|Country United States|
Nickname(s) "Flying Knights"
|Active 15 January 1941 - 16 May 2008; 4 October 2012-Present|
Branch United States Air Force
Role MQ-9 Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft training
The 9th Attack Squadron (9 ATKS) in a United States Air Force squadron, assigned to the 49th Operations Group, stationed at Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. The squadron is a training unit for new pilots and sensor operators for the MQ-9 Reaper Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA).
The 9th ATKS is the second RPA training squadron at Holloman AFB. The squadron was activated to meet Air Force training requirements. By having a second squadron, it enables Holloman to train more students to meet those requirements. The 9th trains half of the Reaper operators who receive their instruction at Holloman. The base's 29th AS will train the others.
World War II
The 9th Fighter Squadron traces its origins to the formation of the 49th Pursuit Group (Interceptor) at Selfridge Field, Michigan on 20 November 1940. The 9th Pursuit Squadron was equipped with Seversky P-35s that were transferred from the 1st Pursuit Group that departed to Rockwell Field, California. In May 1941, the squadron proceeded to Morrison Field, West Palm Beach, Florida, to train in the Curtiss P-40 fighter.
With the advent of World War II, the squadron moved to Australia and became part of Fifth Air Force in January 1942. It was re-designated as the 9th Fighter Squadron in May 1942. The unit received Curtiss P-40 Warhawks in Australia and, after training for a short time, provided air defense for the Northern Territory.
The squadron moved to New Guinea in October 1942 to help stall the Japanese drive southward from Buna to Port Moresby. Engaged primarily in air defense of Port Moresby; also escorted bombers and transports, and attacked enemy installations, supply lines, and troop concentrations in support of Allied ground forces.
The 9th participated in the Allied offensive that pushed the Japanese back along the Kokoda Track, took part in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea in March 1943, fought for control of the approaches to Huon Gulf, and supported ground forces during the campaign in which the Allies eventually recovered New Guinea. It covered the landings on Noemfoor and had a part in. the conquest of Biak.
After having used Lockheed P-38 Lightnings, Curtiss P-40 Warhawks and Republic P-47 Thunderbolts, the 9th was equipped completely in September 1944 with P-38's, which were used to fly long-range escort and attack missions to Mindanao, Halmahera, Seram, and Borneo. The unit arrived in the Philippines in October 1944, shortly after the assault landings on Leyte and engaged enemy fighters, attacked shipping in Ormoc Bay, supported ground forces, and covered the Allied invasion of Luzon. Other missions from the Philippines included strikes against industry and transportation on Formosa and against shipping along the China coast. The 9th Fighter Squadron and its sister squadrons (7th Fighter Squadron and 9th Fighter Squadron) attained a record of 668 aerial victories not matched in the Pacific Theater during World War II.
Notable Aces of the 9th FS are Dick Bong (40), Tommy McGuire (38), Gerald Johnson (22), James Watkins (12), Andrew Reynolds (9.33), Grover Fanning (9), John O'Neil (8), Wallace Jordan (6), John Landers (6), Ralph Wandrey (6), Ernest Ambort (5), Warren Curten (5), Jack Donaldson (5), Cheatam Gupton (5), and Robert Vaught (5)
After the Japanese Capitulation, the squadron moved to the Japanese Home Islands, initially being stationed at the former Imperial Japanese Navy Atsugi Airfield, near Tokyo on 15 September 1945. Its war-weary P-38 Lightnings were sent back to the United States and the squadron was re-equipped with P-51D Mustangs with a mission of both occupation duty and show-of-force flights. In February 1946, the squadron was moved to Chitose AB, on northern Honshu and assumed an air defense mission over Honshu and also Hokkaido Island. The pilots of the squadron were briefed not to allow any Soviet Air Force aircraft over Japanese airspace, as there was tension between the United States and the Soviet Union about Soviet occupation forces landing on Hokkaido. In April 1948, the squadron moved to the newly-rebuilt Misawa AB when the host 49th Fighter Group took up home station responsibilities. At Misawa, the squadron moved into the jet age when it was re-equipped with the F-80C Shooting Star.
With the outbreak of the Korean War in June 1950, the 9th was one of the first USAF squadrons dispatched to Korea from Japan, initially operating propeller-driven F-51Ds to cover the evacuation of civilians from Kimpo and Suwon. Next, it flew close air support missions to help slow the advancing North Korean armies. Later, it turned to the interdiction of enemy troops, supplies and communications from Misawa. However its short-range F-80Cs meant that the 49th had to move to South Korea in order for them to be effective.
The squadron moved to Taegu AB (K-2) on 1 October 1950, becoming the first jet fighter outfit to operate from bases in South Korea. During the autumn of 1950 and spring of 1951, the squadron flew combat missions on a daily basis from Taegu, flying escort missions for B-29 Superfortresses over North Korea and engaging Communist MiG-15 fighters in air-to-air combat. When the Chinese Communist Forces (CCF) Intervention Campaign gained momentum in 1950–1951, the squadron again concentrated on the ground support mission, attacking Communist Chinese ground units in North Korea, moving south until the line was stabilized and held just south of Seoul.
The 49th changed equipment to the F-84G Thunderjet in mid-1951, It engaged Communist forces on the ground in support of the 1st UN Counteroffensive Campaign (1951). Afterwards, it engaged primarily in air interdiction operations against the main enemy channel of transportation, the roads and railroads between Pyongyang and Sinuiju. Also, it flew close air support missions for the ground forces and attacked high-value targets, including the Sui-ho hydroelectric plants in June 1952 and the Kumgang Political School in October 1952. On 27 July 1953, the squadron joined with the 58th FBG to bomb Sunan Airfield for the final action of F-84 fighter-bombers during the Korean War.
The wing remained in Korea for a time after the armistice. It was reassigned to Japan in November 1953 and returned to its air defense mission. The squadron upgraded to the F-86F Sabre in 1956. By late 1957, however, Worldwide DOD Budget restrictions during FY 1958 meant that the 49th FBW would be inactivated as part of a reduction of the USAF units based in Japan.
United States Air Forces in Europe
Due to seniority, after the 49th's inactivation in Japan, the designation replaced the 388th Fighter-Bomber Wing at Etain-Rouvres Air Base, France on 10 December 1957 in a same-day, name-only transfer. The 9th FBS assumed the aircraft, personnel and equipment of the 563d Fighter-Bomber Squadron which was inactivated. As the 49th had been a part of American forces in the Pacific since it was sent to Australia in January 1942, the assignment to Europe after fifteen years in the Pacific was a major change for the organization.
Taking over the seven F-100D Super Sabres and three dual-seat F-100F trainers of the 561st, the squadron continued its normal peacetime training. The squadron began keeping four of its planes on 15-minute alert (Victor Alert) on 1 February 1958 so a portion of the squadron could react quickly in an emergency. During the fall of 1958, most of the squadron operated from Chalon-Vatry Air Base while the runway at Etan was being repaired and resurfaced.
However, the nuclear-capable F-100 was troublesome to the host French Government, the French decreed that all United States nuclear weapons and delivery aircraft had to be removed from French soil by July 1958. As a result, the F-100s of the 49th FBW had to be removed from France. After negotiations with the French, the 49th's Wing commander was informed that the wing would be departing from France on 1 July 1959 and be moved to Spangdahlem AB, West Germany. During the relocation to West Germany, the squadron deployed to Wheelus Air Base, Libya, for gunnery training. However, not all squadron personnel moved to Spangdahlem, as many of the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing personnel there were almost at the end of their tours and did not want to move to RAF Alconbury, where the 10th was being relocated to in order to accommodate the 49th. As a result, some squadron ground support personnel instead moved to RAF Lakenheath, England to backfill vacancies there, while the 10th TRW personnel at Spandahlem were allowed to finish out their assignments.
At Spangdahlem, the squadron flew F-100s until 1961 when it converted to the Republic F-105D/F Thunderchief, commonly known as the "Thud". The 49th TFW was only the third USAF unit to operate the F-105. As part of USAFE, the 9th participated in many NATO exercises. In February 1967, the 9th opened the 49th Weapons Training Detachment at Wheelus Air Base, Libya, to begin transition to the McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom II, and received its first F-4D on 9 March 1967.
In the late 1960s, the Defense Budget began to be squeezed by the costs of the ongoing Vietnam War. Secretary of Defense Robert MacNamara decided to reduce costs in Europe by "Dual Basing" United States military units in Europe by returning them permanently to the United States, and conducting annual deployment exercises in Europe, giving the units a NATO commitment for deployment to bases in Europe if tensions with the Soviet Union warranted an immediate military buildup. The 49th Tactical Fighter Wing was returned to the United States under this policy, being reassigned on 1 July 1968 to Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, to serve as the US Air Force’s first dual-based, NATO-committed wing.
Holloman Air Force Base
At Holloman, the squadron participated in Tactical Air Command tactical exercises and firepower demonstrations to maintain combat readiness. Also, the first "Tail Codes" to identify squadron aircraft were applied, rather than the traditional red colors of the 9th which had been used since the Korean War. Initially "HE" was the tail code identifier for the 9th, however, in 1972, the Air Force issued AFM 66-1 which specified wing tail codes and the squadron's planes were standardized on the 49th's "HO" tail code. However, a red tail stripe was applied to identify squadron aircraft.
The 9th also retained its NATO commitment to return once a year to its "dual base" home in West Germany. These deployments were known as "Crested Cap", and were as follows:
With the end of the Cold War and subsequent force drawdowns by USAFE, these annual exercises ended in 1991.
Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base
On 4 May 1972, after North Vietnam invaded South Vietnam, the entire wing, except for a rear echelon that remained to run Holloman, deployed at Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. Operation Constant Guard III, ordered in response to the North Vietnamese invasion, was the largest movement that the Tactical Air Command (TAC) had ever performed. In nine days, the squadron deployed its F-4D Phantom IIs from Holloman to Takhli. Airmen arriving reported that Takhli was a mess, with missing or broken plumbing fixtures, no hot water, and no drinking water - that had to be trucked in from Korat every day. Bed frames had been thrown out of the hootches into the high snake-infested grass, and mattresses or bedding consisted of sleeping bags at best.
The 9th TFS flew combat sorties in South Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos from 1 July – 24 September 1972 during Operation Linebacker, the bombardment campaign in North Vietnam. During this deployment, Operation Constant Guard, the squadron flew over just about every battle zone from An Loc to vital installations in the Hanoi vicinity. During five months of combat, the squadron did not lose any aircraft or personnel. The unit officially closed out its Southwest Asia duty 6 October 1972.
F-15A Eagle era
In October 1977, the 49th TFW ended its "dual-base" commitment to NATO and changed to an air superiority mission with the wing beginning a conversion from the F-4D Phantom II to the F-15A Eagle; the 49th being the second USAF operational wing to receive the F-15A. The transition was completed 4 June 1978.
Due to the change in equipment, the annual NATO deployments were taken over by the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson AFB, in 1978, however they resumed (although not on an annual basis) in 1981. In the United States, training missions was refocused on dissimilar air combat tactics for mulch-theater operations, participating in numerous Red Flags, Joint Training exercises, and deployments in the Air Defense/Superiority Mission. Frequent deployments were made to Nellis AFB, Nevada to exercise with the F-5E Tiger II "Aggressor" aircraft of the 57th Fighter Weapons Wing, and other aircraft types (including clandestine exercises with Soviet aircraft flown by the 4477th Test and Evaluation Squadron at Tonopah Test Range Airport, Nevada). Also, after TAC absorbed the interceptor mission of Aerospace Defense Command (ADTAC) in 1979, the Squadron maintained the TAC NORAD Air Defense Alert commitment in the Eagle, with the best scramble times in NORAD.
With the introduction of the F-15C Eagle in the mid-1980s, the upgraded Eagle began replacing the F-15A/Bs in service with all of the USAF units that had previously been operating the Eagle with the exception of the 49th TFW. By the time of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the F-15A Eagles at Holloman had been relegated to a training role; combat deployments of the Eagle were the purview of F-15C units. However, F-15As of the squadron deployed to Southwest Asia to fly combat air patrol for coalition operations from, 20 June – 5 December 1991.
German Air Force Flying Training Center
With the closure of George AFB, California, the German Air Force F-4F Phantom II training which was held in the western United States was transferred to Holloman AFB effective 5 June 1992, and the 9th made an equipment change from the F-15A to the F-4F Phantom II. The F-4F was a specialized variant of the USAF F-4E Phantom II, with specialized equipment manufactured in Germany for Luftwaffe use. The aircraft used to train Luftwaffe crews in the United States, and were operated with US national markings and given USAF tailcodes (HO). This assignment lasted one year for the 9th, when the Luftwaffe training mission was reassigned to the reactivated 20th Fighter Squadron.
F-117 Nighthawk era
As a result of the end of the Cold War, reduced defense budgets were the order of the day. As a result, in July 1993, the 9th received the F-117A Nighthawk Stealth Fighters of the 37th Fighter Wing 417th Fighter Squadron, which was subsequently inactivated.
When the squadron received its F-117s from Tonopah, initially it was the training squadron, as the aircraft were the first ore-production aircraft that were manufactured in 1979 and 1980. The 9th also received several T-38 trainers from the 417th FS. The early-model F-117s however, were upgraded to production standards and each of the three squadrons (7th and 8th) were transferred some T-38s and formed their own training flights.
The 9th deployed F-117s fighters deployed to the Gulf in 1998 during Operation Desert Fox to upgrade the strike force's capability to attack high-value targets. But the 18-hour flight from Holloman AFB to Kuwait meant that the operation was over before the F-117 aircraft arrived in the Gulf. The F-117s successfully penetrated the heavily defended areas, which conventional aircraft could not reach. Also, the 9th deployed to Kunsan AB, South Korea and flew deterrence missions along the Demilitarized Zone to deter North Korean aggression in the late 1990s.
Operation Allied Force
In early 1999, the 9th deployed F-117 and their crews to Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany as the 9th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron under the 49th Expeditionary Operations Group. The 9th EFS launched its first combat sortie only 33 hours after departing Holloman in support of Operation Allied Force, the NATO attempt to stop ethnic cleansing in Kosovo in the former nation of Yugoslavia. In the opening phase of the operation, aimed primarily at Yugoslavia's integrated air defense system, NATO air forces conducted more than 400 sorties. During the first two night attacks, allied air forces struck 90 targets throughout Yugoslavia and in Kosovo. F-117 Nighthawks from the 8th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron participated in air strikes against targets in the Balkans during NATO operations bravely trusting in their aircraft's low observable technology struck some of the most valuable and highly guarded targets in Serbia.
One F-117 fighter was lost over Yugoslavia on 27 March 1999, apparently struck by a salvo of SA-3 Goa surface-to-air missiles. Unknown to NATO, Yugoslav air defenses operators had found they could detect F-117s with their "obsolete" Soviet radars after some modifications that could detect the aircraft when their wheels were down or bomb bay doors were open. A US search and rescue team picked up the pilot several hours after the F-117 went down outside Belgrade. This was the only F-117 to have been lost in action. On 1 April 1999, Defense Secretary William Cohen directed 12 more F-117 stealth fighters to join NATO Operation Allied Force, to join the total of 24 F-117s that were participating in NATO Operation Allied Force.
In June 1999 the 7th Fighter Squadron took over the pilot transition training mission (LIFT) to the F-117A and the T-38 Talon trainers were transferred to the re-designed 7th Combat Training Squadron.
The 9th continued training with the F-117 into the 2000s, however the squadron did not deploy to the middle east after the 9-11 Terrorist attacks and the removal from power of Saddam Hussein during Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003.
In 2006 the Air Force announced that although it had planned to operate the Nighthawk until at least 2011, with the introduction of the F-22A Raptor, a fighter that features the latest stealth technology, the Pentagon decided to retire the F-117s and use the funds that would have been used to maintain the Nighthawk on additional Raptors. Beginning in the spring of 2008, the 9th's planes began to depart for Tonopah Airport, and by 16 May the last of the 9th's aircraft had returned to their original base, for long term storage in the hangars there, as the stealth technology of the planes was still considered classified, even in retirement. The squadron was never officially inactivated and became a paper unit with the departure of its aircraft.
On 4 October 2012, the squadron was reactivated as the 9th Attack Squadron at Holloman, training new pilots and sensor operators for the MQ-9 Reaper.