THE F-106 ERA (1960 - 1983)

PHOTO FROM "Erv Smalley's & Marty Isham's Convair F-106 Delta Dart" www.convairf-106deltadart.com/

"Balls 4" or 59-0004 wearing the three bands which composes a "Command Stripe" which identifies the commanders aircraft. F-106 59-0004 served as the squadrons flagship, until it was destroyed in the last crash on 24 June 1980 - this was the last crash (Class A) of a 318th FIS aircraft.


After a gradual decline of the number of assigned units, the Aerospace Defense Command inactivated on October 1, 1979 moving all of Command's fighter-interceptor squadrons, including the 318th FIS, Tactical Air Command (TAC). All of the former ADC fighter-interceptor squadrons would realign under a newly created unit in TAC, the Air Defense, Tactical Air Command (ADTAC) headquartered at Langley AFB, VA.


For the first time in 1979, the 318th and a number of other fighter-interceptor squadrons were invited to fly as aggressors in "Giant Voice", a Strategic Air Command bombing competition whose mission was to improve the skills of the Commands bomber crews.  In the 1979 edition of Giant Voice, the 318th was one of the leaders in intercepts "downing" B-52's, FB-111's, and the British Vulcan Bomber. The 1980 competition, was a re-run of the year before, a dominate performance by the Green Dragons. As it has done in the past, the Green Dragons bested all competitors in the interceptor phase of the competition by downing every bomber attempting to penetrating their zone of defense, winning Squadron the overall and "Top Gun" Trophies.


Fifteen minutes before midnight on 24 June 1980, Capt. Mark "Rock" Van Stone lined his F-106A, s/n 59-0004, towards the McChord runway after a 1 hour 25 minute mission, suddenly a bright ball a flame was seen in the direction of the returning F-106. Upon arriving to the scene (a wooded area two miles south of the McChord runway), Crash Rescue crews realized their worst fears, finding the flaming mid section of the airplane the only part recognizable of the speedy interceptor. Van Stone, a recent addition to the squadron fresh from an assignment flying Aggressor T-33's in Alaska, did not survive the crash. After investigation, a rapid and sudden wind shift and problems with the bases approach radar cold have contributed to the accident.  This incident was the last loss of a pilot or aircraft for the 318th FIS.


In January 1981, elements of the Green Dragons flew north to Alaska's Eielson AFB to participate in US Readiness Command's multi-service exercise code named Brim Frost. The arctic operation involving personnel and equipment from active and reserve units Army, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Navy tests the US military's ability to fight jointly in a cold weather environment. For almost a month F-106's from the 318th protected the aerospace above the expansive Alaskan training ranges for "Blue" force A-10s, F-111s, and T-33s during the employment phase of Brim Frost 81.


On the "Echo" ramp in front of squadron operations, a 318th FIS pilot runs through his checklist before the next mission. After ADCOM was absorbed by TAC, unit insignias were moved to the nose of the F-106's, in this picture, the squadron was in the latter stages of replacing the right side "Green Dragon" insignia with a "ADTAC" shield.


Because of a long overdue reconstruction/ resurfacing of busy runways at McChord, it was necessary to temporally relocate the 318th to Fairchild AFB located in Spokane WA. Beginning on July 9 with assistance from C-141s from the McChord based 62d Military Airlift Wing 150 personnel and equipment deployed to Fairchild an effort named "Delta Gambit 81" completing the lat flight on the July. On July 13, two F-106s flying from McChord landed at Fairchild and taxied straight into their new alert facility to begin to perform their NORAD alert commitment. A short time 2 F-106 piloted by 318th FIS Commander Lt Col Patrick Gamble & the Squadron Director of Operations Lt Col Norman Komnick lead 11 additional F-106 to Fairchild marking the beginning of a 60 day deployment.


During the Fairchild AFB deployment, it was business as usually including a two-week air-to air combat deployment to Tyndall AFB. With runway repairs complete, the squadron returned to McChord from September 15 through 17.


In an effort to increase the effectiveness of F-106 squadrons across the nation, ADTAC deactivated the Castle AFB based 84th FIS, distributing the squadron's aircraft to the remaining F-106 squadrons. Over the next few months, a waterfall of detachment moves would take place to cover the aerospace once defended by the 84th. The Green Dragons alert detachment, Det. 1, 318 FIS located at Kingsley Field, OR was selected to move to Castle, with the Oregon Air National Guard's 142d FIG/123d FIS "Redhawks" replacing the 318th. The transfer of the 318th alert detachment was delayed for four months to allow time for the 123d FIS's conversion from the F-101B/F into the F-4C. As interim measure, F-106s from the Montana ANG stood-in for the 318th. With the Redhawks conversion complete 318th FIS F-106A's s/n 57-0243 & 59-0147 landed at Castle AFB, and rolled into the new home away from home beginning their mission as the "Defenders of the Golden Gate" on 1 October 1981.  


In March 1982, six F-106s and 56 personnel deployed to Boise Air Terminal, ID in Checker Flag '82, a exercise  where Tactical Air Command units practice deploying from their home station to a disperse location to test their efficiently in a wartime environment. On 1 June 1982, four F-106's flying in the William Tell Shoot-off competition topped all ADTAC F-106 squadrons and won the right to participate in William Tell 1982 after a 6-year hiatus. The 318th FIS was set to return to their last William Tell Weapons Meet flying in the F-106.


Buttoned up for the night 318th FIS F-106's are line up behind F-15Cs the eventual winners of William Tell '82 from the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing Kadena AB, Japan.


From 15 through 21 July, the 318th interceptors participated in one of the largest live flying exercises in North America. The exercise named Amalgam Chief was designed to train NORAD personnel throughout the entire air defense structure from the radar network through the frontline interceptors. Amalgam Chief was being held in conjunction with the Strategic Air Command's large Global Shield exercise, an operation that involved hundreds of missiles, bombers, tankers, from across the country. During Amalgam Chief, target aircraft acting as attackers would be detected, tracked, and intercepted from various NORAD associated bases.


After months of preparation, William Tell '82 began at Tyndall AFB on 8 October. In this edition of the competition the highly touted McDonnell-Douglas F-15 Eagle made its first appearance, many thought the elderly F-106's would not have a chance in that year's meet. With the deck stacked against them, the 318th proved their doubters wrong. The competition started well for the 318th as Pilot Capt Ron Dufresne made the first kill of the competition hitting a towed target in less than 58 seconds. In the most realistic mission (Profile IV - a "mass raid" scenario) where four aircraft defend a selected area from intruders (manned QF-100s, T-33s, and PQM-102 drones) entering at various altitudes, team pilots intercepted 11 of 12 aircraft.


After contributions from pilots such as 318th Commander (and Team leader) Lt Col Pat Gamble (flying a perfect mission), Squadron Maintenance (achieving a perfect score) and the Weapons load team (receiving a perfect score in a record setting time) the Green Dragons amassed a score high enough to tie the Competitions top Squadron (flying F-15's) for the lead. On the Green Dragon final mission at William Tell 82, everything that could go wrong did go wrong.


During make-up flights for "Profile II", random missiles issued to the squadron failed to "lock-on" to their targets - no score for the 318th. On the next day one another make up flight for "Profile III" started off on  badly with one of the squadrons F-106's failed to start leading to a "ground abort", after 4 318th F-106s reach the air only the backup pilot achieved a "hit" and score. By the end of the day the 318th found itself in in 9th place (out of 13) finishing second in the F-106 category.


About two months before her last flight with the 318th F-106 (s/n 59-0141) is pictured with the one of the newly arrived F-15As (s/n 76-0098) and a T-33A  (s/n 55-4386) in this photo-op by Mt Rainer.


From August 1 through 21st, the 318th was back at Tyndall AFB in their highly successful weapons and Air Combat Maneuvering Instrumentation (ACMI) deployment. In "Combat Pike", the squadron annually tests each of its F-106s capability to fire live weapons as well as providing realistic training in a combat environment in Tyndall's ACMI range.


After many year of debate over a replacement for the trusty F-106, the USAF selected the F-15 Eagle over the Grumman F-14 Tomcat as the next interceptor for TAC's interceptor squadrons. The first fighter-interceptor squadron selected to receive the F-15 was the 48th FIS at Langley, VA, receiving their first aircraft in 1982, the second squadron was to be the 318th in the following year. 


With the arrival of their first F-15 weeks away, the 318th FIS lost its first F-106, S/N 59-0057, to the "Boneyard" at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ on 1 June 1983. F-106A -057 was a squadron veteran, having been stationed with the 318th all of its 23 years on Active duty. The rain that day set the mood of the squadron, -057 seemed to know what was in her future as the pilot Capt. Tim Murphy, failed to get the trusty interceptor started. After the powerful J-75 engine of the F-106 started, Capt Murphy taxied the fighter by lines of 318th FIS members paying their last respects, moments later -057 lifted off the McChord runway for the last time.


On 10 June 1983, a large crowd of onlookers witnessed the changing of the guard of the air defense. In a symbolic passing of the torch, two F-106s escorted the first of 24 McDonnell Douglas F-15's (F-15B S/N 76-0141) to be assigned to the 318th FIS. On the second pass over the crowd, the F-15 flew in the lead position, assuming the role as "Defender of the Great Northwest" at McChord and the "Defenders of the Golden Gate" at Castle AFB, CA.  


With her 318th FIS markings removed s/n59-0141, takes off from McChord for the final time as the 20th F-106 retired to the Arizona desert. Unlike many of the other 318th F-106s -0141 would not be acquired by another squadron, she would spend 8 years in storage before being the 134 F-106 converted into a full-sized target drone in 1991. Over the next 17 months -0141  would fly 5 unmanned missions, before being shot down by a shoulder fired Stinger Missile.


During the busy conversion, the squadron was expected to run as normal, that test was under way in early July. About every 18 months US Air Force units level of readiness is tested in what is known as a Operational Readiness Inspection or ORI - no exceptions for units undergoing conversions, but this fact was not an issue, the 318th did very well under the pressure of inspection teams.


On 4 November 1983, 318th pilot Lt. Col. Peter Bracci flew McChord's last F-106 (S/N 59-0141) to the Arizona military aircraft "Boneyard". After delivery, Lt Col Bracci would move to Det. 1, 5th FIS at Davis Monthan. About two-thirds of the squadron, including the Commander Lt Col Gamble, would leave the squadron to other squadrons either F-106s or other aircraft they would be replaced by trained F-15 personnel the remaining one-third would retrain into the F-15.


As a symbol to the importance the Delta Dart has played in the history of McChord, the 318th presented the McChord Air Museum with an F-106; s/n 56-0459 formerly involved in the types World Speed Record in 1959. In a 13 December 1983 ceremony, new Squadron Commander Lt Col Gordie Breault and -0459's last pilot Capt Randy Neville and last Crew Chief  Amahad McGee presented the freshly painted F-106 to Museum Air Museum Administrator Fred Johnson.

Next page: The F-15 Era (1983 - 1989)