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421st Fighter Squadron
421 FS.jpg
421st Fighter Squadron Patch
Active May 1, 1943 – February 20, 1947
April 13, 1962 – Present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Type Fighter
Part of Air Combat Command
12th Air Force
388th Fighter Wing
388th Operations Group
Nickname Black Widows
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg
  • World War II
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign (1944–1945)
Decorations Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg PUC
Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg AFOUA w/V Device
Vietnam gallantry cross unit award-3d.svg RVGC w/ Palm
Presidential Unit Citation (Philippines).svg PPUC

The 421st Fighter Squadron (421 FS) is part of the 388th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. It operates the F-16 Fighting Falcon aircraft conducting air superiority missions.



The 421 FS prepares to deploy worldwide to conduct Day/Night air superiority and precision strike sorties employing laser-guided and inertially aided munitions during contingencies and combat.[1]



World War II

The P-61's upper turret is visible on the fuselage between the wings.

The squadron was activated on May 1, 1943, as the 421st Night Fighter Squadron, in Orlando, Florida. Following 6 months of flight training, the squadron arrived at Milne Bay, New Guinea, and assumed duty with the 5th Fighter Command, 5th Air Force, in the Southwest Pacific.[1]

For the next 14 months, the squadron and its detachments moved several times throughout New Guinea providing cover for U.S. Army assault landings and shipping reconnaissance.[1]

Flying patrols, the 421st engaged in bombing and strafing while protecting the various new air bases. By the end of November 1944, squadron pilots scored victories flying the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, Douglas P-70 Havoc, and Northrop P-61 Black Widow. The squadron received P-61s, the first fighter designated for night fighting, in June 1944.[1]

In October 1944, squadron personnel moved to the Philippines, and after bitter fighting, established a camp at San Marcelino in February 1945. During the next 6 months, the squadron's activity was intense aerial combat and bombing missions became an everyday occurrence.[1]

Following the Japanese surrender, the squadron became part of the occupation forces at Itazuke Air Base, Japan. On February 20, 1947, the squadron was inactivated, with 16 victories to its credit.[1]

Vietnam War

Fifteen years later, on July 8, 1962, the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron was activated and named a tactical fighter squadron with the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing, George Air Force Base, California. For two years the squadron flew the Republic F-105 Thunderchief.[1]

While deployed to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, from April to August 1965, flight crews rotated to a sister squadron in Southeast Asia enabling squadron members to gain combat experience.[1]

From April 1966 to April 1967 the 421 TFS was stationed at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, with the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing. For the next two years, the squadron was stationed with three different stateside wings, though in name only.[1]

F-4E of the 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron - 1972

On April 23, 1969, the 421 TFS transferred to Kunsan Air Base, Korea, furnishing McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II's for defense alert. On June 21, 1969, the squadron was transferred to Da Nang Air Base, Republic of Vietnam, and remained there through October 1972, flying 15,420 combat missions. On October 31, 1972, the unit moved to Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, with the 432d Reconnaissance Wing.[1]

Combat missions continued in Vietnam until the cease-fire on January 28, 1973, in Laos until February 1973, and in Cambodia until August 15, 1973. The squadron then changed to a training environment and participated in countless tactical air exercises. During April 1975, squadron pilots participated in the evacuation of Phnom Penh, Cambodia and Saigon, Republic of Vietnam. In May 1975, the squadron flew in tactical missions associated with the recovery of the SS Mayagüez and its crew.[1]

For its tremendous efforts in Southeast Asia, the 421 TFS earned three Presidential Unit Citations, six Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards with "V" devices, the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm, and flies 12 campaign streamers for Southeast Asian duty.[1]

Cold War

In December 1975, the 366 TFW transferred from Thailand to Hill Air Force Base, and by June 30, 1977, the 421 TFS unit was combat ready. On December 29, 1978, the squadron was reduced to zero aircraft, yet remained with the 366th until June 1980 when they received their first F-16 Fighting Falcon. The 421st was the second squadron to achieve combat ready status in the F-16.[1]

After attaining combat readiness in the F-16, the 421 TFS was tasked to provide formal training for pilots transitioning to the F-16. In November 1981, the squadron deployed to Egypt where it trained Egyptian pilots in exercise Bright Star. From July 1, 1982, until January 1, 1983, the 421 TFS had trained pilots from Britain, Egypt, and Pakistan, as well as U.S. pilots. Squadron deployment locations in the 1980s included Egypt, Oman, Norway, Italy, Ecuador, Denmark, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait.[1]

Post-Cold War

The 421 FS completed conversion to the new F-16CG Block 40 aircraft in February 1990, the second squadron to do so. On August 30, 1990, the squadron deployed to the Persian Gulf in support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. On March 20, 1991, the 421st redeployed to its home at Hill Air Force Base after distinguishing itself by flying 1,300 combat sorties (1,200 at night) without any losses or battle damage. Since then, the 421st FS has deployed around the world in support of various operations, including Operations Southern Watch, Northern Watch, and Noble Eagle.[1]

In August 2002, the 421st transferred all its maintenance personnel to the 388th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron as part of the wing reorganization. The 421st FS deployed with the 421st Aircraft Maintenance Unit (AMU) to Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, to support Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom from May to September 2003.[1]

The 421 FS and AMU became the first-ever active duty F-16 squadron to deploy to Balad Air Base, Iraq supporting Operation Iraqi Freedom from August 2004 to January 2005. The squadron flew over 1,300 sorties during its first deployment to Iraq. The squadron then returned to Balad Air Base from May to September 2006 flying 1,400 sorties and 6,400 hours.[1]

On June 22, 2009 a single-seat F-16 from the squadron on a training mission, a nighttime high-angle strafing run, crashed in the Utah Test and Training Range. The pilot, Captain George Bryan Houghton, 28, was killed.[2] A USAF mishap investigation concluded that the cause of the crash was pilot error, finding that Houghton's inexperience and apparent disorientation during the strafing run caused him to fly the aircraft into the ground.[3]



  • Constituted 421st Night Fighter Squadron on April 30, 1943.
Activated on May 1, 1943.
Inactivated on February 20, 1947.
  • Redesignated 421st Tactical Fighter Squadron, and activated, on April 13, 1962
Organized on July 8, 1962
Redesignated 421st Fighter Squadron on November 1, 1991.


  • Air Defense Department, AAF School of Applied Tactics, 1 May 1943
Attached to 481st Night Fighter Operational Training Group, 17 Jul-7 Nov 1943
Apparently attached to other organizations for operations
Attached to 388th Tactical Fighter Wing [Deployed], [later, 388th Tactical Fighter Wing (Prov)], 28 Aug 1990-27 Mar 1991


Detachment: Wakde Island, May 28 – September 21, 1944
Detachment: Peleliu, Palau Group, December 3, 1944 – January 11, 1945 (Air Echelon)
Detachment: Tacloban Airfield, Leyte, Philippines, February 9 – March 23, 1945
Deployed: Incirlik Air Base, Turkey (September 18 – November 19, 1964)
Deployed: Kadena Air Base, Okinawa (April 7 – August 27, 1965)
Deployed: Kunsan Air Base, South Korea (April 23 – June 26, 1969)
Deployed: Central Air Base, United Arab Emirates (August 28, 1990 – March 27, 1991)

Aircraft Operated[4]


F-16C over Iraq


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q 421 FS Fact Sheet
  2. ^ Gehrke, Steve, and Melinda Rogers, "Hill F-16 Pilot Killed In Training Accident", Salt Lake Tribune, June 24, 2009.
  3. ^ Rolfsen, Bruce, "Pilot error caused fatal F-16 crash", Military Times, September 28, 2009.
  4. ^ a b c d e AFHRA 421 FS Page


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • Kolln, Jeff. The 421st Night Fighter Squadron in World War II. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, 2001. ISBN 0-7643-1306-1.
  • Pape, Garry R. and Ronald C. Harrison. Queen of the Midnight Skies: The Story of American Airforce Night Fighters. Atglen, PA: Schiffer Publishing, ISBN 0-88-740415-4.
  • Thompson, Warren. P-61 Black Widow Units of World War 2. Botley, Oxford, UK: Osprey Publishing, 1998. ISBN 1-85532-725-2.
  • Zbiegniewski, Andre R. 421 NFS 1943–1947 (bi-lingual Polish/English text). Lublin, Poland: Oficyna Wydawnicza Kagero, 203. ISBN 83-89088-47-9.
  • Northrop P-61 Black Widow—The Complete History and Combat Record, Garry R. Pape, John M. Campbell and Donna Campbell, Motorbooks International, 1991.
  • Mauer, Mauer (1969), Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II, Air Force Historical Studies Office, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. ISBN 0892010975

External links

See also


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