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131st Fighter Squadron; Leeuwarden, April 11 – 22, 2016

The Massachusetts Air National Guard; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

The 104th Fighter Wing is a unit of the Massachusetts Air National Guard. The unit is based at Barnes Air National Guard Base in Westfield, Massachusetts. When the F-15 Eagle Wing is activated by the federal service of the American Government, it becomes a part of the United States Air Combat Command.

The 104th Fighter Wing (104FW) is a partnership between various militias from the state of Massachusetts. The unit is under the direct command of the state of Massachusetts and the National Guard of the State. The only federal institution which could deploy the unit is the president of the United States. The 104FW is in times of war, part of the United States Air Force. In peacetime, this unit provides the air defense of the state of Massachusetts. The wing is constantly ready and includes an operational unit which has personnel in active duty in the United States Air Force. This unit is the 131st Fighter Squadron (131FS) and is under the command of the 104FW. Today, the 131FS is equipped with the McDonnell Douglas F-15C/D Eagle. The 102nd Fighter Interceptor Wing was established as part of the Massachusetts Air National Guard (ANG) on May 1, 1956. As a result, the 131st Fighter Interceptor Wing (131FIS) was allocated to Barnes Municipal Airport where the unit became part of the 104th Fighter Group (104FG) which was under the control of the 102FIW. The 131FIS was the only flying squadron of the 104FG. Other parts of the 104FG were the 104th Material Squadron, the 104th Combat Support Squadron and the 104th USAF Dispensary. The mission of the 104FG was the air defense of the state of Massachusetts. Along with the 102FG at Otis Air Force Base the 104FG had to perform this task. The history of the 131TFS goes further back in history than the creation of the Massachusetts ANG. The 131TFS originated in Hawaii where the unit was established in August 1942 as the 333FS at Bellows Field. The unit was at that time equipped with the Bell P-39 Aircobra.

The 333FS was used extensively during the Second World War in the Pacific against the Japanese air forces. During the years 1943 and 1944, the unit was equipped with the North American P-51 Mustang. The unit was then moved to Iwo Jima when the battle for the island was still ongoing. The 333FS was deployed to escort the Boeing

B-29 Superfortress bombers during their bombing missions over Japan. After the war the unit moved to the Mariana Islands where the unit was deactivated in early 1946. The 333FS was reactivated as the 131FS as part of the Massachusetts Air National Guard on May 24, 1946. The unit was stationed at Barnes Municipal Airport and was equipped with the P-47D Thunderbolt. The 131FS flew from 1956 with the Lockheed F-94 Starfire. From 1957, the squadron was equipped with the more modern F-86H Sabre. From the summer of 1961, the 131FIS was renamed as the 131st Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS). At the beginning of the 60s, the 131FS was deployment on a regular basis in Europe in the context of the reinforcement of the European air forces. The home base in Europe of the 131FS was Phalsbourg-Bourscheid in France. In total, the whole 102FIW deployed 82 F-86H Sabres, six T-33 T-Birds and two C-47 Dakotas in France. The units of the 102FIW participated in Europe regularly in several major exercises in West Germany. On May 7, 1962 it was decided to bring the 102FIW back to the United States. The 480TFS was created to remain in Europe. 131TFS would resume its original mission in Massachusetts.

In 1964 the 131TFS would exchange its F-86H Sabres for the F-84F Thunderstreak. It was not clear why the unit made this switch. The F-86H was an important aircraft for the ANG for the air defense of the state. The Sabres of both the 101TFS and 131TFS were moved to the New Jersey ANG. The F-84Fs of the New Jersey ANG were in return assigned to the units in Massachusetts. The Thunderstreaks would stay in service of the 131TFS during the whole 60s. Partly for this reason, the squadron was never activated to serve in the Vietnam War. The Thunderstreak was too old and had in Vietnam no chance against the modern MiGs of the North Vietnamese army. However, some pilots of the 131TFS volunteered for other units to serve in this war. From 1971, the 131TFS would receive the North American F-100D Super Sabre. The Super Sabre was the first aircraft within this unit which easily could break the sound barrier. With this aircraft the unit was again able to defend the whole airspace of the state of Massachusetts. The 131TFS would continue flying the F-100D Super Sabre until July 1979. From this moment the squadron received the new Republic A-10A Thunderbolt II. The unit was equipped with this brand new aircraft due to the Total Force program. With Total Force program the ANG units in the United States were equipped with the latest frontline fighters. The Massachusetts ANG received therefore a more prominent role as reservists for the United States Air Force.

With the new A-10 Thunderbolt in the service of the 131FS, the unit was often deployment to Europe and especially to West Germany, England, Italy and Turkey. The 131FS would receive a specialized version of the F-16A/B Fighting Falcon block 10 provided as a replacement of the A-10 in 1990. However, this transformation would not continue due to the crisis in Iraq. During Operation Desert Storm the air force was experimenting with the F/A-16 variant in the close air support role. However, these tests were not successful and the F/A-16 project was labeled as a failure. The conversion of the unit to this type was therefore cancelled. From August until October 1995, the 131FS was sent to Aviano Air Base in Italy to fly missions over Bosnia and Serbia during the Yugoslavian War. In 1999 the unit was deployed against Serbia during the Kosovo War. The unit stopped eventually to fly the A-10 Thunderbolt at the end of 2007. The A-10s of the 131FS left to the Maryland ANG. The F-15C/Ds Otis AFB were transferred to Barnes and were assigned to the 131FS. At the end of 2007, the unit received at total of eighteen F-15Cs and one single F-15D. The 131FS was from that moment on fully specialized in the air defense role in Massachusetts. The 131FS flew along during the missions during Operation Enduring Freedom in Iraq.

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