48th Fighter Wing

48th Fighter Wing

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= 48th Fighter Wing

caption= 48th Fighter Wing Insignia
dates= 20 November 1940
country= United States
branch= United States Air Force
role= Fighter
size= Wing
command_structure= United States Air Forces Europe
garrison= RAF Lakenheath
nickname= "Statue of Liberty Wing"
motto= STATUE DE LA LIBERTÉ - Statue of Liberty

The 48th Fighter Wing (48 FW) is part of the United States Air Force Third Air Force, assigned to HQ Air Command Europe, and is based at RAF Lakenheath, England. The 48 FW is the only F-15 wing based in Europe. It was given the name "Statue of Liberty Wing" on July 4, 1954 and remains the only USAF unit with both a name and a numerical designation.

The 48 FW operates in support of U.S. Air Forces Europe, U.S. European Command and NATO.


The Liberty Wing has nearly 5,700 active-duty military members, 2,000 British and U.S. civilians, and includes a geographically separated unit at nearby RAF Feltwell. In addition to supporting three combat-ready squadrons of F-15E Strike Eagle and F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft, the Liberty Wing houses the 56th Rescue Squadron’s HH-60G Combat Search and Rescue helicopters.

48th Operations Group

Formerly the 48th Fighter-Bomber Group. Provides three flying squadrons of F-15C/D/E aircraft capable of accomplishing fighter operations worldwide and one operations support squadron. Prepares aircrew and support personnel to accomplish USAFE, U.S. European Command and NATO war plans and contingency operations. Provides equipment, training, scheduling, analysis, weather, intelligence, standardization and evaluation, and command and control for an efficient flying operation.

*492d Fighter Squadron
The 492d Fighter Squadron, "Madhatters", employs the F-15E Strike Eagle and is capable of executing strategic attack, interdiction, and counter air missions in support of USAFE, USEUCOM and NATO operations. Employs the full array of air superiority and surface attack munitions to include the most advanced precision-guided weapons in the USAF inventory. Capable of deploying to any theater of operations in the world.

*493d Fighter Squadron
The 493d Fighter Squadron, nicknamed the "Grim Reapers", at RAF Lakenheath, England, is the only F-15C/D Eagle fighter squadron assigned to USAFE. The 493 FS is capable of executing air superiority and air defense missions in support of USAFE, USEUCOM and NATO war plans and contingency operations. Employs the world’s finest air-to-air weapons and electronic identification systems. Maintains the ability to rapidly generate, deploy, and sustain operations to execute wartime and peacetime taskings in any theater of operations in the world. The unit has flown the F-15C Eagle fighter aircraft at Lakenheath since 1994.

*494th Fighter Squadron
The 494th Fighter Squadron "Panthers" also employs the F-15E Strike Eagle and is capable of executing strategic attack, interdiction, and counter air missions in support of USAFE, USEUCOM and NATO war plans and contingency operations. Employs the full array of air superiority and surface attack munitions to include the most advanced precision-guided weapons in the USAF inventory. Capable of deploying to any theater of operations in the world.

*56th Rescue Squadron
The 56th Rescue Squadron is a combat-ready search and rescue squadron of HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters capable of executing all-weather search and rescue missions day or night in hostile environments in support of USAFE, USEUCOM, and NATO operations. It employs a state-of-the-art communications and navigation system along with advanced search and rescue equipment. The squadron is capable of deploying to any theater of operations in the world. [ [http://www.lakenheath.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=4212 48 OF Fact Sheet] ]

48th Maintenance Group

Responsible for all organizational and intermediate level maintenance for F-15 C/D/E aircraft, engines, munitions and support equipment used by all three fighter squadrons to accomplish USAFE, U.S. European Command and NATO commitments and taskings. Ensures readiness for all personnel and aircraft fleet health through planning, analysis and programming for manpower, funds, equipment, training and facility requirements.

48th Mission Support Group

The 48 MSG executes expeditionary and in-garrison personnel, logistics, communications, contracting, engineering and services support for USAFE's only lead Air Expeditionary wing. It also provides force protection for infrastructure, facilities, and personnel at home and deployed locations and enhances the quality of life and quality of service for our military, civilian and dependent personnel assigned to RAF Lakenheath and surrounding community.

48th Medical Group

The 48 MDG supports the combat capability of the 48th Fighter Wing, 100th Air Refueling Wing and 352d Special Operations Group by delivering quality health care to its beneficiaries. Serves as USAFE's premier specialty referral center. The hospital treats 180,000 outpatients and 2,000 inpatients annually at 7 operating locations and maintains Expeditionary Medical Support (EMEDS).



* 48th Bombardment Group (Light) (November 1940 - August 1942)
* 48th Bombardment Group (Dive) (August 1942 - August 1943)
* 48th Fighter-Bomber Group (August 1943 - May 1944)
* 48th Fighter Group (May 1944 - November 1945)
* 48th Fighter-Bomber Wing (June 1952 - July 1958)
* 48th Tactical Fighter Wing (July 1958 - October 1991)
* 48th Fighter Wing (October 1991 - Present)

Bases assigned

* Savannah, GA (January - May 1941)
* Will Rogers Field, OK (May 1941 - February 1942)
* Savannah, GA (February - June 1942)
* Key Field, MS (June 1942 - August 1943)
* William Northern Field, TN (August 1943 - January 1944)
* Waterboro AAFld, SC (January - March 1944)
* RAF Ibsley, England (March - June 1944)
* Various Advanced Landing Grounds (France, Germany) (June 1944 - April 1945)
* Illesheim, Germany (April - July 1945)
* Laon, France (July - August 1945)
* Seymour Johnson Field, NC (September - November 1945)
* Chaumont AB, France, (July 1952 - January 1960)
* RAF Lakenheath, England (January 1960 - Present)

Major Aircraft Flown

* Republic P-47D Thunderbolt
* Republic F-84G Thunderjet
* North American F-86F Sabre
* North American F-100D Super Sabre
* McDonnell-Douglas F-4D Phantom II
* General Dynamics F-111F Aardvark
* McDonnell Douglas F-15C/D Eagle
* McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagle

Operational history

World War II

Constituted as 48th Bombardment Group (Light) on 20 November 1940. Activated on 15 January 1941. Redesignated 48th Bombardment Group (Dive) in September 1942, and 48th Fighter-Bomber Group in August 1943. Used A-20's and B-18's during 1941, and A-20, A-24, A-31, A-35, A-36, P-39, P-40, and other aircraft between 1942 and 1944. Served as a replacement training unit, participated in maneuvers, and for a brief time engaged in coastal patrol work.

Moved overseas, arriving in England in March 1944. Assigned the Ninth Air Force. The 48th Fighter Group arrived at RAF Ibsley from [http://maps.google.com/maps?t=h&ie=UTF8&z=14&ll=32.921817,-80.633297&spn=0.031269,0.058279&om=1 Waterboro AAF] South Carolina. The 48th flew the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt and had the following fighter squadrons and fuselage codes:

* 492d Fighter Squadron (F4)
* 493d Fighter Squadron (I7)
* 494th Fighter Squadron (6M)

The 48th was a group of Ninth Air Force's 70th Fighter Wing, IX Tactical Air Command.

The group began operations on 20 April by making a fighter sweep over the coast of France then flew an intense period of escort and dive-bombing missions to help prepare for the invasion of Normandy.

On 21 April the number of P-47s at Ibsley doubled when the aircraft of the 371st Fighter Group moved in from nearby RAF Bisterne while work was carried out on its wire-mesh runways. At one point there were over I50 P-47s parked on Insley. The 371st remained until 14 May and even then its pilots would have preferred to remain at Ibsley with its hard surfaced runways.

The group bombed bridges and gun positions on 6 June and attacked rail lines and trains, motor transports, bridges, fuel dumps, and gun positions during the remainder of the Normandy campaign.

The 48th fighter Group's only air battle while flying from Ibsley cause on 12 June when the 493rd FS tangled with some Messerschmitt Bf 109s and shot down four and shared another victory with a P-47 pilot from another group. During missions flown from Ibsley, the 48th lost a total of eight P-47s.

On 17 June a P-47 taking off on a mission crashed off the end of a runway and caught fire. Soon after fire tenders arrived the bomb-load exploded, killing the pilot and three firemen.

The 48th was one of the first P-47 groups to move to the Normandy bridgehead, the first aircraft landing at their assigned Advanced Landing Ground (ALG) at Deux Jumeaux, France (ALG A-4) on 18 June although Ibsley continued to be used by the 48th FG until 4 July when the last personnel departed.

On the continent, the 48th FG provided tactical air support in support of U.S. First Army using the following ALGs:

* A-4 Deux Jumeaux, France 18 June 1944
* A-42D Villacoublay, France 29 August 1944
* A-74 Cambrai/Niergnies, France 15 September 1944
* A-92 St. Trond, Belgum 30 September 1944
* Y-54 Kelz, Germany 26 March 1945
* Y-96 Kassel/Waldau, Germany 17 April 1945
* R-10 Illesheim, Germany 29 April 1945

On 4 May 1945 the 48th joined other fighter groups of the Ninth Air Force in the last strafing mission against [http://hloubkari.bloguje.cz/tema-21-english-version.php ground targets in Czechoslovakia] .

The 48th Fighter Group moved to Laon Air Base, France on 5 July, returning to the US during August-September 1945, and was inactivated on 7 November at Seymour Johnson AAF, North Carolina.

Cold War

Chaumont-Semoutiers Air Base

On 10 July 1952, the Air National Guard 137th Fighter-Bomber Wing at Chaumont-Semoutiers Air Base, France was redesignated the 48th Fighter-Bomber Wing, with the fighter squadrons being redesignated the 492d, 493d, and 494th respectively. The 137 FBW was reassigned without personnel and equipment, back to the control of Oklahoma Air National Guard. The 58 F-84Gs and support aircraft were assigned to the 48th. The few National Guardsmen still with the wing departed and the last were released from active duty on 9 July, although a few reserve officers remained on active duty for an additional six to twelve months.

With the F-84, the 48 FBW supported NATO and the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE), activities, participating in exercises with the US Seventh Army. In addition, the 48th conducted operational readiness exercises and tactical evaluations. Honing bombing and gunnery skills. The 48th frequently deployed to Wheelus AFB, Libya for training.

The 48th developed into the premier fighter wing in France, serving the longest, from 10 July 1952 though 15 January 1960. The men and women of the 48th worked hard to develop Chaumont-Semoutiers Air Base into one of the best air bases in Europe. It's squadrons remained unchanged while flying three different type of fighters, the F-84G, F-86F and the F-100D, and maintaining the capability to fight either a conventional or nuclear war if need be.

An open house was held once a year, with great numbers of French civilians in attendance. In 1954, over 15,000 attended the Armed Forces Day event to see static aircraft displays, watch flight demonstrations, listen to a French army band and other activities. In just over three years since construction began, Chaumont Air Base became an important part of the Haute-Marne region.

To bolster Franco-American relations, the 48th Wing Staff came up with the idea of changing the wing insignia. Chaumont AB is located not far from the workshops of Frédéric Bartholdi - the French architect which designed the Statue of Liberty. The new design incorporated the Statue Of Liberty, and throughout Europe the 48th became known as the "Statue of Liberty" Wing. On 4 July 1954 the mayor of the town of Chaumont bestowed the honorary title of the Statue de la Liberté (Statue of Liberty) Wing upon the 48th. It is the only USAF unit with both an official name and a numerical designation.

In addition, the town of Chaumont donated a 9-foot bronze statue to the wing which was cast from an original Bartholdi mold built for creating a design model of the Statue of Liberty. The monument still exists today on Chaumont Air Base.

In November 1953, the wing exchanged its F-84Cs for newer F-86F "Sabre", receiving 75 aircraft, 25 per squadron. Then in late 1956 that the Air Force would exchange the 48th’s Sabers for a newer aircraft: the F-100D "Super Sabre".

The larger-bodied F-100 was capable of carrying more ordnance than the F-86 and was one of the first fighters designed to operate at supersonic speeds. 90 single-seat F-100D aircraft were received, along with 13 F-100F dual-seaters.

The wing began realigning its units 15 March 1957, as part of an Air Force worldwide reorganization. Combat groups were inactivated, assigning the unit’s fighter mission to the wing. As part of yet another organization change, the 48th dropped the "Fighter Bomber" designation 8 July 1958, becoming the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing. The three flying units also changed designation, becoming tactical fighter squadrons.

A change in residence, however, loomed on the horizon for the 48th. Disagreements arose concerning atomic storage and custody issues within NATO, resulting in a decision to remove Air Force atomic-capable units from French soil. Simultaneously, the advent of the inter-continental ballistic missile had reduced the United States’ dependence on European-based airborne medium-and long ranged bombers

On 15 January 1960, the 48 TFW redeployed to RAF Lakenheath, UK. In the early the wing’s three fighter squadrons lifted off Chaumont’s runway and, after making farewell passes over the outlying village, headed toward the English Channel.

RAF Lakenheath

The tactical components of the 48th TFW upon arrival at Lakenheath were:

* 492d Tactical Fighter Squadron (LR,blue colors)
* 493d Tactical Fighter Squadron (LS,yellow colors)
* 494th Tactical Fighter Squadron (LT,red colors)

The squadron markings consisted of alternating stripes across the tailfin in squadron colors, with a shadowed "V" shaped chevron on the nose. Starting in March 1970 squadron tail codes (shown above) were added when the aircraft went from a natural finish to a Southeast Asian camouflage motif.

East Germany’s 1961 decision to build the Berlin Wall and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis increased Cold War tensions to an all-time high. In response, RAF Lakenheath served as a rotational base for SAC B-47 and B-52 aircraft throughout the Berlin Crisis. Also in 1962, the 48th TFW came under the operational command of Third Air Force.

Between 1963 and 1972 the wing’s F-100 fleet maintained its readiness by participating in a number of USAFE and NATO exercises.

The period between 1972 and 1977 can be described as a five-year aircraft conversion. Beginning in late 1971 the 48th TFW started its conversion to the McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom II, with the aircraft being transferred from the 81st TFW at RAF Bentwaters. The conversion to the F-4D took several years, with the last F-100 departing in August 1974. With the arrival of the Phantoms, the F-4s adopted a common tail code of "LK". This tail code lasted only a few months as in July and August 1972 the 48th TFW further recoded to "LN". The F-4D carried squadron identifying fin cap colors of blue, yellow and red (492d, 493d, 494th respectively). The squadron conversion dates were:

* 492d TFS 1 October 1971 and 31 January 1972
* 493d TFS 1 December 1971 and April 1972
* 494th TFS 1 February 1972 and 25 July 1974

The F-4's service with the 48th TFW was short as operation "Ready Switch" transferred the F-4D assets to the 474th TFW at Nellis AFB Nevada. The 474th sent their General Dynamics F-111As to the 347th TFW at Mountain Home AFB Idaho, and the 347th sent their F-111Fs to Lakenheath in early 1977.

A fourth fighter squadron, the 495th Tactical Fighter Squadron was activated with the 48th TFW on 1 April 1977 with a squadron tail color of green. This was 33 years to the day since the squadron’s inactivation. The 495th’s mission of functioning as a replacement training unit for the other three fighter squadrons made the 48th TFW unique in two ways. First, it made the 48th the only combat unit in USAFE with four squadrons. Furthermore, it made the 48th the only wing operating with its own replacement training unit. In the same year construction of the airfield's Hardened Aircraft Shelters (acronym: HAS, but commonly referred to as a TAB-VEE) began as part of a wider NATO effort.

By September 1979, the wing had flown the highest number of hours ever recorded in a fiscal year by an F-111 unit. This dedication culminated in the 48th’s performance during a joint USAFE Operational Readiness Inspection and NATO Tactical Evaluation in March 1980. As a result, the Secretary of the Air Force selected the 48th TFW for its fourth Air Force Outstanding Unit Award.

Operation El Dorado CanyonTerrorist incidents such as the bombing of US Marines in Beirut (1983), TWA hijacking (1985), the ship Achille Lauro hijack (1985), had brought about an overwhelming public outcry for action. Two aircraft carriers of the United States Navy Sixth Fleet and the F-111s of the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing were selected to conduct the strike. The F-111Fs from Lakenheath were chosen for their capability to fly long distances and deliver laser-guided munitions with great accuracy.

At approximately 19:00 the evening of 14 April 1986, 24 F-111Fs departed Lakenheath's runway, six of which were airborne spares in the event malfunctions forced any of the primary aircraft to abort. In flights of four, aircrews flew south through the Straits of Gibraltar and began their orchestrated attack shortly after midnight on 15 April. They were targeted on Azziziyah Barracks, the Sidi Balal terrorist training camp, and Tripoli Airport. With the sky lit up from Tripoli's city lights, anti-aircraft tracers, and brilliant surface to air missile detonations, determined 48th TFW crews unleashed 60 tons of munitions, damaging their targets. In spite of the mission's success, the Wing experienced a major loss. As the strike force recovered at Lakenheath, both air and ground crews were given the somber news that Major Fernando Ribas, pilot, and Weapons System Operator Captain Paul Lorence, were missing. On 8 September 1986, US Navy Secretary John Lehman personally presented the Navy's Meritorious Unit Commendation to the 48th TFW for its participation in the operation. The 48th TFW is the only Air Force unit to have received this prestigious award.

Operation Desert Storm In response to the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990 the 48th TFW deployed more than 60 aircraft and 1,500 personnel to Taif Air Base, Saudi Arabia. The 492d, 493d and 494th TFSs deployed, supplying 66 F-111Fs, which were in place by December 1990.

During the air war 17 January though 24 February 1991, and subsequent four-day ground war of February 24 - 28, 48th TFW F-111Fs flew thousands of sorties, unleashing their lethality of precision-guided munitions on Iraqi armor, artillery, bridges, military airfields and command and control centers. 48th aircrews even stopped the flow of oil contaminating the Persian Gulf by bombing a pumping installation purposefully damaged by retreating Iraqi forces.

Overall, the 48th TFW flew a total of 1919 combat sorties, totaling 2203 target hits. The Wing returned to RAF Lakenheath 13 May 1991.

Post Cold War

On 1 October 1991 the 48th TFW implemented the objective wing concept and was redesignated the 48th Fighter Wing, and all of its operational squadrons were also redesignated as "Fighter Squadrons". The program also realigned the maintenance-fighter squadron work force and establishing several command positions to include the logistics group, operations group, medical group and support group commanders.

Lakenheath began to receive its first McDonnell Douglas F-15E Strike Eagles in 1992. With the departure of the F-111s, the 495th FS was inactivated on 13 December 1991. On 18 December 1992 the last F-111 departed the base. Along with its departure, the 493d FS was also inactivated.

With the pending closure of Bitburg Air Base Germany on 25 February 1994 it was decided to reactivate the 493d as an F-15C/D squadron. Aircraft were transferred from Eglin AFB Florida and the 493d was reactivated on 1 January. The 493rd’s arrival meant that the 48th became the largest F-15E/F-15C composite unit in the U.S. Air Force.

Operations in the 1990s that the 48th FW participated in were to support the no-fly zones above Iraq and later Bosnia as part of Operations PROVIDE COMFORT and DELIBERATE GUARD, operations which the squadron continues to support.

During 1995, 492d, 493d and 494th FS aircrews and support people deployed 330 days to Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, and Aviano Air Base, Italy, to support Operations Provide Comfort and Deny Flight.

In August 1998 an F-15D (Serial 86-182) of the 493d Fighter Squadron paid a visit to Chaumont-Semoutiers Air Base (now called Quartier General d'Aboville), France for an open house static display. This was the first time a Statue of Liberty Wing aircraft was at its original air base in almost 40 years.

During 1999's Operation Allied Force aircraft of the 493d FS scored four aerial victories over Serbian Mikoyan MiG-29s. The 492 and 494 FS flew combat mission from RAF Lakenheath and Aviono AB, Italy, respectively, and employed all the AGM-130 against Serbian Air Defenses.

In 2003, the 48th FW received the first of 10 new F-15Es. The aircraft were part of the final batch of F-15s expected to be ordered by the USAF.

In late 2006, the 48 FW expanded its mission by adding the 56th Rescue Squadron and its 5 SH-60G PAVE HAWK helicopters. The 56 RSQ moved to RAF lakenheath from NAS Keflavik, Iceland. The SH-60G Pavehawk Helo is used in CSAR, SAR and now, in place of the retiring MH-53 PAVELOW fleet, spec-OPS infltration and exfiltration. The aircraft carries a crew of 5 and a total fuel capacity of 595 us gallons, with an areial refueling probe attached to the nose of the aircraft that can mate with a refueling drouge extended from an MC-130/C-130P, which are the only aircraft capable of flying slow enough for areial refueling of the Sikorsky 60 based aircraft.

ee also

* Ninth Air Force
* United States Air Forces in Europe
* United States Air Force In France
* United States Air Force In The United Kingdom


* This article includes content from [http://www.af.mil/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=166 United States Air Forces In Europe website] , which as a work of the U.S. Government is presumed to be a public domain resource. That information was supplemented by:

* Endicott, Judy G. (1999) Active Air Force wings as of 1 October 1995; USAF active flying, space, and missile squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. CD-ROM.
* Fletcher, Harry R. (1989) Air Force Bases Volume II, Active Air Force Bases outside the United States of America on 17 September 1982. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0912799536
* Freeman, Roger A. (1994) UK Airfields of the Ninth: Then and Now. After the Battle ISBN 0900913800
* McAuliffe, Jerome J (2005) U.S. Air Force in France 1950-1967, Chapter 9, Chaumont-Semoutiers Air Base.
* Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
* Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0912799129.
* Rogers, Brian (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.
* [http://www.lakenheath.af.mil/library/factsheets/factsheet.asp?id=4212 48th Operations Group Fact Sheet]

External links

#48th Fighter Wing & RAF Lakenheath Official Site: http://www.lakenheath.af.mil/
#Information on the 48th FW @ GlobalSecurity.org [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/agency/usaf/48fw.htm]

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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