58th Fighter Squadron

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58th Fighter Squadron
First F-35 headed for USAF service.jpg
Eric Smith of the 58th Fighter Squadron, the first Air Force pilot qualified on an F-35, pilots the military's first F-35.
Active 15 January 1941–8 December 1945
20 August 1946–25 December 1960
1 September 1970–present
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Type Fighter, F-35A
Part of Air Education and Training Command
19th Air Force
33d Fighter Wing
33d Operations Group
Garrison/HQ Eglin Air Force Base
Nickname(s) Gorillas
  • 150px
    EAME Theater World War II
  • Asiatic-Pacific Streamer.png
    Asia-Pacific Theater World War II
  • Vietnam Service Streamer.jpg
    Vietnam War
  • Southwest Asia Service Streamer.png
    1991 Gulf War
  • Streamer PUC Army.PNG
    Distinguished Unit Citation
  • AFOUA with Valor.jpg
    Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Combat "V" Device
  • US Air Force Outstanding Unit Award - Stremer.jpg
    Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (5x)
  • Vietnam Gallantry Cross - Streamer.jpg
    Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm
Emblem of the 58th Fighter Squadron 150px

The 58th Fighter Squadron (58 FS) is part of the 33d Fighter Wing, a joint graduate flying and maintenance training wing for the F-35A, B, and C, organized under Air Education and Training Command's 19th Air Force, at Eglin Air Force Base, Florida. Its mission is to train US Air Force operators and maintainers on employment and maintenance of the F-35 Lightning II "A" model, as part of the overall 33d FW mission of training American and international aircrews and maintainers of US Air Force, Us Navy, US Marine Corps, and international Air Forces such as those of the British Royal Navy on the 3 variants of the F-35: the "A", "B", & "C" models.


World War II

Activated as the 58th Pursuit Squadron (part of the 33d Pursuit Group) stationed at Mitchel Field, New York, the squadron was charged with the ongoing mission of aerial defense of the United States. When the United States entered World War II, the 58th took an active role in the war effort by participating in several operations during a three year overseas tour. These operations include the invasion of Morocco in November 1942, combat operations in the Mediterranean Theater from November 1942 to February 1944, and operations in the China-Burma-India campaign, April 1944 to August 1945. During the operations in the Mediterranean Theater, the 58th earned the nickname "Gorillas" for the guerrilla warfare-like techniques it utilized. While operating in the various theaters, the 58th flew the P-40 Warhawk, P-47 Thunderbolt, and P-38 Lightning. As a result of its superior performance, the 58th received the Distinguished Unit Citation for combat operations conducted in central Tunisia.[1]

Air Defense Command

After its service in World War II, the 58th was reactivated as part of the postwar Air Defense Command in June 1948 at Otis Air Force Base, Massachusetts. Equipped with F-84C Thunderjets, the squadron was part of the 33d Fighter-Interceptor Group, providing air defense over New England.[2]

File:58th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron Northrop F-89D-60-NO Scorpion 53-2528 1955.jpg
58th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron Northrop F-89D-60-NO Scorpion 53-2528. Stationed at Otis Air Force Base, Massachusetts, 1955

In 1950, the squadron was updated to F-86A Sabre day interceptors, however in 1952 most of the Sabres were sent to the 4th Fighter Group in Korea. Those were replaced by the new F-94B Starfire day/night all-weather dedicated interceptor. In an ADC re-organization, the squadron's parent 33d Fighter Group was replaced by the 4707th Defense (later re-designated Air Defense) Wing, which along with the 59th, 60th, and 437th Fighter-Interceptor squadrons were charged with New England air defense. In 1953 it upgraded to the more advanced F-94C, receiving the new interceptors directly from Lockheed, one of the first squadrons to be equipped with the new aircraft.[2] The squadron was again upgraded two years later, when it received the new F-89D Scorpion from Northrup.[3]

In 1960, it was moved to Walker AFB, New Mexico when it was transferred to the new Albuquerque Air Defense Sector, its new mission being the air defense of the desert Southwest along the border with Mexico. The squadron remained at Walker for a year, until Strategic Air Command assumed full control of the base and it was inactivated at the end of 1960, ending the squadron's air defense mission.[3]

Vietnam War

This fluctuation of activity leveled out when the 58th, part of the re-designated 33d Tactical Fighter Wing was assigned to Eglin Air Force Base, Florida and began flying the F-4 Phantom II. In 1972, the 58th was deployed to Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand under what was known as the "Summer Help Program." During this period, the 58th was credited as the first temporary duty unit to down an enemy aircraft. On 2 June 1972, Major Philip W. Handley and Lieutenant John J. Smallwood shot down a MiG-19 with a 300 round burst from their M-61A Vulcan Cannon, disproving the perception that American aircrews had lost their dogfighting skills. Smallwood was later shot down and to this day remains listed as missing in action. Just over two months later on 12 August 1972, another 58th fighter was credited with a kill after shooting down a MiG-21 with an AIM-7 Sparrow, a radar guided missile. This second kill was the last credited to the 58th during its six-month rotation in Southeast Asia.[1]

Tactical Fighter Squadron

A German RF-4E with two USAF F-15As of the 58th TFS, in 1982.

In 1979, the 58th Fighter Squadron became the first squadron in the 33d Tactical Fighter Wing to receive the F-15 Eagle. The 58th proved the war fighting capability of the F-15 during its deployment to Germany for exercise Coronet Eagle. During the exercise, the 58th utilized 18 F-15s to fly 1001 sorties in less than three weeks. The unit repeated this deployment in 1982 utilizing 24 F-15s making it the first full F-15 deployment in history. Ten years later, the 58th participated in Operation Just Cause where forces successfully removed Panamanian dictator Manuel Noriega from power in Panama.[1]

The 58th was once again called upon in August 1990 when Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait. Twenty-four F-15s under the command of Colonel Rick Parsons departed Eglin Air Force Base for King Faisal Air Base, Saudi Arabia as part of the buildup of coalition forces in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In the early morning hours of 17 January 1991, Operation Desert Storm commenced. Captain John J.B. Kelk claimed the first aerial victory by downing the first MiG-29. As the war progressed, the 58th flew 1,689 combat sorties and destroyed 15 other enemy aircraft. During the course of the war, the 58th accomplished feats that no other coalition member matched including: the most air-to-air kills, the most double kills, and the most sorties and hours flown by any F-15 unit in theater. The 58th also destroyed the most MiG-29s (a total of five) and had the only wing commander who had an air-to-air victory.[1]

On 25 June 1996, one day before their departure for a scheduled rotation as part of Operation Southern Watch, a terrorist bomb ripped through the Khobar Towers complex that housed squadron personnel. Nineteen U.S. personnel were killed, twelve of which were members of the 33d Fighter Wing.[1]

Modern era

Some recent accomplishments of the 58th include: the first fighter squadron to bring the AIM-120 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missile (AMRAAM) into full operation, numerous rotations to the Saudi Arabian theater supporting Operation Southern Watch by patrolling the no-fly zone, and participation in Operation Uphold Democracy where the United States helped bring control back to Haiti.[1]

The 58th Fighter Squadron operated the F-15 Eagle to support the various combatant commanders by providing air superiority on call until September 2009[1] and then became DoD's first F-35 Lightning II training squadron on 1 Oct. 2009.[4] with seven officers and one enlisted airman. Its first F-35A is expected to arrive in the fall of 2010.[5]


File:58th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Emblem.tif
58th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron - Emblem
  • Constituted as 58th Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor) on 20 Nov 1940
Activated on 15 Jan 1941
Re-designated as: 58th Fighter Squadron on 15 May 1942
Re-designated as: 58th Fighter Squadron, Two Engine, on 8 Feb 1945
Inactivated on 8 Dec 1945
  • Re-designated as 58th Fighter Squadron, Single Engine, on 17 Jul 1946
Activated on 20 Aug 1946
Re-designated as: 58th Fighter Squadron, Jet, on 14 Jun 1948
Re-designated as: 58th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron on 20 Jan 1950
Discontinued, and inactivated, on 25 Dec 1960
  • Re-designated as: 58th Tactical Fighter Squadron on 16 Mar 1970
Activated on 1 Sep 1970
Re-designated as: 58th Fighter Squadron on 1 Nov 1991.




See also

Cesar Rodriguez


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 58 FS Fact Sheet
  2. 2.0 2.1 McLaren and Isham (1993) Lockheed F-94 Starfire: A Photo Chronicle, Schiffer Publishing, Ltd, ISBN 0887404510
  3. 3.0 3.1 Cornett, Lloyd H; Johnson, Mildred W (1980). A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization, 1946–1980. Peterson AFB, CO: Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center.
  4. 33 FW Fact Sheet
  5. F-35 pilot training on track despite problems, NavyTimes, 5 April 2010. Retrieved: 5 April 2010.


External links