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343rd Fighter Group

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343rd Fighter Group

343d Wing


Emblem of the 343d Wing (1991–1993)
Active 1942–1946, 1955-1959, 1978-1979, 1981-1993
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force

The 343d Wing is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with Pacific Air Forces, stationed at Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. It was inactivated on 20 August 1993.

History

World War II


The 343d Fighter Group was activated in Alaska on 3 September 1942 and began operations immediately.[1] Its initial squadrons, the 11th Fighter Squadron[2] and 18th Fighter Squadron,[3] flying P-40 Warhawks were already operational at Fort Glenn Army Air Base and Fort Greely, respectively, while the 54th Fighter Squadron and its P-38 Lightnings were flying missions from Adak.[4] All three squadrons had been assigned directly to XI Fighter Command.[2][3][4]

In October 1942, a third P-40 squadron, the 344th Fighter Squadron,[5] was activated for the group and deployed to Fort Randall. The group provided air defense for the Aleutians; bombed and strafed Japanese camps, antiaircraft emplacements, hangars, and radio stations on Kiska; escorted bombers that struck enemy airfields, harbor facilities, and shipping.[1] It flew its last combat mission in October 1943, but carried out patrol and reconnaissance assignments in the area until the end of the war.[1] The 343d later trained, carried mail, and served as part of the defense force for Alaska.[1] In 1943, the 11th and 18th Fighter Squadrons began flying P-38s as well as their P-40s,[2][3] as did the 344th in 1944.[5] All lost their last P-40s in 1945.[2][3][5] Before inactivating in 1946, the 18th Fighter Squadron converted to P-51 Mustangs.[1][3]

Air Defense Command


Redesignated as the 343d Fighter Group (Air Defense) and activated at[1] in 1955 replacing the 515th Air Defense Group[6] and assuming the 515th's personnel and equipment as part of Air Defense Command (ADC)'s Project Arrow, which was designed to bring back on the active list the fighter units which had compiled memorable records in the two world wars.[7] The 11th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (FIS), flying F-89 Scorpions, was reassigned from the 515th as the group's operational squadron.[1] The group was also the host organization for active USAF units at Duluth International Airport and was assigned several support organizations to fulfill this mission.[8][9][10]

In June 1956, the 11th FIS upgraded to F-102 Delta Daggers, and in July 1960 to F-106 Delta Dart aircraft.[11] In 1957, group aircraft placed in first and second places in the Bendix Trophy competition.[12] The 11th FIS was discontinued in the fall of 1968[11] and replaced by the 87th FIS. which was activated and took over the 11th's personnel and equipment.[13] The group performed air defense mission for the upper Great Lakes region of the north central United States[14] until 1970, when it was inactivated.[15] The 87th FIS was reassigned directly to the 23d Air Division[13] and the group's support functions, personnel, and equipment were transferred to the newly organized 4787th Air Base Group.[16]

Return to Alaska


The group was redesignated as the 343d Tactical Fighter Group and activated as an operational group at Elmendorf AFB in 1977. Its operational squadron was the 18th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS), which was already stationed at Elmendorf flying the Fairchild-Republic A-10 Thunderbolt II.[17] It was also assigned three maintenace squadrons.[18] The group was inactivated in 1980 and the 18th TFS transferred back to the 21st Tactical Fighter Wing,[17] while the maintenance squadrons were inactivated.

It became Eielson Air Force Base’s host unit on 1 October 1981 as the 343d Composite Wing, replacing the 5010th Combat Support Group[19] and absorbing its personnel and equipment.[20] Its operational squadrons were the 18th TFS, flying the Thunderbolt II, and the 25th Tactical Air Support Squadron (TASS)[21] flying the Cessna O-2A Skymaster and North American Rockwell OV-10 Bronco. The 25th TASS O-2s were distinguishable by orange panels on the nose, tail and wings. In the fall of 1982, the wing's maintenance organization was aligned with the Production Oriented Maintenance Organization (POMO), and three new squadrons were activated to replace the existing maintenance squadron.[19] In July 1986, the O-2s were retired, and on 15 September 1989 the OV-10s were also retired and the squadron inactivated.[21] On 8 June 1984 the 343d Composite Wing was redesignated the 343d Tactical Fighter Wing.

During the 343d Wing's tenure at Eielson, the 6th Strategic Wing, a tenant at Eielson, suffered two major accidents. On 15 March 1981 an RC-135S crashed while attempting to land at Shemya. Six crewmembers died as result of the crash. On 25 February 1985 an RC-135T crashed near Valdez, killing all three aboard. Exactly one month later, a 25th TASS pilot died while flying an Air Warrior mission in California.

On 1 July 1991, it was redesignated as the 343d Wing and converted to the USAF Objective Wing organization. Its operational squadrons were assigned to the newly activated 343d Operations Group, while the maintenance squadrons that had been assigned directly to the wing were assigned to the 343d Logistics Group. Also that year, the 343d gained a third flying unit, the 11th Tactical Air Support Squadron, which flew O/A-10As and the 18th TFS reequipped, transitioning to Block 40 F-16C/D Fighting Falcons. Between 17 and 28 June 1991 – Pacific Air Forces premier flying training exercise, COPE THUNDER, came to Eielson. The eruption of Mount Pinatubo in the Philippine Islands prompted the move; the subsequent closing of Clark Air Base, COPE THUNDER's home since 1976, brought the exercise to Alaska permanently.On 19 December 1991 the 3rd Fighter Training Squadron was moved without personnel or equipment to Eielson from Clark Air Base, Philippines. The 3rd administered the COPE THUNDER program and flew Bell Helicopter UH-1N Hueys for range support.

On 20 August 1993, wing inactivated and its personnel and equipment were transferred to the 354th Fighter Wing, whose operational squadrons, the 353d Fighter Squadron and 355th Fighter Squadron replaced the 11th TASS and the 3rd Fighter Training Squadron (whose helicopters were reassigned to other bases).

Lineage

  • Constituted as 343d Fighter Group on 3 September 1942
Activated on 3 September 1942
Inactivated on 15 August 1946
  • Redesignated as 343d Fighter Group (Air Defense) on 20 June 1955
Activated on 18 August 1955[22]
Inactivated on 28 August 1970[15]
  • Redesignated as 343d Tactical Fighter Group
Activated on 15 November 1977
Inactivated on 1 January 1980
  • Redesignated as 343d Composite Wing
Activated on 1 October 1981[23]
Redesignated as 343d Tactical Fighter Wing on 8 June 1984[24]
Redesignated as 343d Wing on 1 July 1991
Inactivated on 20 August 1993[25]

Assignments

Stations

  • Elmendorf Field, Alaska Territory, 11 September 1942
  • Fort Glenn Army Air Base, Alaska Territory, September 1942
  • Elmendorf Field, Alaska Territory, 3 December 1942
  • Adak Army Airfield, Alaska Territory, 7 March 1943
  • Amchitka Army Airfield, Alaska Territory, 25 July 1943
  • Alexai Point, Alaska Territory, 22 January 1944
  • Shemya Army Air Base, Alaska Territory, 5 October 1945 – 15 August 1946
  • Duluth International Airport, Minnesota, 18 August 1955 – 28 August 1970[15][22]
  • Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, 15 November 1977 – 1 January 1980
  • Eielson AFB, Alaska, 1 October 1981 – 20 August 1993

Components

Aircraft

  • A-10, 1977-1980, 1981-1991
  • F-16C/D, 1991-1993
  • F-89D, 1955-1956
  • F-102A, 1956-1960
  • F-106A, 1960
  • O-2A, 1981-1986
  • OV-10A, 1981-1989
  • P-38, 1942-1946 (also F-5 in 1943)[3]
  • P-39, 1943[3]
  • P-40, 1942-1946
  • P-51, 1946

Awards

1 January 1978 - 31 December 1978[34]
1 January 1983 – 30 June 1984
1 July 1985 – 30 June 1987
1 January 1988 – 31 December 1989
1 July 1990 – 30 June 1992
  • Asiatic-Pacific Theater Streamer
Campaign: Aleutian Islands[22]

References

External links

  • AFHRA Factsheet, 54th Fighter Squadron. Retrieved 4 June 2012
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