The Early Years
The unit's history dates back to 1956 when the 152nd Fighter Interceptor Squadron of the Arizona Air National Guard flew the Korean War vintage F-86A. At that time the "base" consisted of an old adobe farmhouse and a dirt-floor hangar with enough space for three aircraft.
Despite the facility limitations, the Air Defense Command's Headquarters 4th Air Force judged the 152nd FIS outstanding in accomplishing its air defense mission. It declared the unit "Best in the West" in the 1950s and the early 1960s. Late in 1968 the unit received its first of five Air Force Outstanding Unit Citations for converting from the F-100 day-fighter to the all-weather F-102 "Delta Dagger" interceptor aircraft in just 10 months. The unit did it faster and better than any other Air National Guard unit converting to the F-102. The Air National Guard officially redesignated the unit as the 162nd Tactical Fighter Training Group and the 152nd Tactical Fighter Squadron in 1969. The unit's new job was producing combat-ready pilots for the F-100 aircraft. They graduated their first students in 1970. Shortly afterward, the unit formed the Air National Guard Fighter Weapons School in Tucson. This school taught Air Guard and Reserve fighter pilots from throughout the country to effectively use advanced tactics and weapons technology.
The unit received its second Air Force Outstanding Unit Citation for successfully continuing to train F-100 students while completing the most challenging conversion in the unit's history. That tasking was to convert from F-100s to A-7Ds. In the early 1980s the Group also received the A-7K, a two-seat combat-capable training aircraft. This was the first time an aircraft manufacturer produced a new aircraft specifically designed for Air National Guard use.
The unit received its third Air Force Outstanding Unit Citation in the 1970s and began another dimension in training in 1983 when the unit added the A-7 Fighter Weapons School.
During the 1980s the unit received its fourth Outstanding Unit Citation and the Spaatz Trophy. The Spaatz trophy recognized the 162nd Fighter Wing as the outstanding Air National Guard unit in the United States.
In 1985, the unit began a unique dual training mission in the F-16 and A-7 aircraft.
In 1987, the Group was awarded the "Sistema de Cooperacion Entre Las Fuerzas Aereas Americanas (SICOFAA)," the Safety Award of the Americas. In 1989 the Netherlands and the United States formally agreed to use the 162nd Fighter Group's first-rate facilities and people to train Dutch fighter pilots in the F-16 aircraft. In 1990 the unit received its fifth Air Force Outstanding Unit Citation. Midsummer 1991 saw the retirement of all its A-7D aircraft. Now the unit flies the F-16 C/D and the newer F-16E/F "Fighting Falcon" aircraft plus a single C-26A "Metroliner" light transport aircraft.
The 1990s and Beyond
In April 1992, the Group's international training mission began a major expansion, training fighter pilots for the Republic of Singapore, followed in 1993 by Bahrain, by Portugal in 1994, and by Thailand, Indonesia and Turkey in 1995. The unit was designated a wing in October of 1995 and the international training mission continued to expand, adding Belgium in 1996 followed by Jordan and Norway in the first half of 1997. Denmark began training here in June 1998, and Japan began training in late 1998. Italy sent their first pilot to Tucson in October 2000, Greece began training here in January 2001 and the United Arab Emirates sent their first students here in August 2001. Oman and Poland both began sending students here in 2004. Other nations who have trained or are currently training in Tucson are Israel, Italy, Chile and Taiwan. Additional nations are currently negotiating training programs with the 162 FW.
In addition to the training done at the ANG base in Tucson, the Wing conducts training at individual client nations. Mobile Training Teams have conducted classes in numerous countries around the world, most recently in Turkey, the Netherlands, Thailand and Poland. The Thailand Mobile Training Team conducted the unit's premier international training course, known as the Advanced Weapons Course. This program provides "graduate-level" training to assist allied nations in meeting their need for highly trained F-16 pilots.
On June 9, 1997, the wing embarked on a new mission, training international maintenance technicians on F-16 systems. Jordan sent the first six of nearly 60 technicians to observe and learn 162nd Fighter Wing maintenance techniques so they can emulate what they learn here at their home stations. The training they receive here supplements the technical training they received from the aircraft manufacturer. Italy and the United Arab Emirates have also sent their technicians to Tucson for maintenance training.
From October 1998 until August 1999, the unit conducted a program to convert three former Air Defense units to the general-purpose role. This air-to-ground training program taught current F-16 air defense pilots how to employ the F-16 in the ground attack mission. Air defense units from the Vermont, New Jersey, Texas and California Air National Guard transferred eight F-16Cs/Ds to the 162nd FW. These aircraft were used to train nearly 60 pilots from the three air defense units. Maintenance people from these states also provided maintenance support for these aircraft under 162nd FW supervision.
The Global War on Terror & Defending the Homeland
The September 11 terrorist attacks on our nation brought immediate change to the 162nd Fighter Wing. Within hours of the first attack on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, the 162nd FW placed F-16 aircraft on alert. In the days and weeks that followed, the wing met every requirement of this new air defense mission, dubbed Operation Noble Eagle, with outstanding results. Many members of the wing volunteered to support this new mission and others have stepped up and answered the President's call to "mobilize" in support of this critical mission.
The unit received its sixth Outstanding Unit Award in 2003 for mobilizing more than 300 personnel to support the North American Air Defense Command's Operation Noble Eagle, providing more than 50 personnel to support Central Command's Operation Enduring Freedom, for supporting Joint Forge, Coronet Oak, Coronet Nighthawk and providing personnel to Southern Command and European Command.
On June 27, 2004, the 162nd Fighter Wing and the United Arab Emirates initiated a unique training program. The UAE F-16 Training Program is a dedicated F-16 squadron, the 148th Fighter Squadron. The squadron will operate in the long-term with 13 F-16E/F (Block 60) aircraft. The first aircraft arrived on Sept. 2, 2004. Additionally, the 214th Reconnaissance Group began MQ-1 Predator remotely piloted aircraft operations under the Arizona National Guard on July 16, 2007 as a direct result of the Guard's expanding role in the Total Force initiative. On April 1, 2014 the unit was aligned under the Arizona Air National Guard's 162nd Wing located at the Tucson International Airport and three years later the group was redesignated the 214th Attack Group. The name change brought with it a new air frame, the MQ-9 Reaper. In 2017, the RC-26 was re-aligned under the 214th Attack Group to consolidate efforts and take advantages of efficiency under both similar mission-tasked air frames.
Along with the Homeland Defense mission, the 162nd FW continues its primary mission of International F-16 Pilot Training adding new countries every year. The 162nd Fighter Wing now features new modern buildings, up-to-date equipment and continually updated technology that keeps pace with its rapidly changing roles and missions.
The ultramodern Air Guard Base at Tucson is very different from the adobe farmhouse and dirt-floor hangar of 50 years ago. What remains unchanged is the outstanding dedication of the men and women working to make the 162nd Fighter Wing one of the finest fighter training wings in the world.