The 90th Fighter Squadron trains in the fighter missions of offensive counter-air (OCA), defensive counter-air (DCA) and suppression of enemy air defenses (SEAD), as well as strategic attack and interdiction.see 90th Aero Squadron for an expanded history of World War I operations
The 90th Fighter Squadron origins begin with Special Order 104, Headquarters Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas, on 25 September 1917. The men in it were largely from two detachments; one from Vancouver Barracks, Washington, which arrived at Kelly Field on 18 August; another from Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, which arrived on 25 August. Both of these detachments had been held from the date of their arrival until 25 September under Recruit Camp Headquarters as a Provisional Squadron.
The first few months of its existence were consumed by the necessary training to prepare the men for operations in France during World War I. On 30 September, the Squadron left Kelly Field for the Aviation Concentration Center, Camp Mills, Garden City, New York, Long Island, where it arrived five days later. On the night of 5 October the Squadron detrained, and early next morning hiked out to Field No. 2 of the Aviation Concentration Center (Hazelhurst Field), where they were quartered with the Headquarters of the First Provisional Wing in Barracks No. 5. Here they stayed for several weeks performing guard duty and fatigue work, and carrying on the work of organization, equipment and preparation for overseas duty.
On 26 October, orders were received to pack up equipment and to prepare for immediate overseas departure. The following day the Squadron was moved to Pier 54, New York Harbor, and boarded the SS Orduna. The crossing of the Atlantic was uneventful, and on 10 November the Orduna moved into the dock at Liverpool, England.
On 12 November 1917, the men of the 90th arrived at Le Havre, France. Boarding the famous "Hommes 40, Chevaux 8" railroad box cars (maximum capacity of 40 men or eight horses,) they were shipped to Colombey-les-Belles Airdrome for what they thought would be immediate deployment to the front. But, to their great disappointment, they were given the assignment of road and barracks construction work, building the large 1st Air Depot and staging area which would eventually process and equip a large number of Americans that would arrive in France during 1918.
After seven months at Colombey, the 90th Aero Squadron was designed as a Corps Observation squadron, being assigned to the III Corps Observation Group on 11 June 1918. Two days later it reached what was called the "Zone of Advance" (combat area) at Ourches Aerodrome. The squadron's first aircraft were the Sopwith 1½ Strutter ground attack aircraft. At Ourches, the 90th and other squadrons were engaged in combat operations, both in aerial combat and aerial reconnaissance photography. It took part in operations in the Toul Sector, the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and the first and second Meuse-Argonne Offensives. Later, the squadron upgraded to Salmson 2-A2s SPAD Xis, and Breguet BR-14 observation aircraft. Due to ever-present low clouds and rain, the flyers were forced to drop dangerously close to the ground to carry out their missions, usually in the worst conditions.
The 90th Aero Squadron carried out many reconnaissances, engaged in 23 combats and relieved official confirmation for 7 aerial victories. The group’s lucky “Seven Up” emblem of red dice with white dots reading “7” no matter which way it was tallied, proved prophetic, for they suffered 3 casualties, consisting of 2 killed and 1 wounded. In September 1918, it participated in the final allied offensives. The 90th earned a positive reputation for its ground attack missions during its continuous participation in the air offensive over Saint-Mihiel. Its first commander, First Lieutenant William G. Schauffler, designed the 90th's Pair o' Dice emblem displaying natural sevens during this campaign.
Following the Armistice with Germany on 11 November 1918, little flying was done, most of the pilots and observers being absent on leave or returning to the States. On 15 January 1919 the squadron's planes were turned in to the 1st Air Depot, Colombey-les-Belles Airdrome, and there, practically all of the pilots and observers were detached from the Squadron.
At Colombey, very comfortable quarters were assigned and the Squadron settled down to await orders to the coast. The Squadron left Colombey les Belles 25 January, 1919, en route for the Port of Embarkation. It stopped at the pretty little village of St. Denis de Piles, near Libourne, Gironde, and the officers and enlisted personnel occupied excellent billets.
On 3 February after five days spent at St. Denis, the Squadron was ordered to Libourne, the next step on the way home. There the men occupied the old stone French barracks, while the officers were billeted at private houses throughout the town. The Squadron remained at Libourne until 10 April, when the long-awaited order to proceed to the Embarkation Camp. After two or three disappointments the men were ordered on board the USS General G. W. Goethals. Officers were detached, and sailed the same day, 20 April, Easter Sunday, on board the USS Susquehanna. The voyage was very uneventful Land was finally sighted at 5 a.m. 3 May, and the squadron docked in Hoboken, New Jersey at 10 a.m., after a voyage of thirteen days. On 4 May at 8 a.m., the Squadron marched over to Field No. 2, Garden City (Mitchell Field), and the work of demobilizing the squadron was begun.
After the war, 90th alumni commissioned Tiffany's of New York to design a silver pin with the squadron logo.see also: United States Army Border Air Patrol
After returning from France, most of the squadron demobilized at Mitchell Field and returned to civilian life. A small cadre of the unit remained in the Air Service, and were sent back to Kelly Field, Texas. At Kelly, the 90th, along with the 8th, 12th and 13th Aero Squadrons were formed into the Army Surveillance Group on 1 July 1919. The group was re-designated the 3d Attack Group on 2 July 1921.
The mission of the Army Surveillance Group (ASG) was to carry out observation overflights along the Mexican Border. During this period, Mexico was enduring a period of revolution and unrest, which led to border violations and the deaths of American citizens. From Kelly Field, the squadron was divided into two flights, Flight A operated from Eagle Pass Field, while Flight B operated from Kelly Field. Both flights were equipped with American-built deHavilland DH-4 aircraft, which were designed as bombers during the war.
During the late summer of 1919, the 464th Aero Construction Squadron had been sent to establish an Army airfield at Sanderson, Texas. By November, enough construction had been completed at Sanderson Field that the squadron moved from Kelly to operate from the new airfield, while the detachment at Eagle Pass Field continued operations. The detachment moved from Eagle Pass to Del Rio Field, Texas, on 12 Jun 1920.
As the unrest in Mexico died down by the middle of 1921, the 90th reunited and moved back to Kelly Field in July. At Kelly Field, Brigadier General William 'Billy' Mitchell, a senior staff officer in the Army Air Service, decided to use this low-level flying experience and the World War I experience of the 3d Group's pilots to create a group devoted to low-level mission of supporting ground troops and attacking ground targets.
Flew border reconnaissance missions from Fort Huachuca, Arizona, during the Escobar-Topete Revolution 7 April–2 May 1929. The 90th Squadron contributed to the pioneering of new tactics for attack aircraft, delivered US mail in 1934, participated in aerial mapping missions during the 1930s, and attracted significant talent among early military airmen. One example of these early airmen was General James H. Doolittle. On 2 September 1922, General Doolittle, then a first lieutenant, became the first pilot to travel coast-to-coast in under 24 hours. Although he could not remember if he was assigned to the 90th during the flight, the Air Force Historical Research Agency confirmed he was a member of the 90th at the time, and his DH-4 aircraft displayed the 90th's pair-o-dice emblem. Early commanders of the 90th also included Lieutenants Hoyt Vandenberg and Nathan Twining, both of whom later became Air Force Chiefs of Staff. Transferred on 27 February 1935 to Barksdale Field, Louisiana, then transferred on 10 October 1940 to Savannah AAF, Georgia.
During World War II, the 90th, now a Bombardment Squadron, operated in the South Pacific, flying A-20 Havoc and B-25 Mitchell aircraft. Their main mission involved highly-dangerous skip bombings. In an effort to improve the effectiveness and protection of the 3d Bombardment Group's pilots, Major Paul 'Pappy' Gunn, 3d Bombardment Group engineering officer, devised a modification of the B-25C. The modification replaced the forward bombardier with four forwards firing .50 caliber machine guns, supplemented with two twin .50 caliber gun packages side mounted on the fuselage. The lower turret was discarded. The A-20s received similar modifications. The modified aircraft were first employed by the 90th and proved exceptionally effective, receiving the nickname 'commerce destroyers.' During the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, every aircraft in the 90th scored a hit on the Japanese convoy of 18 ships. It was the first sea-level attack by B-25 strafers in World War II and demonstrated that this tactic was extremely effective. The squadron also participated in the raids on Wewak, New Guinea, which were preemptive strikes that virtually ended the threat of enemy offensive air capabilities.
In 1945, after World War II, the 90th Squadron was moved to Japan. The 90th began flying the A-26 Invader as the 3d Bombardment Group became an all A-26 outfit. In September 1946, the 90th moved with the 3d Bombardment Group to Yokota Air Base, Japan, and began training to become combat-ready with the A-26, which was redesignated the B-26 Invader. With the creation of the U.S. Air Force in late 1947, the force began an internal reorganization. This led to the activation of the 3d Bombardment Wing in August 1948, to which the 3d Bombardment Group was assigned. The 90th Squadron was inactivated from 1 October 1949 until 25 June 1951.
At that point, the squadron was redesignated the 90th Bombardment Squadron Light, Night Intruder. In July, as part of the 3d Bombardment Group, the 90th participated in the Korean War. The B-26 Invaders, which the 90th flew, had as many as 12 forward firing .50 caliber machine guns. The 90th's specialty during the Korean War was destroying locomotives and marshalling yards.
After the war, the 90th moved with the 3d Bombardment Group to Johnson Air Base, Japan, on 1 October 1954. In January 1956, the unit transitioned to the B-57C Night Intruder. In October 1957, the 3d Bombardment Group inactivated and its heritage transferred to the 3d Bombardment Wing, as did the 90th Bombardment Squadron. In 1960, the wing and squadron transferred to Yokota Air Base, where it trained in bombardment, reconnaissance, and aerial refueling. It also served nuclear alert during this period as well. In the mid-1960s, however, the squadron underwent significant changes.
In 1964, the 3d Bombardment Wing converted to a tactical fighter wing, as did the 90th, which became the 90th Tactical Fighter Squadron on 8 June 1964. The wing and the 90th moved to England Air Force Base, Louisiana, as part of an overall reorganization to reduce the number of wings located in Japan. While at England AFB, the 90th gained the F-100 Super Sabre. At the beginning of the Vietnam War, the 3d Bombardment Wing began deploying units to Vietnam on a rotational basis, while the remainder continued training in their ground support role. In November 1965, the wing moved to Bien Hoa Air Base, South Vietnam, during the buildup of forces. The 90th flew close air support missions from Bien Hoa through tens of thousands of sorties. In 1969, the 90th Tactical Fighter Squadron reverted to its pre-World War II designation of 90th Attack Squadron. On 31 October 1970, the 3d Tactical Fighter Wing ended its duties in Vietnam and remained active in 'paper' status until it moved to Kunsan Air Base, South Korea, in March 1971. The 90th Attack Squadron was reassigned to the 14th Special Operations Wing on 31 October 1970 and was redesignated the 90th Special Operations Squadron and remained in Vietnam at Nha Trang Air Base.
From late 1970 until 1974, the 90th underwent several command reassignments. It remained with the 14th Special Operations Wing until 1 September 1971, when it moved to the 483d Tactical Fighter Wing and remained at Nha Trang Air Base. On 15 April 1972, the 90th moved again, this time to the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan. This assignment lasted only a few months, as the unit was assigned to the 405th Fighter Wing in December 1972 and moved to Clark Air Base, Philippines. The squadron was redesignated the 90th Tactical Fighter Squadron on 8 July 1973, and began to fly F-4s. In September of the following year, the 90th returned once again to the 3d Tactical Fighter Wing, when it relocated to Clark Air Base after the 405th Fighter Wing was inactivated. In 1975, the 90th converted to the F-4E and participated in combat training and providing air defense for the Philippines.
In July 1977, the 90th once again upgraded its aircraft, this time to the F-4G, which performed a ground radar suppression and destruction mission. The squadron had both F-4G and F-4E aircraft assigned, operating in "hunter-killer" roles. Each F-4G was paired with an F-4E during each mission, and the G models would point out threat radar sites to the E models for attack, as well as attacking using their own armaments. This multiplied the force being applied without having to purchase more of the expensive G models. During the late 1970s and 1980s, the squadron provided training and support to other units throughout the Pacific, as well as ensuring the readiness of its own pilots and aircraft. The unit participated in numerous Cope Thunder exercises hosted at Clark AB, as well as Pitch Black in Darwin, Australia, and other exercises in South Korea. By 1990, however, the Philippines had expressed a desire for the withdrawal of American military forces in the islands. In May 1991, the 90th Tactical Fighter Squadron was reassigned to the 21st Tactical Fighter Wing located at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. In September 1991, the 90th was redesignated the 90th Fighter Squadron and became part of the 21st Operations Group. This association did not last long, however.
In June 1991, Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines and the Air Force quickly decided to evacuate its personnel and equipment from Clark AB. The 3d Tactical Fighter Wing remained in the Philippines during Desert Shield and Desert Storm due to instability in the Philippines. However, it was not going to remain in the islands for very long. It became a 'paper' unit briefly while the Chief of Staff, General Merrill McPeak, decided where to send the wing. He selected Elmendorf AFB. The 21st Tactical Fighter Wing was inactivated and the 3d Wing replaced it as the lead wing at Elmendorf AFB on 19 December 1991. With the establishment of the 3d Wing on Elmendorf, the 90th Fighter Squadron was once again reunited with its old wing.
While these changes occurred with the 3d Wing, the 90th Fighter Squadron deployed six F-4G crews to join other Wild Weasel squadrons and coalition forces in Sheikh Isa, Bahrain for the Gulf War. The six crews were attached to the 81 Tactical Fighter Squadron and were known as the Philippine Expeditionary Force (PEF). During combat operations, PEF crews destroyed multiple Iraqi SAM sites. This was the last combat deployment for the 90th TFS while operating F-4Gs. Upon relocating to Elmendorf, the unit gained a new aircraft, the F-15E Strike Eagle. This two-seat dual role updated version of the F-15C Eagle had more survivability enhancements than any other fighter aircraft at the time. It carried a wide array of armament as it performed both air-to-air and air-to-surface attack missions.
Since arriving in Alaska, the 90th Fighter Squadron participated in numerous training exercises in the lower 48 states and other areas of the world. These training exercises included Polar Thrust, Cope Thunder, Tandem Thrust, Cope Thaw, and Red Flag in locations such as Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Osan Air Base, Korea, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, Naval Air Station Fallon, Nevada, and Nellis Air Force Base, Nevada. The squadron also developed a reputation for safety in its training. On 20 February 1996, the squadron received the Alaska Governor's Safety Award conferred through the Alaska Department of Labor. This was the first time a military organization won the state award since its inception in 1980.
In addition to exercises, the 90th Fighter Squadron also undertook real-world deployments during the 1990s and early 2000s (decade). From October 1995 until January 1996, the squadron deployed 8 F-15Es and 193 personnel to Aviano Air Base, Italy in support of Operation Deny Flight and Operation Joint Endeavor. In February 1998, the squadron deployed 18 F-15Es and over 200 personnel to Kwangju Air Base and Taegu Air Base, both in Korea. While there, the unit flew 1200 joint combat training sorties. Personnel and aircraft redeployed in June 1998.
In 2001 the 90th began a series of deployments which took members of the squadron to the Middle East and Southwest Asia. In March of that year, the 90th participated in a 90-day deployment in support of Operation Northern Watch, patrolling the northern No-fly zone in Iraq. The squadron sent 154 personnel and 10 F-15Es to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey and returned to Elmendorf AFB on 9 June 2001. Later that year, in October, 18 F-15Es were deployed to Kwangju AB, Korea, in support of Afghanistan operations. While deployed pilots flew practice strike missions and provided long-range interdiction strike capability in the region during the absence of the USS Kitty Hawk, they also flew missions over South Korea and repaired base infrastructure while there. The squadron redeployed from the 20–23 December.
The 90th Fighter Squadron participated in an historic event on 4 September 2002. Two Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) exchange officers, Flight Lieutenant Paul Simmons and Flight Lieutenant Tony Southwood, paired up to fly one of the 90th's F-15Es. This was the first time Australian pilots flew an American aircraft in the Pacific Theatre.
In 2003 the squadron undertook another deployment in the Pacific in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The 90th sent 18 F-15Es to bases in the Pacific, including Osan Air Base, Kunsan Air Base, (both in Korea), Kadena Air Base, Japan and Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. The deployment included 592 personnel from mid-February until mid-May.
Kwangju AB, Korea, once again became home to members of the 90th Fighter Squadron in 2004. In August the squadron deployed 12 F-15Es in a rotation. The unit was temporarily designated the 90th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron and assigned to the 3d Air Expeditionary Group. While deployed the unit flew more than 1100 sorties over the Korean Peninsula and provided two important flights to distinguished visitors, Republic of Korea Air Force Brigadier General Ko and Republic of Korea General Kim, Commander Korean Ground Forces.
In 2005, the squadron focused on training and preparation for their next real-world deployment. Amidst the training and exercises, however, the squadron was able to showcase their talent with participation in the Aero India Airshow and with a flyby at the United States Air Force Academy before the Air Force-Army football game. Additionally, the F-15Es completed an upgrade of their weapons systems. This upgrade allowed the aircraft to carry and use more advanced weaponry, including the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and eventually the Small Diameter Bomb (SDB).
As 2006 progressed, the 90th Fighter Squadron began to prepare for significant changes in its mission and weapons system. The F-15Es were scheduled to relocate to Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, through the BRAC decisions in 2005. Replacing those F-15Es, the 90th began receiving the advanced F-22 Raptor in August 2007, which greatly enhanced the 90th Fighter Squadron's ability to perform its duties.Organized as 90th Aero Squadron on 20 Aug 1917
Re-designated as: 90th Aero Squadron (Corps Observation)
, 19 Apr 1918
Re-designated as: 90th Aero Squadron
, May 1919
Re-designated as: 90th Squadron (Surveillance)
on 13 Aug 1919
Re-designated as: 90th Squadron (Attack)
on 15 Sep 1921
Re-designated as: 90th Attack Squadron
on 25 Jan 1923
Re-designated as: 90th Bombardment Squadron (Light)
on 15 Sep 1939
Re-designated as: 90th Bombardment Squadron (Dive)
on 28 Sep 1942
Re-designated as: 90th Bombardment Squadron (Light)
on 25 May 1943
Re-designated as: 90th Bombardment Squadron, Light
, on 29 Apr 1944
Inactivated on 1 Oct 1949
Re-designated as: 90th Bombardment Squadron, Light, Night Intruder, on 7 Jun 1951
Activated on 25 Jun 1951
Re-designated as: 90th Bombardment Squadron, Tactical
, on 1 Oct 1955
Re-designated as: 90th Tactical Fighter Squadron
on 8 Jun 1964
Re-designated as: 90th Attack Squadron
on 12 Dec 1969
Re-designated as: 90th Special Operations Squadron
on 31 Oct 1970
Re-designated as: 90th Tactical Fighter Squadron
on 8 Jul 1973
Re-designated as: 90th Fighter Squadron
on 26 Sep 1991.
World War I
World War II
Operation Deny Flight
Operation Joint Endeavor
Operation Northern Watch