125th Fighter Wing
Col. James Eifert
Location: Jacksonville International Airport
Mission:To provide mission-ready Airmen and equipment to combatant commanders in support of operations worldwide. To protect life and property, preserve peace, order and public safety at home. To provide air defense for the southeastern United States, as directed by the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) and United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM), from Charleston, South Carolina to the southern tip of Florida and across the Florida panhandle.
The 125th Fighter Wing is the largest unit in the Florida Air National Guard. Its primary aircraft is the F-15 Eagle fighter jet. The F-15 Eagle is an all-weather, extremely maneuverable, tactical fighter designed to permit the Air Force to gain and maintain air supremacy over the battlefield. The Eagle’s air superiority is achieved through a mixture of unprecedented maneuverability and acceleration, range, weapons and avionics. It can penetrate enemy defense and outperform and outfight any current enemy aircraft.
The 125th Fighter Wing Detachment 1 at Homestead Air Reserve Base provides the Continental NORAD Region (CONR) commander rapid response to invasions of the sovereign airspace of the United States and respond with appropriate defense measures against all hostile actions directed at the people and property of the United States.
History: At the conclusion of World War II, work began to organize an Air National Guard unit for Florida. A National Guard Bureau document dated March 16, 1946, gave states permission to request an Air Force unit allotment. Months later, Florida accepted the 159th Fighter Squadron with an authorized strength of 50 officers and 303 enlisted men. Governor Millard F. Caldwell formally accepted the unit on Aug. 30, 1946, and full federal recognition was granted Feb. 9, 1947.
Qualifications for initial enlistment into the Florida Air National Guard required officers, pilots and other specialists to have served on active duty during WWII. Enlisted personnel needed at least six months of active duty service time since 1940 in any branch of the armed forces to be a member. About half of the squadron’s original pilots were combat veterans, and a third were bomber pilots. Roughly half the enlisted personnel served in various branches of the armed forces during WWII.
The newly formed unit fell under the command of Lt. Col. William D. Haviland, with an initial assigned strength of eight officers and ten enlisted Airmen. A facility for housing the units became available in temporary WWII buildings on the west side of Thomas Cole Imeson Airport in Jacksonville, Fla. Upon the arrival of the unit’s first aircraft, the P-51D Mustang at Imeson Airport, the 159th became the first operational Air National Guard unit in Florida. Manufactured by the North American Aviation Company, these P-51D fighter bombers are the most recognized and celebrated fighters of WWII. The 159th originally consisted of four units: the 159th Fighter Squadron; the 159th Utility Flight; the 159th Weather Station; and Detachment C, 217th Air Service Group.
During the second year of operation, the FLANG became one of the first six Air National Guard squadrons in the United States equipped with jet aircraft. The conversion from the P-51D Mustang to the new F-80C Shooting Star jet became official Aug. 1, 1948, when the unit was re-designated the 159th Fighter Squadron, Jet Propelled (159 FSJ). Major Leon A. Moore Jr. assumed command of the 159th Fighter Squadron, Jet Propelled, on July 1, 1952.
Upon release from active duty for the Korean War, the unit returned July 9, 1952, with their new commander to Imeson Municipal Airport. The unit’s F-84Es and all its ground equipment were turned over to the U.S. Air Force and left in Japan. On July 10, 1952, the 159th Fighter Squadron, Jet Propelled, was re-designated the 159th Fighter Bomber Squadron, dissolving the 159th Utility Flight and integrating it into the unit. Six months later, the 159th Fighter Bomber Squadron was re-equipped with F-51H/Mustangs and re-designated the 159th Fighter Bomber Squadron Augmented (FBSA).
The unit integrated various support aircraft into its inventory during this period. The unit received T-6s for instrument training, B-26s (photo) for target towing, and C-47 and C-45 transports. During the early 1950s, the U.S. Air Force was in the process of rebuilding its squadrons with jet fighters and jet bombers and changes to the Florida Air National Guard aircraft inventory were constant, fast and furious. For example, from October to December 1954, the 159th FBSA was equipped with nine different types of aircraft including the T-6, B-26, C-45, C-47, C-54, F-51H, T-33, F-80, and F-86A. By the end of December 1954, things settled down and the 159 FBSA had an entire squadron of F-80Cs for the second time. There were 43 officers and warrant officers, and 472 enlisted men in the unit. In July 1955, while still equipped with F-80Cs, the unit was re-designated the 159th Fighter Interceptor Squadron with a mission change to Air Defense. By July 1, 1956, the unit reorganized into 125th Fighter Group (125 FG). The activation of the 125th coincided with the conversion to the F-86D Sabre Jet, an all weather interceptor. The F-86 made the 125th a self-sustaining unit capable of performing the Air Defense mission in all types of weather, day or night.
One of the most significant events in the history of the Florida Air National Guard occurred Oct. 24, 1968, when the 125th Fighter Group moved into a brand new, state of the art, multi-million dollar facility. The new Air Guard Base was located on 157.6 acres adjacent to the new Jacksonville International Airport. The new base was the first Air National Guard facility to be designed and constructed specifically for Air National Guard use. The new base became a model for future Air National Guard base construction projects around the country.
Seventeen years later, the FLANG would secure another 174.36 acres, and currently the FLANG holds a lease for a total of 343 acres with the Jacksonville Aviation Authority.
The 125th was re-designated the 125th Fighter Wing (FW) on Aug. 1, 1995. In 1995, the 125th Fighter Wing converted from the F-16 to the F-15 Eagle as its primary fighter aircraft. Five years after the conversion to the F-15, Fighter Data Link (FDL) technology was incorporated into the F-15 allowing the pilots to link flight data with multiple users, providing realtime information on air and ground threats. The 125th continues to incorporate newer technology in its 1970s era F-15s.