The 43rd Fighter Squadron is responsible for providing air dominance training for the world's newest fighter, the F-22 Raptor. The 43rd FS, a subordinate unit of the 325th Fighter Wing, Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., is the first squadron to receive the F-22 and will continue to serve as the primary training location.
The 43rd Fighter Squadron traces its lineage to the 43rd Aero Squadron, first activated June 13, 1917, at Camp Kelly, Texas. In March 1918, the squadron moved to England, where it trained until reassigned to France on Nov. 1, 1918 - just 10 days before the Armistice that ended World War I was signed. Having never seen combat, the squadron was deactivated in April 1919. The 43rd AS was reactivated on July 22, 1922, at Kelly Field, Texas.
The 43rd AS was redesignated the 43rd School Squadron in January 1923 and flew various aircraft, including the DH-4, Spad XIII, SE-5, MB-7, AT-4, AT-5, PW-9, P-1 and P-12. The 43rd AS became known as the "Hornets" as depicted by their emblem, a poised Vespa Maculata, or American "Yellow Jacket," the most formidable of the wasp family, surrounded by an ovate cloud. The emblem was approved in 1924 and the Hornet signifies the speed, agility and hard-hitting capabilities of the squadron while the cloud represents their domain - the skies.
In March 1935, the 43rd SS was redesignated the 43rd Pursuit Squadron, flying as part of the 3rd Wing Advanced Flying School until it was deactivated in September 1936. The squadron was reactivated in February 1940 and flew the P-36, P-38, P-39, P-40 and P-47 aircraft while providing air defense for the Panama Canal Zone. Before the squadron was deactivated in October 1946, it was renamed the 43rd Fighter Squadron and had twice earned the XXVI Fighter Command Award of Merit.
The squadron lay dormant nearly two decades before it was reawakened as the 43rd Tactical Fighter Squadron at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., in January 1964 flying the F-84 Thunderstreak. The Hornets converted from the F-84 to the F-4C Phantom, and in August 1964, deployed to Clark Air Base, Philippines, where they flew combat missions for 90 days over Southeast Asia.
In November 1964, the Hornets became the first fighter squadron assigned to Cam Rahn Bay, South Vietnam. During its time in Southeast Asia, the squadron flew 1,207 combat missions and earned the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for its service. In January 1966, the 43rd TFS returned to MacDill to serve as an F-4C replacement-training unit until March 1970.
In June 1970, the 43rd TFS was moved to Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, under the 21st Tactical Fighter Wing. The squadron was one of two units assigned to Alaskan Air Command. Flying the F-4E Phantom II, the 43rd TFS inherited a dual mission of Alaskan air defense and close air support for U.S. Army forces. The squadron assumed North American Aerospace Defense Command air defense alert in October 1970 and between 1970 and 1982, the squadron's pilots intercepted more than 100 Soviet aircraft in Alaskan air space.
In 1982, the 43rd TFS became the first squadron to convert to the F-15 Eagle. Without help from a combat ready unit, the squadron developed its own F-15 training program and completed the first ever F-15 low runway condition reading tests. The squadron continued to provide air defense for North America until Jan. 1, 1994, when it was deactivated.
On Oct. 25, 2002, the 43rd Fighter Squadron was reactivated with a new mission and a new aircraft. Assigned to the 325th Fighter Wing, Air Combat Command, Tyndall AFB, Fla., the 43rd FS is the first squadron to provide air dominance training for Air Force pilots in the F-22 Raptor.
Lieutenant Col. Ryan M. Wick