159th Fighter Squadron/125th Fighter Wing,
Jacksonville Intl. Airport, FL.
The roots of the 125th Fighter Wing date back to the period following World War II when the unit was first organized as the 159th Fighter Squadron Feb. 9, 1947 with an initial strength of 18 personnel equipped with P-51 Mustangs. In 1948 the 159th became one of the first Air National Guard units to be equipped with jets when it converted to the F-80C Shooting Star.
The unit was called to active duty Oct. 10, 1950 as a result of the outbreak of the Korean Conflict. After a nine-month conversion from the F-80 to the F-84E Thunderjet, the unit deployed to Japan where it flew air combat missions over the Korean peninsula. In so doing, it became the first unit to employ in-flight refueling operations in combat. The unit was released from active duty July 9, 1952, returning home to be re-equipped with the F-51H Mustang.
During the remainder of the early 1950s, the 159th was equipped with a multitude of different aircraft, including the T-6, B-26, C-45, F51H, T-33, F-80, and F86A. By the end of 1954, the unit was equipped with an entire squadron of F-80s. On July 1, 1956, the primary unit designation was changed to the 125th Fighter Interceptor Group, and the unit converted to the F-86D Super Sabre with the primary mission of air defense.
During July 1960 the 125th converted from the F-86D to the all-weather, supersonic F-102A/B Delta Dagger, followed in July 1974 by a conversion to the F-106A/B Delta Dart. Nearly seventeen years later, in April 1987, the 125th converted to the F-16A/B, a multi-role fighter that was subsequently modified as the ADF-16 specifically designed for the air defense role. The conversion to the F-15A/B took place during June 1995, these provided better radar detection, a greater weapons load, and two engines that provide more safety during long over water missions.
During 2006 the 125th transitioned to the F-15C/D.
With the FA-22 Raptor fleet numbers being capped to 187 the F-15C fleet is being upgraded to take on over 50% of the Air Force's air dominance mission. The upgraded F-15Cs will carry the larger APG-63(V)3 active, electronically scanned array (AESA) radar which provides a greater long range and small target detection capability. During the first weeks of April, 2010 the first F-15C modified with the Raytheon radar was declared operational with the 125th Fighter Wing. This upgrades is expected to be only one of the upgrades which are to be considered through to the end of the F-15Cs operational life in 2030.
Awards & Firsts
Over the years the 125th Fighter Wing have achieved many firsts and have been presented with an impressive number of awards rewarding their dedication and professionalism.
- In 1958, became the first Air National Guard unit to earn the right to compete in WILLIAM TELL, and was the first team ever to fire a perfect score in that competition.
- October 1995, became the first unit ever to complete a transition from one-fourth generation fighter to another fourth generation fighter as it transitioned from the ADF-16 to the MSIP F-15.
- The unit was the first operational NORAD Air Defense Alert.
- The first operational ADF-16 unit to employ the AIM-7 missile.
- The first unit to deploy to Howard AB, Panama, in support of JCS-directed Operation CORONET NIGHTHAWK using enhanced identification tactics.
- The NORAD Inspector General rated the unit “Outstanding” during an Alert Force Evaluation in November 1997. This was the highest rating ever given by NORAD.
- January 1998, the 125th Fighter Wing received an “Outstanding” on its Operational Readiness Inspection
The Wing operational intensity has increased exponentially since the ORI success recording deployments to Iceland April-May 1998; Incirlik Air Base, Turkey for Operation NORTHERN WATCH May-July 1999, Laage, Germany April-May 2000 for Exercise AGILE ARCHER and Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia Oct.-Nov. 2000 for Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. Since Sept. 11, 2001, the wing has supported Operation NOBLE EAGLE continuously and deployed personnel worldwide to support Operations ENDURING FREEDOM and IRAQI FREEDOM.
Just days after receiving the “Outstanding” rating on the ORI, the unit was notified of its receipt of the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the period of Sept. 1 1995-Aug. 31, 1997. The 125th subsequently received the AFOUA for the periods of Sept. 1, 1997-Aug. 31, 1998 and again for the period of Sept. 1 1998- Aug. 31, 1999. The 125th received previous awards in 1979 and 1984.
As time went by the F-15 Eagle became increasingly more time consuming and difficult to maintain. Efforts were made to reduce maintenance overhead and to help extend the F-15's operational life with the Air Force and Air National Guard units, as a result a number of life extension initiatives were developed. One of the most important projects has been to update the hydromechanical-powered F100-PW-100 engines which power the F-15A/B Eagles (known to mechanics as the "Dash 100"), to an electronically enhanced and more maintenance friendly model called the "Dash 220E" or the F100-PW-22OE. This modification included the addition of electronic diagnostics systems to allow technicians to quickly and reliably assess each engine for malfunctions, taking away a lot of the 'guesswork' which was previously required to keep the engines serviceable.
During 2003 and 2004 the 125th worked on the update of their aircraft with the Dash 220E specification engines. However, it was found that a number of their aircraft would not take the upgrade and as a result several were retired to AMARC. Four aircraft left the unit including 75-0025 and 75-0078, both of which were delivered to AMARC, and 75-0039. The fourth confirmed aircraft, F-15B 75-0088, was swapped out to the 110th Fighter Squadron of the 131st Fighter Wing, Missouri ANG, for their F-15B 76-0126. 75-0088 was also retired to AMARC on 23-OCT-2008 as a result of the 131st received their contingent of F-15Cs.
All of the personnel who maintained these aircraft did a tremendous job of keeping them at a high rate of readiness. After the engine upgrades were complete their workload was considerably reduced and simplified as they did not have to constantly make adjustments to optimize engine performance.
Introduction of the F-15C/D
The 125th began retirement of its F-15A/Bs and transition to the F-15C/D during June 2006 with the new aircraft being transferred from the 390th Fighter Squadron of the 366th Wing based at Mountain Home AFB, ID. The 390th was re-designated the 390th Electronic Combat Squadron on September 27, 2010 and returned to the mission that it previously carried out between 1972 and 1982 with the EF-111A. The last two F-15C, including the 390th's Flag Ship 86-0152, departed Mountain Home AFB for Jacksonville on Thursday, September 23, 2010.