20, 2010 reactivation of “The Phantom Knights” — Randolph's 558th Flying Training Squadron — will make Randolph officially the Air Force's only site to offer undergraduate, or beginning, training in remotely piloted aircraft. Training in a test program has been taking place for about 1½ years there.
It marks the base's commitment to providing “the most sought-after capability in theater,” Lt. Col. Bryan Runkle, who will assume command of the squadron, said in a release. “I'm honored to be part of the Air Force's first squadron dedicated to RPA training.”
Randolph officials are calling the move historic, since the squadron will train students on RPAs as their first aircraft and sensor operators entering their first career field. An RPA flight crew typically has one sensor operator responsible for controlling video, radar and weapons equipment.
The 12th Flying Training Wing, Randolph's host unit since 1972, conducts training for instructor pilots, combat systems officers and student fighter pilots. The 558th, with roots dating to 1942, was last activated to fly T-6As at Randolph in 2002, and then inactivated when another squadron took over that mission in 2006.
The new squadron will be the home of undergraduate training for the MQ-1 Predator, MQ-9 Reaper and RQ-4 Global Hawk. Randolph began an RPA fundamentals course in the fall 2008, and last year ran a “Beta test class” through an instrument qualification course on RPAs, base officials said. Last August, the base began a basic sensor operators' course.
While many still join the Air Force in hopes of flying manned bombers, fighters and tankers, many are going into operation of RPAs because it's a career growth area and is important in today's battlefield, Air Force officials said.
The squadron now has about 60 students but expects 120 in 2011 and 150 in 2013, said Beverly Simas, spokeswoman with the training wing. The beginner courses run four weeks, with the instrument qualification course lasting 10 weeks.
Residents of areas near the base won't see the aircraft flying, since most of the training at Randolph will be taught in classrooms or on simulators. Formal training on RPAs will occur at Creech AFB, Nev.; Holloman AFB, N.M.; Beale AFB, Calif.; and March AFB, Calif.
Simas said the Air Force prefers the acronym RPA to UAV — unmanned aerial vehicle.
Activated as a B-26 Marauder medium bombardment squadron in late 1942. Trained under Third Air Force and deployed to European Theater of Operations (ETO) in July 1943. Initially being stationed in England and assigned to IX Bomber Command,
Engaged in tactical bombardment of enemy targets in Occupied Europe initially from stations in England, then after D-Day, moved to Advanced Landing Grounds in France and Belgium; advancing eastward as Allied ground forces advanced. Supported Eighth Air Force strategic bombardment missions over Nazi Germany and Occupied Europe; striking enemy airfields to obtain maximum interference in Luftwaffe day interceptor attacks on heavy bomber formations returning to England. Also participated in Western Allied Invasion of Germany, March–April 1945, combat ending with German Capitation in May 1945.
Became part of the United States Air Forces in Europe while squadron demobilized personnel in 1945. Squadron reassigned to the United States as a paper unit, inactivated in November 1945.
Activated in 1962 as one of the initial F-4C Phantom II fighter squadrons when the aircraft was made operational by the Air Force. When activated, F-4Cs were not yet in production. In order to get the squadron operational, second-line F-84F Thunderjets were transferred from the Air National Guard. Received Navy F4Hs (later F-4B) for training; receiving F-4Cs in January 1964. Deployed to South Vietnam during the Vietnam War and flew combat missions, primary over North Vietnam until Cam Ranh Air Base was closed in November 1970.
Reactivated as a training squadron in 1992, it specialized in undergraduate navigator training from, 15 December 1992 – 1 October 1996 and 16 January 2002 – 28 September 2006.
Reactivated in 2010 for MQ-1 Predator operator flight training.Constituted 558th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), on 25 Nov 1942
Activated on 1 Dec 1942
Redesignated 558th Bombardment Squadron, Medium
on 9 Oct 1944
Inactivated on 12 Nov 1945
Consolidated (19 Sep 1985) with the 558th Tactical Fighter Squadron, which was constituted, and activated, on 17 Apr 1962
Organized on 25 Apr 1962
Inactivated on 31 Mar 1970
Redesignated: 558th Tactical Air Support Squadron on 19 Sep 1985 (Remained inactive)
Redesignated: 558th Flying Training Squadron on 14 Dec 1992
Activated on 15 Dec 1992
Inactivated on 1 Oct 1996
Activated on 16 Jan 2002
Inactivated on 28 Sep 2006
Activated on 20 May 2010
387th Bombardment Group, 1 Dec 1942-12 Nov 1945
Tactical Air Command, 17 Apr 1962
12th Tactical Fighter Wing, 25 Apr 1962-31 Mar 1970
Attached to 51st Fighter-Interceptor Wing, 9 Mar-9 Jun 1965
Attached to 18th Tactical Fighter Wing, 3 Feb-22 Jul 1968
12th Operations Group, 15 Dec 1992-1 Oct 1996; 16 Jan 2002-28 Sep 2006; 20 May 2010–Present
B-26 Marauder (1942–1945)
F-84 Thunderjet (1962–1963)
F-4 Phantom II (1963–1970)
T-43 Bobcat (1992–1996, 2002–2006)
World War II