Library Fact Sheets
90TH FIGHTER SQUADRON|
Printable Fact Sheet
The combat-ready fighter squadron prepared for rapid worldwide deployment of a squadron F-22A Raptor aircraft to accomplish precision engagement of surface targets using a wide variety of conventional air-to-surface munitions. The 90th FS trains in the fighter missions of strategic attack, interdiction, offensive counterair (air-to-surface), suppression of enemy air defenses, as well as offensive and defensive counterair (air-to-air).
What is now the 90th Fighter Squadron was initially activated Aug. 20, 1917, as the 90th Aero Squadron. Its first location was at Kelly Field, San Antonio, Texas. The first few months of its existence were consumed by the necessary training to prepare the men for operations in France during World War I. On Nov. 12, 1917, the men of the 90th arrived at Le Havre, France. The initial cadre of officers and enlisted men began preparing the infrastructure necessary to support their flying mission. The air contingent arrived soon after this first group.
The squadron's first aircraft were the Sopwith TF-1 ground attack aircraft. The squadron upgraded to Salmson 2-A2s, SPAD Xis and Breguet BR-14 observation aircraft. Pilots flew from Colombey-les-Belle and scored seven confirmed aerial victories (against aircraft) and participated in the final allied offensives. The 90th earned a positive reputation for its ground attack missions during its continuous participation in the air offensive over St. Mihiel. Its first commander, 1st Lt. William G. Schauffler, designed the 90th's Pair o' Dice emblem displaying natural sevens during this campaign. After the war, 90th alumni commissioned Tiffany's of New York to design a silver pin with the squadron logo. (The Air Force subsequently disallowed portrayals of games of chance as unit emblems. However, since the 90th's was designed long before this rule, the pair-o-dice emblem has remained.)
After returning from France, the squadron returned to Kelly Field and became one of the four units organized into the First Surveillance Group on Aug. 15, 1919. The group was redesignated the 3rd Attack Group on July 2, 1921. Their first assignment was to fly daily border patrols between Brownsville, Texas, and Nogales, Ariz., during a period of revolution and unrest in Mexico, which led to border violations and the deaths of American citizens. It was this assignment that gave rise to the cactus in the 3rd Wing emblem. The 90th Squadron flew DeHavilland DH-4 aircraft for their low-level observation missions over the border. As the unrest in Mexico died down, Brig. Gen. William 'Billy' Mitchell, a senior staff officer in the Army Air Service, decided to use this low-level flying experience and the World War I experience of the 3rd Group's pilots to create a group devoted to low-level mission of supporting ground troops and attacking ground targets.
The 90th Squadron contributed to the pioneering of new tactics for attack aircraft, delivered US mail in 1934, participated in aerial mapping missions during the 1930s and attracted significant talent among early military airmen. One example of these early airmen was Gen. James H. Doolittle. On Sept. 2, 1922, General Doolittle, then a first lieutenant, became the first pilot to travel coast-to-coast in under 24 hours. Although he could not remember if he was assigned to the 90th during the flight, the Air Force Historical Research Agency confirmed he was a member of the 90th at the time, and his DH-4 aircraft displayed the 90th's pair-o-dice emblem. Early commanders of the 90th also included Lts. Hoyt Vandenberg and Nathan Twining, both of whom later became Air Force Chiefs of Staff.
During World War II, the 90th Squadron, now a Bombardment Squadron, operated in the South Pacific, flying A-20 Havoc and B-25 Mitchell aircraft. Their main mission involved highly dangerous skip bombings. In an effort to improve the effectiveness and protection of the 3rd Bombardment Group's pilots, Maj. Paul 'Pappy' Gunn, 3rd Bombardment Group engineering officer, devised a modification of the B-25C. The modification replaced the forward bombardier with four forwards firing .50 caliber machine guns, supplemented with two twin .50 caliber gun packages side mounted on the fuselage. The lower turret was discarded. The A-20s received similar modifications. The modified aircraft were first employed by the 90th and proved lethal ship killing machines, receiving the nickname 'commerce destroyers.' During the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, every aircraft in the 90th scored a hit on the Japanese convoy of 18 ships. It was the first sea-level attack by B-25 strafers in World War II and demonstrated that this tactic was extremely effective. The squadron also participated in the raids on Wewak, New Guinea, which were preemptive strikes that virtually ended the threat of enemy offensive air capabilities.
After World War II, the 90th Squadron was moved to Japan. In 1945. the 90th began flying the A-26 Invader as the 3rd Bombardment Group became an all A-26 outfit. In September 1946, the 90th moved with the 3rd Bombardment Group to Yokota Air Base, Japan, and began training to become combat-ready with the A-26, which was redesignated the B-26 Invader. With the creation of the U.S. Air Force in late 1947, the force began an internal reorganization. This led to the activation of the 3rd Bombardment Wing in August 1948, to which the 3rd Bombardment Group was assigned. The 90th Squadron was inactivated from Oct. 1, 1949 until June 25, 1951. At that point, the squadron was redesignated the 90th Bombardment Squadron Light, Night Intruder. In July, as part of the 3rd Bombardment Group, the 90th participated in the Korean War. The B-26 Invaders, which the 90th flew, had as many as 12 forward firing
.50 caliber machine guns. Although these aircraft had been flown since World War II, they were one of the most feared ground attack aircraft in Korea. The 90th's specialty during the Korean War was destroying locomotives and marshalling yards.
After the war, the 90th moved with the 3rd Bombardment Group to Johnson Air Base, Japan, on Oct. 1, 1954. In January 1956, the unit transitioned to the B-57C Night Intruder. In October 1957, the 3rd Bombardment Group inactivated and its heritage transferred to the 3rd Bombardment Wing, as did the 90th Bombardment Squadron. In 1960, the wing and squadron transferred to Yokota Air Base, where it trained in bombardment, reconnaissance and aerial refueling. It also served nuclear alert during this period as well. In the mid-60s, however, the squadron underwent significant changes.
In 1964, the 3rd Bombardment Wing converted to a tactical fighter wing, as did the 90th, which became the 90th Tactical Fighter Squadron on June 8, 1964. The wing and the 90th moved to England Air Force base, La., as part of an overall reorganization to reduce the number of wings located in Japan. While at England AFB, the 90th gained the F-100 Super Saber. At the beginning of the Vietnam War, the 3rd Bombardment Wing began deploying units to Vietnam on a rotational basis, while the remainder continued training in their ground support role. In November 1965, the wing moved to Bien Hoa Air Base, Vietnam, during the buildup of forces. The 90th flew close air support missions from Bien Hoa through tens of thousands of sorties. At the base, a tattered pair-o-dice flag flew outside the squadron operations area. In 1969, the 90th Tactical Fighter Squadron reverted to its pre-World War II designation of 90th Attack Squadron. On Oct. 31, 1970, the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing ended its duties in Vietnam and remained active in 'paper' status until it moved to Kunsan Air Base, Korea, in March 1971. The 90th Attack Squadron was reassigned to the 14th Special Operations Wing on Oct. 31, 1970 and was redesignated the 90th Special Operations Squadron and remained in Vietnam at Nha Trang Air Base.
From late 1970 until 1974, the 90th underwent several command reassignments. It remained with the 14th Special Operations Wing until Sept. 1, 1971, when it moved to the 483rd Tactical Fighter Wing and remained at Nha Trang Air Base. On April 15, 1972, the 90th moved again, this time to the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan. This assignment lasted only a few months, as the unit was assigned to the 405th Fighter Wing in December 1972 and moved to Clark Air Base, Philippines. The squadron was redesignated the 90th Tactical Fighter Squadron on July 8, 1973, and began to fly F-4s. In September of the following year, the 90th returned once again to the 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing, when it relocated to Clark Air Base after the 405th Fighter Wing was inactivated. In 1975, the 90th converted to the F-4E and participated in combat training and providing air defense for the Philippines.
In July 1977, the 90th once again upgraded its aircraft, this time to the F-4G, which performed a ground radar suppression and destruction mission. During the late 1970s and 1980s, the squadron provided training and support to other units throughout the Pacific, as well as ensuring the readiness of its own pilots and aircraft. By 1990, however, the Philippines had expressed a desire for the withdraw of American military forces in the islands. In May 1991, the 90th Tactical Fighter Squadron was reassigned to the 21st Tactical Fighter Wing located at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska. In September 1991, the 90th was redesignated the 90th Fighter Squadron and became part of the 21st Operations Group. This association did not last long, however.
In June 1991, Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines and the Air Force quickly decided to evacuate its personnel and equipment from Clark AB. The
3rd Tactical Fighter Wing remained in the Philippines during Desert Shield and Desert Storm due to instability in the Philippines. However, it was not going to remain in the islands for very long. It became a 'paper' unit briefly while the Chief of Staff, Gen. Merrill McPeak, decided where to send the wing. He decided on Elmendorf AFB. The 21st Tactical Fighter Wing was inactivated and the 3rd Wing replaced it as the lead wing at Elmendorf AFB on Dec. 19, 1991. With the establishment of the 3rd Wing on Elmendorf, the 90th Fighter Squadron was once again reunited with its old wing.
While these changes occurred with the 3rd Wing, the 90th Fighter Squadron deployed six F-4Gs to join coalition forces in the Middle East for Gulf War I. This was the last deployment for the 90th with the F-4Gs. When they returned to Elmendorf, the unit gained new aircraft, the F-15E Strike Eagle. This two-seat dual role updated version of the F-15A/B/C/D Eagle had more survivability enhancements than any other fighter aircraft at the time. It carried a wide array of armament as it performed both air-to-air and air-to-surface attack missions.
Since arriving in Alaska, the 90th Fighter Squadron participated in numerous training exercises in the lower 48 states and other areas of the world. These training exercises included Polar Thrust, Cope Thunder, Tandem Thrust, Cope Thaw and Red Flag in locations such as Mountain Home AFB, ID, Osan AB, Korea, Andersen AFB, Guam, Naval Air Station Fallon, NV, and Nellis AFB, NV. During these deployments, pilots from the 90th worked hard to prepare for real-world deployments. The squadron also developed a reputation for safety in its training. On Feb. 20, 1996, the squadron received the Alaska Governor's Safety Award conferred through the Alaska Department of Labor. This was the first time a military organization won the state award since its inception in 1980. This was a testament to the hard work and professionalism of the unit.
In addition to exercises, the 90th Fighter Squadron also undertook real-world deployments during the 1990s and early 2000s. From October 1995 until January 1996, the squadron deployed 8 F-15Es and 193 personnel to Aviano AB, Italy in support of Operation DENY FLIGHT JOINT ENDEAVOR. In February 1998, the squadron deployed 18 F-15Es and over 200 personnel to Kwangju Air Base and Taegu Air Base, both in Korea. While there, the unit flew 1200 joint combat training sorties. Personnel and aircraft redeployed in June 1998.
In 2001 the 90th began a series of deployments which took members of the squadron to the Middle East and Southwest Asia. In March of that year, the 90th participated in a 90-day AEF deployment in support of Operation NORTHERN WATCH, patrolling the northern No-fly zone in Iraq. The squadron sent 154 personnel and 10 F-15Es to Icirlik AB, Turkey and returned to Elmendorf AFB on 9 June 2001. Later that year, in October, 18 F-15Es were deployed to Kwangju AB, Korea, in support of Afghanistan operations. While deployed pilots flew practice strike missions and provided long-range interdiction strike capability in the region during the absence of the USS Kitty Hawk, they also flew missions over South Korea and repaired base infrastructure while there. The squadron redeployed from the 20-23 of December.
The 90th Fighter Squadron participated in an historic event on Sept. 4, 2002. Two Australian exchange officers, Flight Lieutenant Paul Simmons and Flight Lieutenant Tony Southwood, paired up to fly one of the 90th's F-15Es. This was the first time Australian pilots flew an American aircraft in the Pacific Theatre.
In 2003 the squadron undertook another deployment in the Pacific in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. The 90th sent 18 F-15Es to bases in the Pacific, including Osan AB, Kunsan AB, (both in Korea), Kadena AB, Japan and Andersen AFB, Guam. The deployment included 592 personnel from mid-February until mid-May.
Kwangju AB, Korea, once again became home to members of the 90th Fighter Squadron in 2004. In August the squadron deployed 12 F-15Es in an AEF rotation. The unit was temporarily designated the 90th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron and assigned to the 3rd Air Expeditionary Group. While deployed the unit flew more than 1100 sorties over the Korean Peninsula and provided two important flights to distinguished visitors, Republic of Korea Air Force Brigadier General Ko and Republic of Korea General Kim, Commander Korean Ground Forces.
In 2005, the squadron focused on training and preparation for their next real-world deployment. Amidst the training and exercises, however, the squadron was able to showcase their talent with participation in the Aero India Airshow and with a flyby at the USAF Academy before the Air Force versus Army football game. Additionally, the F-15Es completed an upgrade of their weapons systems. This upgrade allowed the aircraft to carry and use more advanced weaponry, including the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and eventually the Small Diameter Bomb (SDB).
As 2006 progressed, the 90th Fighter Squadron began to prepare for significant changes in its mission and weapons system. The F-15Es were scheduled to relocate to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, through the BRAC decisions in 2005. Replacing those F-15Es, the 90th began receiving the advanced F-22A Raptor in August 2007, which would greatly enhance the 90th Fighter Squadron's ability to perform its duties.