116th Ace of Spades Air Refueling Squadron KC-135 Model
Fly with the Ace of Spades of the 116th ARS in this hand crafted KC-135 model. Each model is carved from wood and hand painted to provide a piece you’ll love. 18 inches.
Washington Air National Guard
116th Fighter Squadron – P-51 Mustangs, 1949
The wartime 116th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron was reconstituted on 21 June 1945. It was then re-designated as the 116th Fighter Squadron, and was allotted to the Washington Air National Guard, on 24 May 1946. It was organized at Felts Field, Spokane, Washington and was extended federal recognition on 1 July 1947 by the National Guard Bureau. The 116th Fighter Squadron was entitled to the history, honors, and colors of the 116th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron. The squadron was equipped with F-51D Mustangs and was allocated to Washington ANG 142d Air Defense Group, with a mission of the air defense of Eastern Washington.
The short runway and other issues with Felts Field led to the movement of the squadron to the larger Geiger Field on 1 July 1948. In March 1950 the squadron received five F-84C Thunderjets. The F-84s were received from the 33d Fighter Group at Otis AFB, Massachusetts.
Korean War activation
North American F-86A-5-NA Sabre Serial 48-0276 of the 116th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 1951.
As a result of the Korean War, the 116th Fighter Squadron was federalized and brought to active-duty on 1 February 1951. The squadron was assigned to the 81st Fighter-Interceptor Group and moved to Moses Lake AFB, Washington. The squadron was re-designated as the 116th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron. The 81st was assigned to Tactical Air Command (TAC) as a replacement squadron for the group’s 93d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron which was at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico performing air defense duties at the Sandia National Laboratories. It was converted from the F-51s and F-80s to F-86A Sabre jet fighters and performed transition training at Moses Lake.
After only four months of training, the 81st FIG was ordered to RAF Shepherds Grove, England, to bolster NATO forces in Europe. The move was the first time in aviation history a National Guard fighter squadron would cross over to the European Theater under its own power and only the second time such a move was ever attempted without air refueling.
RAF Shepards Grove was a former World War II RAF Fighter Command base located in East Anglia. The bulk of the ground station buildings were the metal Nissen hut type, with some wood frame and tar paper buildings, and were grouped together in numbered “sites”, widely separated to blend into natural, rustic surroundings for purposes of camouflage. The main administrative building and clubs were of the larger Quonset hut type.
Headquarters of the 81st FIG was located at RAF Bentwaters, and the 116th FIS joined with Royal Air Force Fighter Command to provide air defense of Great Britain. The 81st FIG was the first F-86 equipped unit in Europe. On 1 November 1952, the federalized 116th FIS was returned to the Washington National Guard and its personnel and equipment transferred to the newly activated USAF 78th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron.
116th FIS F-101B Voodoo, 57-0260 at the Hill AFB, Utah museum, 1981
Upon its return from England, the 116th FIS was organized and re-equipped with F-86A Sabre interceptors and again assigned to the 142d Air Defense Group. It resumed its peacetime mission of the air defense of eastern Washington. For the next 23 years the squadron performed that mission, being upgraded by ADC in 1955 to the dedicated F-94 Starfire all-weather interceptor. With this new aircraft, the mission of the 116th Fighter Interceptor Squadron changed from day interceptor to day and night all-weather interceptor. In 1957 the 116th again upgraded to the improved F-89D Scorpion, followed later by the nuclear armed F-89J, then in May 1965 to the supersonic F-102A Delta Dagger. In 1969 it received the Mach-2 F-101B Voodoo.
1967 was a “trophy” year for the 141st Fighter Group and the 116th. Trophies and awards received included the Spaatz Trophy for the most Outstanding Air National Guard Flying Unit, the Air National Guard Outstanding Unit Plaque, the Air Force Outstanding Unit Trophy and the Winston P. Wilson Award. In 1969, the unit accumulated an outstanding record, 37,900 accident-free flying hours, receiving the 25th Air Division Flying Safety Award five years in a row.
Air Refueling mission
A Thunderbird F-16C refuels from an 141st ARW KC-135E.
In July 1976, the 116th converted to the KC-135 Stratotanker, becoming the fifth Air National Guard unit to join the Strategic Air Command (SAC). The new air refueling squadron moved from Geiger Field to nearby Fairchild Air Force Base to accommodate the larger aircraft.
During the 1990 Gulf Crisis Aircrew, maintenance and support personnel responded to the Iraq invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990, and deployed to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Upon federal activation in December 1990, all eight of the unit’s KC-135’s deployed to the Middle East. The 116th refueled coalition attack aircraft during Operation Desert Storm.
In December 1992, the unit responded with aircrew and support personnel for Operation Restore Hope, a United Nations relief mission to aid hunger victims in Somalia, flying missions from Moron AB, Spain. June 1995, several rotations deployed to Pisa, Italy, for Operation Deny Flight, NATO mission enforcing the no-fly zone over Bosnia-Herzegovina. In May 1999, six KC-135E’s deployed to Budapest, Hungary in support of Operation Allied Force to deter ethnic aggressions in Yugoslavia.
On 13 January 1999, one of the unit’s KC-135E’s crashed at Geilenkirchen Air Base, Germany, killing all four crew members. This was the first time the unit lost an aircraft or lives since beginning the aerial refueling mission in 1976. A monument was erected at the site the following year.
Global War on Terrorism After the 11 September 2001 attacks, the squadron began refueling flights supporting Operation Noble Eagle almost immediately. In 2002 a new digital navigation system, called Pacer CRAG, was added to the aircraft and crews trained to function without a navigator. Members of the 116th also joined the thousands of Guard and Reserve forces called up to deploy all over the world in support of America’s “War on Terror.”
When the first Guard KC-135 R-model landed on Fairchild AFB in January 2003, with its new engines, it became the 40th different airplane the 116th pilots had flown since it was created back in 1924. Each one of the four engines of the KC-135R produces over 21,000 pounds of thrust. The unit’s first plane, the JN-6-A2 “Jenny,” had a wooden body covered in fabric and only weighed 1,430 pounds.
At the time President George W. Bush ordered coalition military units into Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom in March 2003, the 116th was in a training status to transition into the R model KC-135. Since then the 116th has supported continuous deployments including antiterrorism efforts abroad under Operation Enduring Freedom and air refueling missions over the US for homeland defense flights under Operation Noble Eagle.
During a banquet ceremony in July 2003, the 141st Air Refueling Wing accepted the coveted Solano Trophy marking the wing as the best Air National Guard unit in the 15th Air Force.
Overseas deployments and homeland security refueling missions have dominated the tasking landscape for the squadron since 2004. In response to the Congress-mandated 2005 Base Realignment and Closure process, the last of the KC-135 Stratotankers belonging to the 141st Air Refueling Wing were redirected to Iowa, and as of 1 October 2007 116th crew members now share aircraft with the active duty 92d Air Refueling Wing.
Today, 116th crews still deploy around the world to fulfill Air Expeditionary Force commitments much the same as during the First World War.