America's First Fighter Squadron Celebrates 100 Years of Dominating the Skies
Yesterday, on May 8, the U.S. Air Force’s Twenty-Seventh Fighter Squadron—the Fighting Eagles—celebrated its hundredth anniversary.
Part of the First Fighter Wing at Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, the squadron and its Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptors are currently deployed to Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates while they participate in the campaign to destroy the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. But the war against ISIS is just the latest campaign the Twenty-Seventh Fighter Squadron has fought in; the unit’s storied history begins during the First World War.
“For 100 years, the 1st FW has been at the forefront of aerial combat,” Col. Peter Fesler, commander of the First Fighter Wing, said. “To have the 27th FS deployed on their centennial, participating in combat against our enemies, is one of the greatest ways to honor its heritage and tradition of combat excellence.”
Since its inception at during World War I as part of the First Pursuit Group—where its mission was to help to gain air superiority over the trenches of Northern France and Belgium in the fight against Imperial Germany—the unit has produced fifty-six aerial victories and five aces. Indeed, Lt. Frank Luke, who was America’s second highest-scoring ace during World War I, flew with the Twenty-Seventh Aero Squadron. During his short time in service, Luke was the first airman to be awarded the Medal of Honor and was credited with eighteen kills before he was killed in action on September 29, 1918.
Since that time, the First Fighter Wing and the Twenty-Seventh Fighter Squadron have been at the forefront of American airpower during both World Wars. During World War II, the First Fighter Wing was the first U.S. unit to fly the Lockheed P-38 Lightning and deploy en masse over the North Atlantic. It was also the first wing to operate as a jet fighter unit.
More recently, the First Fighter Wing and Twenty-Seventh Fighter Squadron were the first to fly the Boeing (then McDonnell Douglas) F-15 Eagle operationally. Most recently, the Twenty-Seventh Fighter Squadron was the first U.S. Air Force unit to be declared operational flying the F-22 Raptor on December 15, 2005—pioneering the air combat in the era of fifth-generation fighters.
Today, one hundred years after its foundation, the Twenty-Seventh Fighter Squadron and the First Fighter Wing continue their tradition of being at the forefront of American airpower. “The 1st Fighter Wing has been at the forefront of air-to-air combat and Air Superiority for a century now, and we will continue to fulfill this mission in the future,” Fesler said.
Dave Majumdar is the defense editor for The National Interest. You can follow him on Twitter: @davemajumdar.
Image: U.S. Air Force Photo