The 1st Fighter Wing's long and distinguished history began May 5, 1918, when the American Expeditionary Force organized the 1st Pursuit Group, the first American group-level fighter organization. In 1975, the 1 FW was designated then-Langley's host unit, until Jan. 7, 2010, when the 9th Air Force reactivated the 633d Air Base Wing and established it as Langley's new host unit. As of Jan. 29, 2010, the 1 FW joined other units as a tenant unit at Joint Base Langley-Eustis.
During World War I, the 1 PG tested new aircraft and perfected fighter tactics developed over the skies of France. On April 14, 1918, the unit recorded the first confirmed aerial victory of the war.
By the end of the war the 1 PG had amassed 202 confirmed kills and earned seven campaign credits. Second Lt. Frank Luke Jr., 27th Aero Squadron, and 1st Lt. Edward "Eddie" V. Rickenbacker, 94th Aero Squadron, each earned a Medal of Honor for his actions.
During World War II, the 1st Fighter Group again excelled as pilots flying the P-38 Lightning provided vital escort support to allied bombing operations; the unit flew more than 20,000 sorties on 1,405 combat missions and scored more than 400 aerial kills. Their accomplishments earned them 15 campaign credits and three distinguished unit citations.
In April 1950, the 1 FG was redesignated the 1st Fighter Interceptor Group. The unit served in the Korean War and the Vietnam War by conducting academic and flight training in tactics, techniques, and operations for combat aircrew of the F-4 and B-57.
On March 14, 1974, the Air Force announced plans to station the first operational F-15C Eagle Wing at Langley. In late 1976, under the command of Col. Larry Welch, Langley and the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing received its first F-15C Eagle aircraft. Introducing the F-15 into the Air Force's operational inventory, the Wing received its first Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. Airmen of the Wing went on to help prepare other bases for their reception of the F-15. The 1 TFW also participate in worldwide deployments and training exercises throughout the 1980s.
The training and experience gained in the 1980s was called upon in the summer of 1990, when Iraqi forces invaded Kuwait. On Aug. 7, 1990, the wing deployed 48 aircraft to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield. By Jan. 16, 1991, as Desert Shield came to a close, the Wing had amassed 4,207 sorties. When Desert Shield evolved into Desert Storm, 16 of the Wing's F-15s participated in yet another combat mission. On March 8, 1991, the 1 TFW returned to Langley from Saudi Arabia. In October 1991, the 1 TFW was redesignated to the 1st Fighter Wing.
On Sept. 11, 2001, the terrorist attacks committed against the United States prompted action from U.S. Forces around the world. At Langley, the 1 FW's weapons loaders quickly armed F-15s which were scrambled to protect America's air space from additional terrorist attacks. Other Airmen of the 1 FW secured the base, donated blood and pitched in wherever possible. During Operation Noble Eagle, wing aircraft provided air cover over several major cities, including New York City and the District of Columbia. At the same time, hundreds of Wing members deployed to support what came to be known as the Global War on Terror.
By March 2002, the 1 FW had deployed a dozen F-15s and more than 600 Airmen to Iraq. When President George Bush ordered U.S. troops into action, wing aircraft, charged with gaining and maintaining air superiority, sprang into action. The Wing's F-15s dominated the air space, flying 360 sorties and intimidating the Iraqi Air force to stay on the ground. In some cases Saddam Hussein's Iraqi Air Force even tried burying its planes under the ground.
Given the history of the 1 FW and its success in Operation Iraqi Freedom, the Air Force announced on Jan. 15, 2002, plans for the Wing to bring the F-22 Raptor into combat operational status. The first Raptor assigned to the Wing arrived Jan. 7, 2005. This aircraft was allocated as a trainer, and as such, was docked in a hanger for maintenance personnel to familiarize themselves with its complex systems. The second Raptor, designated for flying operations, arrived Jan. 18, 2005. On Dec. 15, 2005, Air Combat Command commander, along with the 1 FW commander, announced the 27th Fighter Squadron as fully operational capable to fly, fight and win with the F-22.
Today, the 1 FW houses the 1st Operations Group, composed of the 27 FS (Fightin' Eagles) and the 94 FS (Hat-in-the-Ring Gang). Also encompassed by the 1 FW is the 1st Maintenance Group. The 1 FW continues to support Joint Base Langley-Eustis' flying mission to meet the demands of air superiority.
(Current as of October 2010)
Throughout nine decades of service, the 1st Fighter Wing continues to carve its niche in U.S. air history with many aviation firsts:
- The first U.S. group level flying unit to enter air combat
- The first U.S. unit to destroy an enemy aircraft in World War I
- The parent unit of the first recipient of the Medal of Honor for aerial combat
- The parent unit of the highest scoring U.S. ace in World War I
- The only U.S. Army fighter group from 1919 to 1932
- The first unit equipped with the Lockheed P-38 Lightning
- The first fighter unit to deploy en masse over the North Atlantic
- The first American unit to destroy a German aircraft in World War II
- The first operational unit to fly the F-15C Eagle
- The first tactical fighter unit to deploy to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Shield
- The first operational F-22 Raptor Wing to take part in a major theater exercise, Northern Edge 2006
- Parent unit of the first operational F-22 squadron to successfully test new limits on a Joint Direct Attack Munitions