Updated March 2018
The primary mission of the 388th Fighter Wing is to maintain combat readiness to deploy, employ, and sustain F-35A Lightning II aircraft worldwide in support of the national defense. The 388 FW is assigned to Air Combat Command, Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, and below that, Twelfth Air Force, Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona. ACC’s mission is to provide the world’s best combat air forces, delivering rapid, decisive air power, anytime, anywhere.
Personnel and Resources
There are approximately 1,700 airmen and civilian professionals assigned to the 388 FW. The wing employs F-35A Lightning IIs, and is scheduled to grow to seventy-eight total aircraft by the end of 2019.
The 388th Operations Group is comprised of three fighter squadrons and the Operations Support Squadron. The 4th FS, the “Fightin’ Fuujins,” is currently building out its F-35A capability. The 34th FS, the “Rude Rams,” fly the F-35A as the first operational squadron in the Air Force flying that fifth-generation multi-role fighter. The 421st FS, the “Black Widows,” will receive their first F-35 as the 4th FS receives its final one, currently scheduled for Fall 2018. The 388th OSS is responsible for operational planning, pilot training and flight scheduling, intelligence, weapons and tactics development, mobility, life support activities, and personnel management for the 388th OG.
The 388th Maintenance Group is currently composed of two squadrons. The 388th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron provides on-aircraft maintenance for the F-35. The 388th Maintenance Squadron provides back-shop maintenance for the F-35.
The Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR) is managed by its Headquarters unit (HQ UTTR), a group equivalent within the wing structure. It manages all aspects of training, equipment and weapons testing, and maintenance for the vast range lying in Utah’s west desert.
The 388th Bombardment Group (Heavy) activated at Gowen Field, Idaho on Dec. 24, 1942, and relocated to the Royal Air Force Base at Knettishall, England between June 1943 and the end of World War II. Equipped with B-17 bombers, the group flew 306 missions over Europe, and received two distinguished unit citations. It attacked German ball-bearing and aircraft production, naval yards, and synthetic oil plants, and supported the Allied landings at Normandy. At the end of the war the group dropped food and supplies over Northern Europe, after which it inactivated at the end of August 1945.
On 23 March 1953, the 388th Fighter Day Wing was established, but not equipped, at Clovis AFB, New Mexico. It was redesignated the 388th Fighter-Bomber Wing on 5 November of that year, and then activated on 23 November. Simultaneously, the 388th BG(H) activated and was redesignated the 388th Fighter-Bomber Group. It formed the operational core of this new wing, equipped with F-86 Sabres, and later, F-100 Super Sabres. The 388th relocated to Etain-Rouvres Air Base, France in late 1954, where it remained until 1957, when it inactivated.
The wing again activated on 1 May 1962 at McConnell AFB, Kansas and was redesignated the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing. Trained on the F-105 Thunderchief, the wing inactivated again in February 1964, but was quickly reorganized and activated again on 14 March 1966, stationed at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand. Flying first the F-105, and then the F-4 Phantom II, the wing flew more than 60,000 hours over Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam from 1966-1973. It continued to support U.S. operations in Southeast Asia after the ceasefire with North Vietnam, and participated in the recovery of the S.S. Mayaguez in May 1975. The wing departed from Korat RTAFB in December 1975, taking with it a Presidential Unit Citation, eight Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards with combat valor devices, and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm.
Restationed at Hill AFB, Utah, the 388th TFW continued to fly the F-4, but in April 1977 the Air Force announced that the wing would be the first to be equipped with the new F-16 Fighting Falcon. That multi-role fighter arrived in 1979. The wing deployed its F-16s to several North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) countries during the 1980s, won the RAF bombing competition in 1981, and won the worldwide USAF GUNSMOKE competition twice, in 1987 and 1993.
From August 1990-March 1991, the wing deployed its squadrons in support of U.S. and Allied combat efforts in Operations DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM, the response to Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. The wing flew four thousand sorties during DESERT STORM, with no losses. After the war the wing continued to deploy elements of its combat squadrons to support postwar treaty enforcement in Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. Shortly after the Gulf War ended, on 1 Oct 1991 the 388th was redesignated the 388th Fighter Wing.
After 11 September 2001, the wing added to its deployment duties participation in Operation NOBLE EAGLE, the defense of U.S. airspace, which included providing security over the games of the Salt Lake City Olympics in 2002. After Operation IRAQI FREEDOM began 2003, the wing deployed its three fighter squadrons and personnel in support of that mission until its end on 31 Aug 2010. In 2009 the wing began deploying F-16s to Bagram AB, Afghanistan in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, and continued to support operations in that country as part of Operation Freedom’s Sentinel until 2016.
The wing was selected to fly the new F-35 Lightning II fighter in December 2013, with the first to arrive at the base unveiled on 2 September 2015. In 2010 the wing’s 34th Fighter Squadron inactivated. It activated again in 2015 in order to equip the new airframe. As the 4th and 421st FSs carried the operational load with singular dedication, the 34th FS and the 388th MXG trained on the new fighter and executed the wing’s plan to achieve Initial Operating Capability in accordance with the directive of the Commander of Air Combat Command, accomplished on Aug. 2, 2016. The 421st FS was the last squadron to fly the F-16, and its final jets departed for other wings in September 2017. It will follow the 34th and the 4th in receiving the F-35, reaching its own operational capability in 2019.