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194th Fighter Squadron “Griffins”; Leeuwarden, April 11 - 22, 2016

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

The 144th Fighter Wing is a unit of the California Air National Guard. The wing contains only one squadron, namely the 194th Fighter Squadron. This unit has been stationed at the American airbase Fresno in northern California. The squadron is since the end of 2013 equipped with the McDonnel Douglas F-15C Eagle.

The main mission of the 144th Fighter Wing (144 FW) is to protect the airspace of the American state of California. The unit is equipped with the McDonnell Douglas F-15C/D Eagle. The unit is as many Air National Guard (ANG) units directly under the supervision of the state. The F-15s of the California ANG are 24 hours a day on QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) to respond when needed. Besides the QRA at the home base in Fresno, there is also a continual QRA detachment at March Air Force Base in the southern part of the state. From these two airfields are the aircraft able to check the airspace during a QRA alarm to go see what's going on. Until the year 2013, the unit flew with the General Dynamics F-16C/D Fighting Falcon. These aircraft are since November 2013 transferred to the Arizona ANG. The wing has currently 21 F-15s in service. The group consists of 18 Primary Aircraft Authorized (PAA) aircraft and three Backup Aircraft Inventory (BAI) aircraft. The F-15s were received in 2013 from the Montana Air National Guard, the Missouri Air National Guard and from Nellis Air Force Base. In addition to the F-15s, the 144FW is also using a single Fairchild C-26A Metroliner for light transport duties. The F-15s of the 144FW are recognized by the American eagle on the tail of the aircraft. This eagle plunges its claws forward to attack its prey. The 144FW has only one flying squadron it its organization, namely the 194th Fighter Squadron. This unit has the nickname "Griffins". The squadron badge shows a fire-breathing griffin. This mythological animal is half a lion and half a bird of prey and has the features of a dragon.

The 144FW was established in October 1943 as the 372nd Fighter Group at Hamilton Field, California. During the Second World War the unit was a training squadron and was equipped with the P-39 Airacobra and the P-40 Warhawk. Later during the war, the unit was equipped with the North American P-51D Mustang. The 372nd Fighter Group was finally re-established as the 144th Fighter Group on May 24, 1946. The unit

was established at that time as part of the California Air National Guard. In total, there were three squadrons assigned to the 144th Fighter Group, namely; the 191FS as part of the Utah ANG in Salt Lake City Municipal Airport in Utah, the 192FS of the Nevada ANG at Hubbard Field in Nevada and the 194FS of the California ANG on Naval Air Station Alameda in California. All of these units flew the P-51D Mustang. The 194FS was founded in 1943 as the 409FS at Hamilton Field in California. The 409FS was quickly renamed as the 194FS and became part of the 144th Fighter Group as part of the California ANG on May 24, 1946. The 194FS was initially based at Naval Air Station Alameda, California. The unit would take over the historic colors and logos of the 409FS and is therefore a direct descendant of this unit. The unit was with the Mustang one of the most respected gunnery units of the USAF. The training task which the unit had in its early days, brought a lot of experience with these weapons.

During the surprise invasion of South Korea on June 25, 1950, most of the ANG units were federalized and placed in active service. The P-51Ds were exchanged for the F-51H Mustang in 1951 for close air support missions in Korea. The F-51H was a long-range version of the Mustang which was developed to accompany the Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers to Japan during the Second World War. With the increased availability of fighter jets after the Korean War, the propeller planes of the 194FS were replaced by jets of the type F-86A Sabre. The 194FS was at that time also moved to Fresno Yosemite International Airport in 1957. On July 7, 1955, the unit became part of the 144th Fighter Group and was designated as the 194th Fighter-Interceptor Wing. The unit would be referred under this name in the next 37 years. The 194FS flew with the F-86A until March 31, 1958. From that moment the unit would receive the North American F-86L Sabre in the role of interceptor. This variant of the Sabre was the first all-weather fighter which the unit would operate. On June 30, 1964, the 194FS received the F-102 Delta Dagger. The unit would continue to fly with Delta Dagger until July 24, 1974. This aircraft was also used in the role of interceptor by the 194FS. The successor of the Delta Dagger was at that time the F-106 Delta Dart. On October 1, 1978, the American Aerospace Defense Command was inactivated and the units were assigned to the Air Defense, Tactical Air Command (ADTAC). In 1984, the Delta Darts were replaced by the F-4D Phantom II in the air defense and interceptor role.

The F-4D Phantoms which were assigned to the unit were in the past intensively deployed in the Vietnam War. The F-4D Phantom would serve a very short period at the 194FS. After only five years they were replaced by the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon in October 1989. The F-16s were of the type F-16A/B Block 15. The F-16 could in addition to the air defense role also be used in the offensive role. In 1990, the F-16s of the 194FS were drastically modernized. On March 16, 1992, the 144th Fighter Interceptor Wing was renumbered to the 144th Fighter Wing. The wing is nowadays still designated as the 144FW. On June 1, 1992, the 144FW was assigned to the US Air Combat Command. In this period the 194FS had a QRA (Quick Reaction Alert) detachment at George Air Force Base. This airbase was closed in 1992 due to the general cutbacks of the US Air Force after the Cold War. The QRA detachment was moved to March Air Force Base. In 1995, the F-16A/B Fighting Falcon aircraft were exchanged for the modern F-16C/D Fighting Falcon Block 25. After eleven years of operational service, there came an end to the life time of a number of the aircraft. These F-16s were replaced by the more modern F-16C/D Block 32 in December 2006. The first F-15 Eagles arrived on June 18, 2013. The last F-16 Fighting Falcon flew to its new home base in Tucson, Arizona on November 7, 2013. The F-15C/D is currently the primary aircraft of the 194FS in the air defense role.

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