Mountain Home AFB and the 366th Fighter Wing have a rich history that stretches back more than 50 years to the United States' entry into World War II. Although the wing itself was not activated until after World War II, it shares the World War II heritage of the 366th Operations Group, whose precursor organization, the 366th Fighter Group, stood up about the same time the base was being built. As you'll see from the highlights below, the 366th Fighter Wing "Gunfighters" and Mountain Home AFB do not share a common history until 1972. The following narrative looks first at the wing's history prior to its arrival at Mountain Home, then at the base's history before the Gunfighters' arrival, and finally at the shared history of the base and the wing.
366th Fighter Group (1943-1953)
The U.S. Army Air Force activated the 366th Fighter Group at Richmond Army Air Base, Virginia, on 10 June 1943. At Richmond, and later at Bluethenthal Air Field, North Carolina, the group trained its pilots for combat in the P-47 Thunderbolt. By December 1943, with basic training complete, the group left for the war.
In January 1944, the group arrived in England. For the next several weeks, the group's pilots learned combat techniques from experienced veterans of the air war with Nazi Germany. The group moved to Thruxton, England, on 1 March 1944, and flew its first combat mission as a group on 14 March. Early operations involved fighter sweeps over France until the June 1944 Normandy invasion when the group shifted to a ground support mission. Three days later, the 366th served as the lead air unit attacking German positions near St. Lo, France. The invasion established an Allied foothold in Europe and soon the 366th Fighter Group moved to a base on French soil.
The group then followed Allied ground advances, periodically moving to new bases in freshly conquered territory, to remain close to the action. In December 1944, the group participated in the Battle of the Bulge attacking German forces and flying armed reconnaissance missions.
After Victory in Europe Day in May 1945, the group remained in Germany as part of the occupation forces, staying at three different bases until its inactivation on 20 August 1946. During its fourteen months of fighting in the European Theater, the 366th Fighter Group earned confirmed kills on 81 enemy aircraft. Today's 366th Fighter Wing flag carries the six campaign streamers and the distinguished unit citation earned by the 366th Fighter Group in World War II.
366th Fighter Bomber Wing (1953-1958)
After World War II, the "366th" designation remained inactive until 1 January 1953, when the Air Force activated the 366th Fighter-Bomber Wing at Alexandria AFB, Louisiana. At first, the new wing operated the F-51 Mustang, the same aircraft that had served so well in World War II as the "P-51." Soon, however, the wing entered the jet age when it converted to the F-86 Sabre before the end of 1953. In September 1954, the wing began deploying squadrons of Sabres to Europe, operating for six-month stretches in France and Italy. As it did so, the wing also began converting to the F-84F Thunderstreak. In 1957, the wing also added the F-100 Super Sabre to its inventory while continuing to operate the F-84.
366th Tactical Fighter Wing (1958-1972)
On 1 July 1958, as part of an Air Force-wide renaming of units, the Air Force redesignated the 366th Fighter-Bomber Wing as the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing. Shortly thereafter, however, a general draw-down in U.S. forces prompted the wing's second inactivation, which occurred 1 April 1959. But the intensification of the Cold War in the early 1960s brought the 366th TFW back to life at Chaumont AB, France, in April 1962. This marked the first peacetime activation of a wing at an overseas location. Throughout its time in France, the wing flew the F-84F, deploying regularly to Libya for gunnery training.
Tensions in Europe decreased slightly over the next year and the wing returned to the United States in July 1963 to its new home at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. There, the wing began converting to the new F-4C Phantom II in February 1965. Later that year, the wing sent its first squadron to the Republic of Vietnam. The 390th Fighter Squadron was assigned to Da Nang AB, Republic of Vietnam, and the 391st went to Cam Ranh Bay AB in early 1966. By March, the rest of the wing entered the conflict and moved to Phan Rang AB, Republic of Vietnam.
The 366th TFW moved to Da Nang AB and regained the 390th FS in October 1966. While at Da Nang, pilots noted they were missing opportunities to shoot down enemy MiGs because the F-4C lacked a cannon and its missiles were ineffective at short ranges. So wing maintainers mounted an external 20-millimeter Gatling gun pod on the F-4Cs, and in less than a month the wing's pilots had scored four MiG kills. The gun pod innovation and the MiG kills that followed earned the wing the nickname it carries today, the "Gunfighters." During this period, the wing earned a Presidential Unit Citation for shooting down 11 enemy aircraft in a three-month period.
By May 1968, the wing had upgraded to the F-4D aircraft, and then in 1969, two squadrons of F-4E's joined the wing. After this, the F-4D's assumed forward air control duties while the more advanced F-4E's concentrated on aircraft escort duties and conducted ground attack missions. By November 1971, the 366th was the only United States tactical fighter wing still stationed in Vietnam.
Between 1966 and 1972, the Gunfighters logged 18 confirmed MiG kills in Vietnam. Upon the wing's returned to the United States in October 1972, Captain Lance P. Sijan, a 366th pilot shot down in 1967, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions as a prisoner of war.
Mountain Home AFB (1943-1953)
At about the same time the 366th Fighter Group was started in Virginia, construction of Mountain Home Army Air Field began in Idaho. Crews started building the base in November 1942 and the new field officially opened on 7 August 1943. Shortly thereafter, airman at the field began training United States Army Air Force crews for World War II. The 396th Bombardment Group (Heavy) was the first unit assigned and its planned mission was to train crews for the B-17. However, before the first B-17s arrived, plans for the field changed and the 396th was transferred to Moses Lake, Washington.
Instead of training B-17 crews, Mountain Home airmen began training crews for the B-24 Liberator. The first group to do so was the 470th Bombardment Group (Heavy), which trained at Mountain Home from May 1943 until January 1944, when the unit moved to Nevada. The 490th Bombardment Group (Heavy) replaced the 470th and trained B-24 crews until it deployed to England in April 1944. The 494th Bombardment Group then replaced the 490th, once more training Liberator crews.
The base also received fighter aircraft to add realism to its training. A few P-38 and P-63 pursuit planes arrived in January 1945 to simulate attacks on B-24s. In June 1945, Mountain Home also briefly served as a training base for the new B-29 Superfortress, but the Japanese surrender in August brought a swift end to the new mission and, for a time, to the base at Mountain Home. The base was placed in inactive status in October 1945.
The base remained inactive until December 1948 when the newly independent United States Air Force assigned first the 5th Reconnaissance Group and then the 5th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing and their RB-17s to Idaho and the newly renamed Mountain Home Air Force Base. This new lease on life was short-lived, however, lasting only until April 1950, when the base once again closed.
Less than a year later, the base was reactivated, hosting the 580th, 581st, and 582nd Air Resupply and Communications Wings over the next three years. They flew C-119, B-29 and SA-16 aircraft and trained to support what we know today as covert and special operations.
When the last of these wings departed for overseas duty in 1953, the base was transferred to Strategic Air Command which assigned its 9th Bombardment Wing to Mountain Home. The 9th relocated to Mountain Home AFB in May 1953, and began flying B-29 bombers and KB-29H refueling aircraft. The 9th began converting to the new B-47 Stratojet bomber and the KC-97 tanker in September 1954, keeping alert bombers ready for war at a moments notice and continuing its mission as a deterrent force throughout the Cold War years of the 1950s and early 1960s.
In 1959, construction of three Titan missile sites began in the local area. The 569th Strategic Missile Squadron controlled these sites and was assigned to the 9th Bombardment Wing in August 1962. To prepare for the addition of missiles to its bomber forces, Air Force re-designated the wing as the 9th Strategic Aerospace Wing in April 1962.
A few years later, the Strategic Air Command mission at Mountain Home began to wind down, and in November 1964, the Air Force announced that the missile sites would be closed. In late 1965, the Air Force also began phasing out the aging B-47 bomber and announced plans to bring the 67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing to Mountain Home.
In January 1966, with the closure of the missile sites and the move of the 67th to Mountain Home, control of the base passed from Strategic Air Command to Tactical Air Command. The 67th flew RF-4C aircraft and conducted photographic, visual, radar, and thermal reconnaissance operations. Two years later the 67th also conducted tactical fighter operations with the addition of a squadron of F-4D Phantoms. This fighter mission lasted until late 1970 when the F-4Ds were reassigned.
The 347th Tactical Fighter Wing, equipped with F-111F Aardvarks, replaced the 67th as host unit of the base in May 1971. The 347th had a short stay at Mountain Home, conducting F-111F training until October 1972, when the 366th TFW moved from Vietnam to Mountain Home. Upon its arrival, the 366th absorbed all the people and equipment of the 347th.
366th Tactical Fighter Wing At Mountain Home AFB (1972-1991)
Before the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing's arrival at Mountain Home, the 389th, 390th, and 391st Tactical Fighter Squadrons had returned from Vietnam, joined the 347th, and began converting to F-111F aircraft. For the first time since it left for Vietnam, the wing once again had its three original flying units.
Operations continued unchanged for several years. The wing tested its readiness in August 1976 when a border incident in Korea prompted the United States to augment its military contingent in South Korea as a show of force. The 366th deployed a squadron of 20 F-111 fighters. They reached Korea only 31 hours after receiving launch notification. Tensions eased shortly afterward and the detachment returned home.
Later, the Air Force sent the F-111F aircraft from Mountain Home to the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing at RAF Lakenheath, England, in a move to modernize its European forces. In return, the 366th received F-111A aircraft from Nellis AFB, Nevada.
In March 1980, the Air Force announced plans to base EF-111A Raven electronic combat aircraft at Mountain Home. The Raven variant was specifically design to blind enemy radars with powerful electronic signals. The 366th gradually sent part of its F-111A fleet to the Grumman Aerospace Corporation where they underwent extensive modification and were converted to the EF-111A configuration. In support of these changes, on 1 July 1981, the Air Force activated the 388th Electronic Combat Squadron to receive the newly modified Ravens. However, a year later, Air Force redesignated 390th Tactical Fighter Squadron as the 390th Electronic Combat Squadron, which replaced the 388th and began serving as the wing's only EF-111A squadron.
Operations throughout the early 1980s remained stable with the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing training F-111A and EF-111A aircrews while maintaining combat readiness in both aircraft. The aging F-111A fleet was retired in the early '90s, which prompted the inactivation of the 391st Tactical Fighter Squadron in June 1990 and of the 389th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron in June 1991.
But as the F-111As were being retired, the wing's Ravens saw extensive service. In December 1989, the 366th deployed its EF-111As in support of Operation Just Cause in Panama. The 390th Electronic Combat Squadron contributed a small force of EF-111A aircraft to jam enemy radars during the brief invasion.
Likewise, in August 1990, most of the 390th ECS deployed to Saudi Arabia for Operation Desert Shield. The wing also deployed people to many different locations in the Middle East as forces were built up to defend against Iraqi aggression. The largest of the wing's contingents was the 390th ECS at King Fahad AB near Taif, Saudi Arabia. Here, the wing's EF-111A aircraft served with the 48th Tactical Fighter Wing (Provisional) which flew the F-111F.
In January 1991 coalition forces began Operation Desert Storm, initiating offensive operations against Iraqi forces. The deployed 390th flew electronic jamming missions during the six-week war, protecting coalition aircraft from Iraqi air defenses and contributing to the Allies' overwhelming control of the air. The deployed Ravens and most of the deployed Gunfighters returned to Mountain Home AFB in late March 1991.
The 366th Wing At Mountain Home AFB (1991-2002)
In early 1991, the Air Force announced that the 366th would become the Air Force's premier "air intervention" composite wing. The wing would grow from a single-squadron of EF-111As to a dynamic, five squadron wing with the ability to deploy rapidly and deliver integrated combat airpower.
The air intervention composite wing's rapid transition from concept to reality began in October of 1991 when Air Force redesignated the wing as the 366th Wing. The wing's newly reactivated "fighter squadrons" became part of the composite wing in March 1992. The 389th Fighter Squadron began flying the dual-role F-16C Fighting Falcon, while the 391st Fighter Squadron was equipped with the new F-15E Strike Eagle. These two squadrons provide Gunfighters round-the-clock precision strike capability.
In June 1992, as part of Air Force restructuring, Strategic Air Command and Tactical Air Command merged to form Air Combat Command. A month later, the 366th also gained the 34th Bomb Squadron. Located at Castle AFB, California, the 34th flew the B-52G Stratofortress, giving the composite wing deep interdiction bombing capabilities as the only B-52 unit armed with the deadly, long-range HAVE NAP missile.
Next, in September 1992, Air Force redesignated the 390th Electronic Combat Squadron as the 390th Fighter Squadron, which began flying the Air Force's premier air superiority aircraft, the F-15C Eagle. With its internal 20-millimeter cannon and air-to-air missiles, the F-15C protects the wing's high-value assets from enemy air threats. At the same time, Air Force activated the 429th Electronic Combat Squadron, which assumed control of the wing's EF-111A aircraft as they prepared to transfer to Canon AFB, New Mexico.
During this buildup, however, the wing's Ravens remained busy flying combat missions over Iraq, both from Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Calm, and from Incirlik AB, Turkey, in support of Operation Provide Comfort. In June 1993, however, the wing transferred its remaining EF-111As and the 429th ECS to Cannon AFB, ending Mountain Home's long association with various models of the F-111 aircraft.
Not long afterwards, in October 1992, the composite wing gained its final flying squadron when the 22nd Air Refueling Squadron was activated and equipped with the KC-135R Stratotanker. These tankers give the wing its ability to deploy globally at a moment's notice.
In another change, on 1 April 1994, the 34th Bomb Squadron transferred its flag to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota. At the same time the squadron's B-52Gs were retired, making way for the squadron to be equipped with the technologically advanced B-1B Lancer. Next, a gradual transfer of the B-1s from Ellsworth to Mountain Home began in August 1996. The squadron completed a move to Mountain Home on 1 April 1997, when its flag was officially transferred to the Gunfighter home base.
Also in 1996, the wing gained yet another operational squadron. On 21 June, the 726th Air Control Squadron was reassigned from Shaw AFB, South Carolina, to Mountain Home. The new squadron brought mobile radar surveillance, and command and control capabilities to the composite wing.
In late October 1996, the wing's senior leadership also announced a new name for the 366th Wing. Henceforth, it would be known as the "Air Expeditionary Wing" in keeping with an Air Force decision to stand up the "battle lab" at Mountain Home to refine the new concept. The wing would soon begin working out the most efficient procedures for moving an airpower expeditionary force to pre-selected locations around the world.
While all these changes in the wing's composition were going on, the Gunfighters met numerous operational challenges. They supported numerous deployments in the United States and around the world from the time the composite wing was created. Only the highlights of this hectic pace are described here.
Twice, in 1993 and again in 1995, the wing served as the lead unit for Bright Star, a large combined exercise held in Egypt. In July 1995, the wing also verified its combat capability in the largest operational readiness inspection in Air Force history. The Gunfighters deployed a composite strike force to Cold Bay, Canada, and proved they could deliver effective composite airpower, while in 1996, the wing deployed to Incirlik AB, Turkey, in support of Operation Provide Comfort.
The 366th also deployed twice to Shaikh Isa AB, Bahrain, to support Operation Southern Watch. These Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) deployments also proved that the 366th Wing could employ and sustain its composite force while conducting the mission. Gunfighters returned on a second rotation to relieve the unit who had relieved them from their first visit to Bahrain. The 366th Wing also helped develop the way the Air Force will fly and fight in the next century through its participation as the lead AEF unit during Expeditionary Force Experiment 98.
In early 1999, the wing's three fighter squadrons flew combat missions over southern Iraq, with the 391st dropping more bombs than any other unit since the end of Desert Storm. From April-June 1999, the 22 ARS supported Operation Allied Force, the NATO air campaign against Serbia. During this period, the squadron refueled 600 aircraft and off-loaded over 7 million pounds of fuel. The 726th Air Control Squadron also supported the Kosovo operations from May-July 1999 as the first American unit to deploy to the region of Romania in 53 years.
In September 1999, the Gunfighters participated in JEFX 99, the newest in a series of exercises focused on testing emerging command and control technologies for deployed air expeditionary forces. Immediately following JEFX 99, the wing hosted Red Flag 00-1.1, the first red flag exercise in history not conducted at Nellis AFB, Nevada. Flown completely at night, the exercise combined traditional composite strike aircraft packages with low-observable F-117s and B-2s in a simulated interdiction campaign.
Following the terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001, the resultant initiation of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM (OEF), the 366th Wing once again got the call. While the 34th Bomb Squadron deployed to Diego Garcia as the B-1 component of the 28th Air Expeditionary Wing, the wing sent a Base Operations Support package to Al Udeid AB, Qatar, to transform the bare base into a fully functional airfield for large-scale combat operations. In October 2001, the 391st Fighter Squadron deployed to Al Jaber AB, Kuwait, while the 389th Fighter Squadron went to Al Udeid in November.
During the air campaign against Afghanistan that began on 7 October 2001, the 366th Wing's deployed crews dropped a total of 7.6 million pounds of bombs against Al Qaeda and Taliban targets - the most out of any unit participating in the operation.
The 366th Fighter Wing At Mountain Home AFB (2002-present)
Following the wing's return from Southwest Asia, the Air Force began consolidating its B-1B and KC-135 forces. This led to the reallocation of the wing's bombers and tankers. The 22 ARS' aircraft began transferring to McConnell AFB, Kansas, in May 2002 and the squadron inactivated the following August. The 34 BS' B-1Bs began moving to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, in June and the squadron officially moved in September. Following the departure of these assets the Air Force redesignated the 366th as a Fighter Wing. With these changes, the wing's 10-year mission as the Air Force's only standing air expeditionary wing came to an end.
In March 2003, a United States led coalition invaded Iraq. Due to the 366th's high operations tempo during OEF combined with an aircraft swap out in the 391st as well as a major aircraft modification in the 389th, the majority of the wing's aviation assets did not participate in the initial stages of the war. Nonetheless, the support elements from the Mission Support Group played a large role in the Iraqi campaign. As a perfect example, when coalition forces pushed north, A-10 pilots requested an alternate gas-n-go forward location to extend their flight times over Baghdad. In the early weeks of the war, Logistics Readiness troops and Services personnel from Mt Home traversed the hostile airways and roads to secure Tallil AB, Iraq. From this bombed out, dusty airstrip, Gunfighters built the first gas-n-go pitstop allowing A-10 pilots to protect the ground troops as they pushed into Baghdad.
As the war progressed into the sustainment phase, Mt Home provided personnel and equipment for the Air Expeditionary Force (AEF), but by late 2003, the Army had reached its limits and requested more assistance from its sister services. Answering the call, the Gunfighters provided men and women for what became known as the "in lieu of" missions. LRS provided transporters to augment the Army's convoys as they stepped outside the wire manning guntrucks and protecting the vital supplies for the war effort. At the same time, civil engineers rebuilt dilapidated Iraqi infrastructure while security forces stood side-by-side with the Army kicking in doors searching for insurgents and training the Iraqi military.
As Mt Home's support elements buoyed up the combatant commander's capabilities, Mt Home's operational squadrons trained for war. This included multiple deployments with one to Guam bolstering America's presence in the world. The 726th Air Control Squadron also deployed multiple times to both Iraq and Afghanistan. In late 2006 the 391st Fighter Squadron began preparations for an Afghanistan deployment. As the first F-15E unit to operate from Bagram AB, the "Bold Tigers" will supply combat air power that will enhance the coalition's capability to bring order to that country.
As of 2007, the wing remains on high alert ready to support the combatant commanders' need.
MAJOR OPERATIONAL UNITS ASSIGNED TO MOUNTAIN HOME AFB
BASE STATUS/UNIT DATES
ACTIVATED as Army Air Base, Mountain Home............7 Aug 42
396th Bombardment Group (Heavy)...............................16 Feb-10 Apr 43
470th Bombardment Group (Heavy)................................1 May 43-1 Jan 44
467th Bombardment Group (Heavy)...................................8 Sep 43-17 Oct 43
20th Base Headquarters and Air Base Squadron*..........28 Nov 43-25 Mar 44
REDESIGNATED Mountain Home Army Air Field.............2 Dec 43
490th Bombardment Group, Heavy.....................................4 Dec 43-20 Apr 44
213th Army Air Forces Base Unit*.......................................25 Mar 44-Feb 45
494th Bombardment Group (Heavy)...................................15 Apr-1 Jun 44
426th Army Air Forces Base Unit*.......................................Feb 45-1 Oct 46
BASE INACTIVATED...............................................................5 Oct 46
REDESIGNATED Mountain Home Air Force Base...........13 Jan 48
BASE ACTIVATED....................................................................1 Dec 48
5th Reconnaissance Group, Very Long Range, Photo....29 May-16 Jul 49
5th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing....................................16 Jul-11 Nov 49
BASE INACTIVATED................................................................25 Apr 50
BASE ACTIVATED.....................................................................1 Feb 51
1701st Air Transport Wing......................................................1 Feb 51-circa Apr 51
580th Air Resupply and Communications Wing................16 Apr 51-17 Sep 52
581st Air Resupply and Communications Wing................23 Jul 51-26 Jun 52
582nd Air Resupply and Communications Wing..............24 Sep 52-1 May 53
9th Bombardment Wing, Medium
(later 9th Strategic Aerospace Wing)....................................1 May 53-25 Jun 66
813th Air Division+....................................................................1 Jul 59-1 Jul 64
67th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing.....................................1 Jan 66-15 Jul 71
347th Tactical Fighter Wing....................................................15 May 71-31 Oct 72
366th Fighter Wing ...................................................................31 Oct 72-1 Oct 1991
REDESIGNATED 366th Wing .................................................1 Oct 1991-27 Sep 02
REDESIGNATED 366th Fighter Wing.....................................27 Sep 02-present