THE F-94 ERA (1950 - 1954)

Two eras of aviation history on one ramp, P-82 Twin Mustangs  can be seen in the background of this picture of the first jet airplane flown by the 318th FIS, the F-94A Starfire. Wearing 3 stripes to identify the aircraft as the squadron commanders airplane, F-94A s/n 49-2588 was the last "A" model produced. 


Starting with the 317th Fighter Squadron in May of 1950, the 325th, Fighter Wing began to replace its F-82's with the F-94A Starfire. In the fall of 1950, the 318th, ADC's last F-82 unit was also the last unit to enter the "jet age" with its conversion into Lockheed F-94A Starfire, with some the units F-82's move to join another Fighter unit in Alaska, while a few would stay behind performing target towing duties until April 1951. 


The F-94 Starfire, the USAF's first first operational jet-powered all-weather interceptor, and the first U.S. production jet equipped with a afterburner, was developed from the twin-seat T-33 "T-Bird" trainer, which was based on the single-seat F-80 Shooting Star, the first operational U.S. jet fighter.


A 318th FIS F-94A leads another F-94 from the 317th FIS. All F-94's were eventually refitted with 230 gallon "Fletcher" centerline tip tanks.


On 1 May 1951, the 318th was redesignated as the 318th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (318th FIS). The 318th would later hold the "Fighter-Interceptor" moniker longer than any squadron in the Air Force. In the Summer of 1951, the 318th along with the 317th and the Moses Lake based 319th FIS, deployed to Edwards AFB in California aerial gunnery practice, this was the first deployment for a combat unit using radar reflecting ranging systems towed by F-82's. While in Edwards, the squadrons downed more than 80 targets and expended some 40,000 rounds of ammunition during the record setting deployment.


On 9 October 1952, one of the more devastating accidents involving the 318th occurred in the squadrons F-94 era. During a routine training intercept, a 318th FIS F-94 collided with a B-29 from the 5th Bombardment Wing, Travis AFB, CA killing eleven on board of the bomber, the F-94 was able to return to McChord.


The 318th fought through a tough competition against its Divisional sister squadrons to earn a spot in the ADC's first Aerial Gunnery Meet, (forerunner to the William Tell Weapons Meet). Although the squadron did not win the meet (which was won by the 354th FIS flying the venerable North American F-51 Mustang), it was the beginning of a impressive run for all fighter - interceptor squadrons attending nine of the eighteen Air Defense Weapons Competitions, a feat not matched by any other squadron in the Air Force.


Moving from the mild Pacific Northwest to the Arctic climates of Thule AB, Greenland, the 318th flew the F-94B Starfire at the base for a little over one year.


In the middle of 1953, the Green Dragons would begin a journey where they would serve as the "tip" of the air defense "spear" against a mass Soviet bomber raid with a move to Thule Air Base, Greenland replacing an alert detachment from the 59th FIS consisting of a flight of four F-94 aircraft. Thule, a base created to prevent another "Pearl Harbor", is 2752 miles from Moscow, and 900 miles from the North Pole. In preparation for their move to the frozen north, the Squadron began a transition out of the F-94A and into the F-94B, an upgraded version of the Starfire.


On 9 June 1953, the first of 3 flights of F-94's left McChord on a 10,000 mile trip to Thule AB, while other members of the squadron, including maintenance personnel, traveled by rail to New York where they would board a ship destined for Greenland. No families were allowed to accompany squadron personnel on their one-year rotation. The Green Dragons completed their move from McChord and the Continental Air Command (ConAC) and officially aligned under the Northeast Air Command on 20 June 1953.

Next page: The F-89 Era (1954 - 1955)