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The 131st Fighter Squadron is a unit of the Massachusetts Air National Guard 104th Fighter Wing located at Barnes Air National Guard Base, Westfield, Massachusetts. The 131st is equipped with the F-15C/D Eagle.

131st Fighter Squadron
131st Fighter Squadron – McDonnell Douglas F-15C-21-MC Eagle 78-0476
Active1942–1946; 1946–present
Country United States
Allegiance Massachusetts
Branch  Air National Guard
Part ofMassachusetts Air National Guard
Garrison/HQBarnes Air National Guard Base, Westfield, Massachusetts
EngagementsPacific Ocean Theater
DecorationsAir Force Outstanding Unit Award[1]
131st Fighter Squadron emblem
131st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron emblem
333d Fighter Squadron emblem[2]
Tail CodeMA Red tail stripe


World War II

The squadron was first established in August 1942 at Bellows Field, Hawaii Territory as the 333d Fighter Squadron. It was initially part of the air defense of Hawaii, equipped with P-39 Airacobras. It also served as a Replacement Training Unit (RTU) and flew reconnaissance patrols over Hawaii until late 1943.

The 333d deployed to the Central Pacific as part of the Thirteenth Air Force island hopping campaign against Japanese in late 1943. It engaged in combat with the Japanese until April 1944, returning to Hawaii and being re-equipped and trained with long-range P-51 Mustangs. The squadron redeployed to the Western Pacific, and was stationed on Iwo Jima while the battle for the island was still ongoing and engaged in long-range B-29 Superfortress escort missions over Japan. It continued that mission until the end of hostilities in August 1945. The unit was reassigned to the Mariana Islands, as a Far East Air Forces fighter squadron, and was inactivated there in 1946.

Massachusetts Air National Guard

The wartime 333d Fighter Squadron was redesignated the 131st Fighter Squadron, and was allotted to the Massachusetts Air National Guard, on 24 May 1946. It was organized at Barnes Municipal Airport, Westfield, Massachusetts, and was extended federal recognition on 24 February 1947. The squadron was equipped with P-47D Thunderbolts and was assigned to the Massachusetts National Guard 102d Fighter Group.

In 1950, the Massachusetts ANG converted to the wing-base (Hobson Plan) organization. As a result, the 67th Fighter Wing was withdrawn from the Air National Guard and inactivated on 31 October 1950. In its place, the 102d Fighter Group was assigned to the newly activated 102d Fighter Wing, however there was no change in mission to the 131st and it remained assigned to the 102d Fighter Group.

Air Defense Mission

The mission of the 131st Fighter Squadron was the air defense of Massachusetts. With the surprise invasion of South Korea on 25 June 1950, and the regular military's lack of readiness, most of the Air National Guard was federalized placed on active duty. The 131st was retained by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to maintain the air defense mission. In 1951, the F-47s were retired to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and the 131st was re-equipped with the F-51H Mustang Very Long Range fighter. With its air defense mission, the 131st was redesignated as the 131st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron.

131st Tactical Fighter Squadron – North American F-86H Sabre 52-2030
131st Tactical Fighter Squadron – North American F-86H Sabre 52-2030

Beginning on 1 March 1953, the 131st placed two F-51H fighters and five pilots on air defense "runway alert" from one hour before sunrise to one hour after sunset. The runway alert program was the first broad effort to integrate reserve forces into a major Air Force operational mission on a volunteer basis during peacetime. In 1954, the Mustangs were reaching the end of their service life, and the 131st entered the Jet Age when it received F-94A Starfire interceptors.

After the Korean War, the Massachusetts Air Guard began to modernize and expand. On 1 May 1956 the 102d wing was redesignated as the 102d Air Defense Wing and the Guard units at Barnes were authorized to expand to a group level, and the 104th Fighter Group (Air Defense) was established, with the 131st becoming the group's flying squadron. Other squadrons assigned into the group were the 104th Material Squadron, 104th Air Base Squadron, and the 104th USAF Infirmary. The 104th, along with the 102d Fighter Group (Air Defense) at Logan Airport, Boston began attending annual training at Otis Air Force Base.

Tactical Air Command

The squadron's air defense mission ended on 10 November 1958 when the Massachusetts Air Guard and its units were reassigned to Tactical Air Command (TAC) and converted to F-86H Sabre fighter-bombers. During the 1950s and early 1960s, better training and equipment, and closer relations with the Air Force improved the readiness of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.

1961 Berlin Federalization

During the summer of 1961, as the 1961 Berlin Crisis unfolded, the 131st Tactical Fighter Squadron was notified on 16 August of its pending federalization and call to active duty. On 1 October the 131st was federalized and assigned to the 102d Tactical Fighter Wing, which was federalized and placed on active duty at Otis Air Force Base.

The mission of the 102d wing was to reinforce the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) and deploy units to Phalsbourg-Bourscheid Air Base, France. In France, the units were to provide close air support and air interdiction to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) ground forces. This involved keeping its aircraft on 24/7 alert. Between 28 and 30 October, wing elements departed Otis AFB for Phalsbourg. The wing deployed 82 F-86H Sabres. In addition 2 C-47 Skytrain and 6 T-33 Shooting Star aircraft were assigned to the wing for support and training purposes.

131st TFS F-100D 55-2830
131st TFS F-100D 55-2830

Starting on 5 December, the 131st began deploying to Wheelus Air Base Libya for gunnery training. During its time in Europe, the squadron participated in several USAF and NATO exercises, including a deployment to Leck Air Base, West Germany near the Danish border. At Leck, ground and support crews from both countries exchanged duties, learning how to perform aircraft maintenance and operational support tasks.

On 7 May 1962, Seventeenth Air Force directed that the elements of the 102d wing deploy back to the United States during the summer, and the unit returned to the United States in July 1962. Regular USAF personnel, along with a group of Air National Guard personnel who volunteered to remain on active duty formed the 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron of the newly activated 366th Tactical Fighter Wing. The last of the ANG aircraft departing on 20 July.

Vietnam era

After the Berlin Crisis, the readiness status of the 104th Tactical Fighter Group improved under the "gaining command concept", whereby the regular Air Force Tactical Air Command was responsible for overseeing the training of the group. Operational readiness inspections also honed the edges of the wing.

In 1964, the 131st switched from F-86H Sabres to the F-84F Thunderstreak. Exactly why this equipment change was made can not be determined. The F-86H was a viable aircraft in the ANG's inventory, with the Sabres from both the 101st and 131st Tactical Fighter Squadrons being sent to the New Jersey ANG, and the 119th and 141st Tactical Fighter Squadrons sending their F-84Fs to the Massachusetts squadrons. The 131st flew the Thunderstreaks throughout the 1960s, and although the squadron was not activated during the Vietnam War, several of its pilots volunteered for combat duty in Southeast Asia. In 1971, the 104th began re-equipping with the F-100D Super Sabre; the Air Guard was always one generation of fighter aircraft behind the Air Force during this time.

Close Air Support

The 104th remained as a tactical fighter unit flying the F-100 until July 1979 when the F-100s were retired and the unit was re-equipped with new A-10 Thunderbolt IIs as part of the "Total Force" concept which equipped ANG units with front-line USAF aircraft. This marked the first time the 131st had received new aircraft.

131st Tactical Fighter Squadron A-10 78-0628
131st Tactical Fighter Squadron A-10 78-0628

For most of its existence, the Air Guard had been a reserve force for federal use only in wartime or national emergency. By the 1980s, the Air Guard was an integral part of daily Air Force operations in what was called "The Total Force Policy" of the United States Department of Defense (DoD). As a result, the Massachusetts Air Guard took on more missions. With the receipt of the A-10, the 131st began a commitment to USAFE, beginning frequent deployments to West Germany, England, Italy, Turkey, and other NATO bases.

In 1990 the 131st was programmed to receive the specialized Block 10 F-16A/B Fighting Falcon, also referred to as the F/A-16 due to its close air support configuration. The 1990 Gulf Crisis, however, delayed this transition. During Operation Desert Storm, the F/A-16 was battle tested and it was discovered that the close air support F-16 project was a failure. Subsequently, the conversion of the squadron was cancelled in 1993, and the 131st remained an A-10 Thunderbolt II close air support squadron.

Air Combat Command

In March 1992, the unit was redesignated as the 131st Fighter Squadron. In June, Tactical Air Command was inactivated and was replaced by Air Combat Command (ACC). In 1995, the 104th adopted the Air Force Objective Organization plan and the 104th Fighter Group became a Wing, and the 131st was assigned to the new 104th Operations Group.

Two 131st Fighter Squadron A-10s in flight
Two 131st Fighter Squadron A-10s in flight

From August to October 1995, some 400 Airmen of the 104th Fighter Wing deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy as part of the NATO mission to repel Serbian forces in Bosnia. This was the first time that the 131st Fighter Squadron flew combat sorties since World War II. Four years later, in 1999, elements of the 104th mobilized and flew sorties over the skies of the former Republic of Yugoslavia. As part of an Air Guard A-10 group, the 131st attacked Serb forces in Kosovo.

In mid-1996, the Air Force, in response to budget cuts, and changing world situations, began experimenting with Air Expeditionary organizations. The Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) concept was developed that would mix Active-Duty, Reserve and Air National Guard elements into a combined force, instead of entire permanent units deploying as in the 1991 Gulf War, Expeditionary units are composed of "aviation packages" from several wings, including active-duty Air Force, the Air Force Reserve Command and the Air National Guard, would be married together to carry out the assigned deployment rotation.

As a result of the Global War on Terrorism, in 2003, the 131st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron flew hundreds of combat missions with the A-10 in support of U.S. Army and Marine operations in Afghanistan (Operation Enduring Freedom) and Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom). During March and April 2003, as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom, 131st Fighter Squadron A-10s supported the U.S. Army by flying combat missions that interdicted enemy forces.

The 131st Fighter Squadron's complement of F-15C airframes with the units distinctive red tail markings
The 131st Fighter Squadron's complement of F-15C airframes with the units distinctive red tail markings

BRAC 2005

In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended that the 131st send its A-10s to the Maryland Air National Guard 104th Fighter Squadron at Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Maryland. In return, the 131st received the F-15C/D Eagles of the 102d Fighter Wing at Otis AFB, which was to convert into a non-flying Intelligence Wing. The realignment marked the end for the 131st's nearly 30-year mission of flying close-air support missions with the A-10. The 131st took over the homeland security mission of the 102d. In 2007, the A-10s began flying to Maryland and the F-15s began arriving from Otis AFB. By the end of 2007, eighteen F-15Cs and a trainer F-15D had arrived at Barnes.

In addition to the air defense mission, the men and women of the 131st Fighter Squadron deploy on air expeditionary missions to the Middle East in support of combat operations as part of Operation Enduring Freedom. The last such deployment was completed in July 2012.


Activated on 23 August 1942
Inactivated on 12 January 1946
Activated on 18 December 1946
Extended federal recognition on 24 February 1947
Redesignated 131st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron on 16 August 1952
Redesignated 131st Tactical Fighter Squadron (Day) on 10 November 1958
Federalized and placed on active duty on 1 October 1961
Released from active duty and returned to Massachusetts control on 31 August 1962
Redesignated 131st Tactical Fighter Squadron c. 15 October 1962
Redesignated 131st Fighter Squadron on 1 June 1992
Deployed as the 131st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron to Trapani Birgi Air Base, Italy from 17 May 1999 to 7 June 1999 and to Aviano Air Base, Italy from January 2003 to October 2003.



Massachusetts Air National Guard deployments




  1. "Air Force Personnel Services: Unit Awards". Air Force Personnel Center. Retrieved 17 October 2020. (search)
  2. Watkins, p. 32
  3. Lineage, inbcluding assignments, stations and aircraft, through May 1946 in Maurer, Combat Squadrons, p. 411.


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

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