THE F-106 ERA (1960 - 1983)

The "Ultimate Interceptor" the Convair F-106 was flown by the 318th FIS for almost 24 years.


Many changes were in store for the 318th in the month of March 1960. On 15 March, the 64th FIS flying F-102's changed stations, moving from McChord to Paine Field near Everett, WA, the squadron had been co-located at McChord with the 318th since 15 August 1957. The largest change for the 318th occurred on March 24, 1960, as two of the USAF's most advanced Interceptors, the Convair F-106 Delta Dart (s/n 59-0050 & 59-0051) landed at McChord. The F-106 fresh off a World Speed Record of 1,525.95 set on 25 December 1959, replaced the squadrons F-102A / TF-102A Delta Daggers.


The F-106, equipped with advanced fire control system that, in concert with the SAGE radar system (activated at McChord in 1960), could automatically intercept approaching enemy intruders. Lastly, 325th Fighter Group would deactivate on 25 March ending a 15-year relationship with the 318th that began in WWII. With the deactivation of the 325th FG, the 318th would directly report to the 325th Fighter Wing.  


With all of the changes at the squadron, many felt a new tail design was needed to match the performance of the new fighter. In June of 1963 the "North Star" insignia was born  devised by 318th pilot 1st Lt. Gary K. Carroll who in 1971 the then Major would win a Distinguished Flying Cross while flying a forward air control mission over Southeast Asia.


On 1 July 1963, the Green Dragons would share the ramps of McChord with another F-106 squadron, the 498th FIS "Geiger Tigers" from Geiger AFB, near Spokane, WA. A seasoned unit in the F-106, the 498th was the second squadron to receive and the first to become operational and stand alert with the aircraft.


F-106's from the 318th & 498th Fighter-Interceptor Squadrons arrive at Elmendorf AFB, AK to stand alert in "Operation White Shoes". To streamline maintenance and training at McChord, the 498th (exchanged their older F-106's with the newer model of F-106 from the 456th FIS in Oxnard AFB, CA, which flew a similar model as the 318th FIS.


On 15 July 1963, in a effort to strengthen the air defense of Alaska, ten F-106's from the 318th & 498th Fighter-Interceptor Squadrons would deploy to Alaska supplementing the F-102's of the 317th FIS. The operation codenamed "White Shoes" would call for the squadrons to maintain 24-hour strip alerts at Elmendorf AFB, King Salmon, and Galena Airfields.


F-106A’s on alert in Alaska routinely intercepted Russian long-range reconnaissance aircraft including an occasional “interaction” with Soviet MiG-21’s. On 8 September 1963, deployed F-106's would intercept two Soviet TU-16 "Badgers" bombers over the Bering Seas off the northwest coast of Alaska. The 318th and 498th flying in Detachment 1, 325th Fighter Wing, maintained a continuous rotation until December 1965 in this operation (later renamed "College Shoes"). Additional F-106 squadrons across the Air Defense Command assisted in this deployment until its end in October 1970.


During the increased operation tempo of the White Shoes deployment, the 318th was proficient enough to win the shoot-off competition named Operation Runway, an event that gave the chance to compete in the 1963 edition of the William Tell Weapons Meet. The skillful airmanship and great maintenance of the Green Dragons continued at William Tell, with the unit winning the F-106 Division of the event, with the 318th being named as the "World champion F-106 Squadron". Two years later, the Green Dragons would compete in William Tell 1965, unfortunately not with the same result; the squadron came in 4th place.


Green Dragons return home victorious after winning the F-106 category of the 1963 William Tell. (L-R) Capt Alan L. Lomax, Capt Charles Schaut (team alternate), Lt Col Howard S. Askelson (Team Leader and Sq Commander), Capt Lawrence D. Haight, and Capt James M. Jordan (not pictured - Capt Donald R. Thiel, second alternate)


In September of 1965, Detachment 2, 325th Fighter Wing was established at Walla Walla City/County Airport in Washington State. The 318th & 498th Fighter-Interceptor Squadrons assumed the alert responsibilities in the southeast Washington area performed by the Portland based 337th Fighter Wing. Air Defense unit had maintained presence at the airport since 1962.  In June of 1966, the 498th FIS would transfer to Paine AFB replacing the Southeast Asia bound 64th FIS With the move, the 498th would be realigned under the 57th Fighter Group at Paine.


During the mid to late 60’s, modifications to increase the capabilities of the F-106 were underway, with two of those upgrades, supersonic wing tanks and in-flight refueling, being added in late 1967, with the F-106's of the 318th being the first unit. On 20 November 1967, ten Green Dragon F-106's using their new in flight refueling capability, flew a non-stop flight from McChord to Tyndall AFB FL successfully intercepting drone targets with live air-to-air missiles. The squadron's mission was the longest non-stop flight for the F-106 at that time.


On January 15, 1968, Air Defense Command was redesignated as Aerospace Defense Command (ADCOM), this change was a result of the Commands shift of focus from bomber defense to a an expanded mission detecting and tracking ballistic missiles, space satellites and enemy aircraft over United States airspace. With these new tasks in mind, ADCOM developed a plan to prepare their F-106 squadrons for potential combat. In 1967 program named “College Cadence” created an ADC quick reaction force from the 318th and 3 other Fighter-Interceptor Squadrons. At a moment's notice, the aircraft could be call upon in an emergency. That situation came about early 1968.


During their Korean deployment, personnel and aircraft of the 318th were protected by members of the Republic of North Korean Army. Based at Osan AB Korea, the squadron was less than four minutes (by air) from the Korean border.


An already tenuous situation for the US in Southeast Asia became worse after the capture of the US Navy's USS Pueblo and her crew by the North Korean military on 23 January 1968. With a great deal of the USAF’s tactical assets tied up in the war in Southeast Asia, the F-106 was called upon to defend the airspace over Korea. In a secretive movement ASSOCIADE, the 318th with the assistance of C-141's from the 62d Military Airlift Wing at McChord, deployed 18 F-106's and 400 personnel to Osan AB, on 9 February 1968 history’s first combat deployment of an ADC F-106 Fighter-Interceptor Squadron and the first using the F-106’s new in-flight refueling capability.


 As the 318th left for Korea, 6 aircraft were held back from the Korean deployment to maintain the squadrons alert commitment of the Pacific Northwest. Later, F-106's from the  Langley AFB based 48th FIS would temporarily moved to McChord to assist in the 318ths air defense commitment.


The squadron was not only stationed at Osan AB, about 1/3 of the deployed maintenance members were stationed at Naha AB, Okinawa Japan while a few others were assigned to Kadena AB, Japan all eventually massing at Osan. Initial deployment orders called for the squadron to be overseas for 189 days, as the deployment carried on; there was some question if the Green Dragons would return at all. If the 318th moved to Korea, most of the rumors involved the squadron's former wingmate, the 498th FIS returning to the McChord to replace the 318th at the base. Rather than moving the Paine based 498th "Tigers" to McChord, it was decided to deactivate the squadron and move its F-106's to Hamilton AFB to form the 84th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron.


After 6 months in Korea, the 318th was replaced by members of the 48th FIS. The 318th returned to McChord without their F-106, leaving the aircraft behind for use with the 48th, who used the F-106's during the squadron's entire College Cadence deployment. On April 16, 1970, the Joint Chiefs of Staff recommended ending the College Cadence deployments with the last F-106 unit, the 95th FIS returning to their home base on May 1, 1970.

Next page: F-106 Era - Aerospace Defense Command (1968-1979)