52nd Fighter Wing History


In support of NATO and combatant command authorities, the 52nd Fighter Wing maintains, deploys and employs fighter aircraft and theater airspace control capability, supports strategic mobility operations and conducts the training of air and ground combat fire controllers.

The 52nd Fighter Wing conducts operations at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, one of 16 major operating locations in USAFE. The wing is authorized about 5,560 active-duty members and about 210 Department of Defense civilians. The wing is organized with four groups responsible for operations, maintenance, mission support and medical operations, and has headquarters staff. It is assigned 42 F-16s, 18 A-10s and 2 TPS-75 radars to provide expeditionary combat capability in mission areas of suppression of enemy air defenses, close air support, air interdiction, counter air, air strike control, combat search and rescue and theater airspace control. In concert with USAFE wings at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, the 52nd Fighter Wing directly supports the strategic mobility mission once conducted at Rhein-Main Air Base, Germany. The wing provides logistics support for C-17 and C-5 aircraft, crew, passengers and cargo to sustain air mobility operations throughout Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia. The 52nd Fighter Wing also supports USAFE's Joint Fires Center of Excellence, whose mission is to conduct joint and combined training focused on the effective integration and application of tactical fires.

The 52nd Operations Group consists of three flying squadrons, the 22nd, 23rd and 81st Fighter Squadrons, the 606th Air Control Squadron and an operations support squadron. The 22nd and 23rd Fighter Squadrons operate the F-16 C/D "Fighting Falcon," and 81st Fighter Squadron operates the A-10 Thunderbolt II. The 22nd and 23rd FS pilots primarily perform the "Wild Weasel" mission of suppression or destruction of enemy air defenses, and are also trained for interdiction and counter air taskings. Their F-16s are outfitted with high-speed anti-radiation missiles (HARM), joint direct attack munitions, laser-guided bombs, global positioning system guided-inertial aided munitions and the HARM targeting system pod, making the aircraft a lethal platform against enemy air defense systems. The 81st Fighter Squadron pilots fly the A-10, informally referred to as the "Warthog," to provide close air support of ground forces, air strike control, and combat search and rescue missions. The A-10 is armed with a 30mm 7-barrel Gatling gun which carries 1,150 rounds and fires 70 rounds per second. The aircraft can carry up to 16,000 pounds of free-fall and precision-guided munitions, AGM-65 Maverick missiles, AIM-9 air-to-air infrared missiles, illumination flares, 2.75-inch rockets, and a full compliment of self-protection chaff and flares. The 606th Air Control Squadron -- the "Inspectors of the Skies" -- employs AN/TPS-75 radars, the Modular Control Equipment system and tactical communications to provide deployable theater battle management. The squadron conducts 24-hour operations providing command and control for air surveillance, identification, weapons control, and airspace control and management. The unit supports and maintains robust communications to provide secure, beyond-the-line-of-sight voice and data link connectivity with Army, Navy, NATO and other allied forces as part of a theater-wide communications network.

The 52nd Maintenance Group consists of four squadrons: aircraft maintenance, component maintenance, equipment maintenance and maintenance operations. The group directly supports the 52nd Fighter Wing by providing safe, reliable maintenance to a mixed wing of F-16 and A-10 aircraft, support equipment and munitions resources. The group proved its combat effectiveness and versatility while deployed and at home station by supporting deployments to Operation Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, and operating U.S. Central Command Air Forces' centralized intermediate repair facility hub for hydrazine, engine and electronic countermeasure pods.

The 52nd Mission Support Group consists of civil engineer, communications, contracting, logistics readiness, mission support, security forces and services squadrons. Responsible for orchestrating the deployment operations of the wing, the mission support group has deployed more than 1,750 wing members in support of Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom since February 2003. During this period, more than 1,000 mission support group members have deployed in support of America's Global War on Terrorism and have fulfilled the following missions in Afghanistan and Iraq: construction and fortification, explosive ordnance disposal, fire fighting, full spectrum threat response, reception and beddown of forces, cargo and passenger handling, vehicle maintenance and operations, supply and fuels support, and management, personnel support for contingency operations, manpower support, anti-terrorism and force protection, base defense, entry and circulation control, defense of aircraft, food service, morale, welfare and recreation services, port mortuary, acquisition of commodities, services and construction for U.S. and coalition forces, and humanitarian aid, contract management, set-up, operation and maintenance of the communications and information systems infrastructure, and set-up and maintenance of flight line aircraft support systems. More recently, several group members have been tasked to support convoy operations and security in Iraq.

The 52nd Medical Group consists of aerospace medicine, dental, medical operations and medical support squadrons providing services split between Spangdahlem AB and Bitburg Annex. The medical group operates an outpatient clinic at Spangdahlem AB which includes family practice, pediatrics, women's health, psychiatry, aerospace medicine and optometry with exceptional clinical laboratory, radiology, pharmacy and physical therapy support. The 52nd Medical Group hospital, located on Bitburg Annex, provides emergency, obstetrics, gynecology and various surgical services. Group dental services include general dentistry, oral surgery, periodontics, orthodontics and prosthodontics.

All four 52nd Fighter Wing groups directly support the mission to provide strategic, theater and contract commercial air mobility capability for Europe, Africa and Southwest Asia. Spangdahlem's 726th Air Mobility Squadron provides command and control, logistics, and aerial port capabilities to every Air Mobility Command aircraft transiting through Spangdahlem AB. The base primarily handles C-17 III Globemaster and C-5 Galaxy aircraft. The C-17 is the newest, most flexible cargo aircraft to enter the airlift force, capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to main operating bases or directly to forward bases in the deployment area. The C-5 Galaxy, the largest aircraft in the Air Force inventory, provides inter-theater airlift in support of United States and NATO objectives. The aircraft carry fully equipped combat-ready military units to any point in the world on short notice and provide field support to sustain the fighting force.

The 52nd Fighter Wing also supports the Joint Fires Center of Excellence (JFCOE). The mission of JFCOE is to provide joint warfighting training focused on the effective integration and application of tactical fires, and to ensure USAFE, U.S. Army in Europe, and NATO forces are ready for combat. The school house was designated and activated at Spangdahlem, and assigned to the 52nd FW on June 1, 2005. Additionally, the United States Air Forces in Europe Air Ground Operations School (AGOS), located at Sembach AB, GE was assigned to the Joint Fires Center of Excellence on 1 June 2005. The courses JFCOE teaches will prepare joint and combined forces on how to coordinate and integrate close air support assets with ground maneuver forces.

Whether employing fighter aircraft and theater airspace control capability, supporting strategic mobility operations or conducting the training of air and ground combat fire controllers, the wing continues to be a key asset to European Security and NATO, providing domineering expeditionary air power well into the 21st Century.

Although the wing has a long history, the present day 52nd Fighter Wing took shape at Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany, on December 31, 1971. Upon activation, the wing possessed both F-4D Phantom II and EB-66 Destroyer aircraft. The EB-66 airplanes departed in January 1973, but the 52nd received a squadron of F-4C Wild Weasel airplanes in the same month. By mid-1982, the unit had exchanged its contingent of F-4C and F-4D airplanes for more advanced F-4E and F-4G fighters.

The 52nd FW became the first all-defense suppression wing outside the continental United States in November 1983. Under this configuration, each of the wing's three fighter squadrons flew a mixture of F-4E and G model fighters. The airplanes were paired into "Wild Weasel" hunter/killer teams capable of locating and destroying enemy radar-guided, surface-to-air threats.

In April 1987, the wing began replacing its aging F-4E fighters with brand new F-16C/D airplanes straight from the General Dynamics production line in Fort Worth, Texas. The last F-4E model aircraft departed Spangdahlem AB in December 1987.

With this changeover, the 52nd FW secured a place in Air Force history by becoming the first wing to successfully employ two completely different fighters in a hunter/killer role within each of its fighter squadrons. These versatile airplanes echoed the wing's motto "Seek, Attack, Destroy" and enabled the unit to fulfill its unique mission of providing lethal defense suppression in support of NATO and U.S. forces.

In August 1990, the 52nd FW was the first 17th Air Force unit to deploy to Southwest Asia for Operation Desert Shield. During Operation Desert Storm, the wing deployed 24 F-4G aircraft to Bahrain, and 12 F-4G and 12 F-16C aircraft deployed to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. Along with aircraft, the wing deployed more than 1,300 people and 13 million pounds of equipment. The wing is proud it lost no aircraft or people to enemy fire during the war. The unit was credited with flying more than 3,900 sorties and 7,200 combat hours while recording 142 radar site kills during 40 days of combat.

With the 1993 restructuring of the Air Force, the wing reconfigured its fighter squadrons. Both the 22nd and 23rd Fighter Squadrons were assigned the F-16 aircraft while the 81st Fighter Squadron employed A/OA-10 aircraft. Also, the 53rd FS relocated and brought its F-15C aircraft from the former Bitburg Air Base to Spangdahlem AB on February 25, 1994.

In March 1999, the 53rd FS inactivated and its aircraft were sent to Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England and Langley AFB, Virginia. The inactivation was part of the Air Force's realignment of assets and bringing fighter squadrons from 18 primary assigned aircraft to 24 aircraft.

The wing has been continually involved, supporting two contingency operations in both Iraq and Bosnia. Since the end of the Gulf War, the wing has had F-4Gs, A-10s, F-16s and F-15s deployed to Incirlik AB, in support of Operation Provide Comfort and Operation Northern Watch. Since July 1993, the wing has had A-10, F-15 and F-16 aircraft deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy, in support of Operation Deliberate Forge, which enforces a no-fly zone over Bosnia.

During Operation Allied Force, the 52nd FW operated as the 52nd Air Expeditionary Wing with assets spread out between Germany and Italy in support of the Kosovo operation. Additional 52nd units were deployed to Aviano Air Base and Lecce, Italy, assigned to the 31st Air Expeditionary Wing. On April 6, 1999, Spangdahlem AB made its mark in history. In support of NATO Operation Allied Force, F-16CJ and F-117 Stealth Fighters flew the first combat missions from Germany since the end of World War II.

The 52nd AEW consisted of four Expeditionary Operations Groups made up of seven expeditionary Fighter Squadrons of F-16CJ, A/OA Aircraft, and F-117A Stealth Fighters. 52nd AEW aircraft flew more than 3,000 missions in support of Allied Force. Expeditionary aircraft destroyed or disrupted critical lines of communications and re-supply routes, including bridges, road and rail routes. It also targeted military infrastructure and fielded forces. The 606th Expeditionary Air Control Squadron supported the campaign by providing control of airspace within the area of operation. During its participation, the unit controlled more than 4,500 tankers, receivers and defensive counter air missions totaling 8,500 missions over the Adriatic Sea and into the former Republic of Yugoslavia.

Following the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon in the United States on September 11, 2001, the 52nd Fighter Wing began preparations for possible combat tasking amidst an already hectic deployment schedule. Within one month of the attacks on the United States, the wing had deployed people and equipment in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in and around Afghanistan. The 22nd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron began flying operations at a deployed location in support of the war on terrorism within 100 hours of tasking notification. Troops assigned to the 52nd FW continue to deploy in support of Operation Enduring Freedom today.

In an effort to realign maintenance and logistics functions throughout the Air Force by the direction of the Air Force chief of staff, Headquarters U.S. Air Forces in Europe selected the 52nd FW as one of the first to transform to the Combat Wing Structure on July 1, 2002. Although the reorganization didn't begin until July 2002, the wing began active participation in the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Logistics Review on August 24, 2001 with the integration of supply and transportation squadrons into the 52nd Logistics Readiness Squadron (Provisional). As part of the Combat Wing Structure reorganization, several units on base were redesignated and one new unit activated, the 52nd Aircraft Maintenance Squadron.

Throughout the spring and summer of 2003 the wing deployed more than 900 airmen, remaining heavily engaged in the war on terrorism.

In January 2003, the 22nd Fighter Squadron and elements of the 23rd Fighter Squadron forward deployed as the 22nd Expeditionary Fighter Squadron to Southwest Asia in support of U.S. Central Command and flew combat missions during Operation Iraqi Freedom. The squadron played a key role during the 27-day air war by fulfilling the wing's "Wild Weasel" mission of suppressing enemy air defenses and destroying Iraqi radar sites. The 606th Air Control Squadron deployed to Kirkuk Air Base, Northern Iraq, in May 2003. As the first operational American air control squadron on Iraqi soil, the unit played key roles controlling battle space for Operation Iraqi Freedom and supporting Operations Peninsula Strike, Desert Scorpion, Sidewinder and Ivy Serpent. Toward the deployments end, the squadron topped their achievements by controlling the entire battle environment during the U.S. forces surrounding, and eventual deaths, of Saddam Hussein's sons, Uday and Qusay.

In June 2003 the 81st Fighter Squadron deployed to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, to provide close-air support to coalition ground forces during Operation Enduring Freedom. Deployed for more than five months, the Panthers performed an intensive regimen of combat patrols to find and destroy elusive, guerilla-type enemy combatants in support of ground forces. Nine months later on September 11, 2004, the 81st FS returned to Bagram AB to continue the fight against terrorism for another four-month deployment.

Beyond the significant events previously mentioned, the men and women of Team Eifel remain involved in numerous Air Expeditionary Force and weapons training deployments around the globe - particularly Operations Enduring and Iraqi Freedom.

Transfer of the Rhein-Main Airlift Mission
In May 1988, US State Department officials began negotiations with Germany Flughafen representatives in an effort to turn over Rhein-Main AB, Germany, to the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG). On 23 December 1999, US and German officials signed a formal agreement (Agreement on the Return of the Rhein-Main AB Frankfurt and the Gateway Gardens Housing Area and the Undertaking and Funding of Construction at the U.S. Air Bases Ramstein and Spangdahlem) that officially began the planned six-year transfer of Rhein-Main AB to the FRG. US and German officials specified that HQ USAFE would vacate and return Rhein-Main AB by December 31, 2005. German and NATO parties agreed to provide more than 500 million Euro to help relocate the Rhein-Main airlift mission to Ramstein (identified to assume 65 percent of the airlift mission) and Spangdahlem (identified to assume 35 percent of the airlift mission).

Headquarters USAFE and the 52nd FW agreed to a Rhein-Main AB mission transfer timeline that included several important milestones. The milestones included: updates to the Manpower Data System, January 2004; airlift mission transfer, June 2005; beginning of airlift operations, June 2005; and the final transfer actions, December 2005. In an effort to meet all of the milestones identified within the timeline, the 52nd FW concentrated on five issues; acquisition of land necessary for base infrastructure improvements; airfield approval process, design of facilities and improvements deemed necessary for airlift operations; environmental studies; and preparations for a lengthy runway closure necessary to make improvements to accommodate numerous heavy airlift aircraft takeoff and landings at Spangdahlem AB.

History was made on September 16, 2005 when local government officials, USAFE leadership and the men and women of Spangdahlem AB watched the expansion project become a reality as Spangdahlem's new airlift parking ramp was opened used for the first time by a C-17 Globemaster III. This event, along with the stand-up of the 726th Air Mobility Squadron on September 30, 2005 marked a new era in Spangdahlem's history.

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