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131st Fighter Squadron
131st Fighter Squadron - McDonnell Douglas F-15C-21-MC Eagle 78-0476.jpg
131st Fighter Squadron - McDonnell Douglas F-15C-21-MC Eagle 78-0476
Active 1942-Present
Country  United States
Allegiance  Massachusetts
Branch US-AirNationalGuard-2007Emblem.svg  Air National Guard
Type Squadron
Role Fighter
Part of Massachusetts Air National Guard
Garrison/HQ Barnes Air National Guard Base, Westfield, Massachusetts
Nickname(s) Barnestormers
Tail Code "MA" Red tail stripe
131st Fighter Squadron emblem 131st Fighter Squadron emblem.jpg

The 131st Fighter Squadron (131 FS) 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.


World War II[]

Established in August 1942 at Bellows Army Airfield, Hawaii Territory. Initially part of the air defense of Hawaii, equipped with P-39 Aircobras. Also used as a Replacement Training Unit (RTU), flew reconnaissance patrols over Hawaii until late 1943.

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

Massachusetts Air National Guard[]

The wartime 333d Fighter Squadron was re-designated as 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 by the National Guard Bureau. The 131st Fighter Squadron was bestowed the lineage, history, honors, and colors of the 333d Fighter Squadron. The squadron was equipped with F-47D Thunderbolts and was assigned to the Massachusetts ANG 102d Fighter Group.

The postwar era was a time of organization and expansion of the Air National Guard. The units had to be organized, federally recognized, equipped and stationed. The first several years were difficult as units had to contend with worn-out World War II aircraft while the Air Force converted to modern jet fighters. Air Guard units were under-funded and largely left to themselves to conduct training with little assistance and supervision by the Air Force. However, as a result of using wartime aircraft, parts were no problem and many of the maintenance personnel were World War II veterans so readiness was quite high and the planes were often much better maintained than their USAF counterparts. In some ways, the postwar Air National Guard was almost like a flying country club and a pilot could often show up at the field, check out an aircraft and go flying. However, the unit also had regular military exercises that kept up proficiency and in gunnery and bombing contests they would often score at least as well or better than active-duty USAF units, given the fact that most ANG pilots were World War II combat veterans.

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 expanded to a 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 complete 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 AFB for retirement and the 131st was re-equipped with the F-51H Mustang Very Long Range fighter. With its air defense mission, the 131st was re-designated as a Fighter-Interceptor squadron. 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 was re-designated as the 102d Air Defense Wing and the 131st FIS was authorized to expand to a group level, and the 104th Fighter Group (Air Defense) was established by the National Guard Bureau. The 131st FIS becoming the group's flying squadron. Other squadrons assigned into the group were the 104th Headquarters, 104th Material Squadron (Maintenance), 104th Combat Support Squadron, and the 104th USAF Dispensary. The 104th, along with the new 102d Fighter Group (Air Defense) at Logan Airport, Boston began attending annual training at Otis Air Force Base.

Tactical Air Command[]

The 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 greatly improved the readiness of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.

1961 Berlin Federalization[]

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

During the summer of 1961, as the 1961 Berlin Crisis unfolded, the 131st TFS was notified on 16 August of its pending federalization and recall 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 TFW was to reinforce the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) and deploy to Phalsbourg-Bourscheid Air Base, France. In France, the unit was to provide close air support to NATO ground forces and air interdiction. This involved keeping its aircraft on 24/7 alert. Between 28 and 30 October, the 102d TFW departed Otis AFB for Phalsbourg. The wing deployed 82 F-86H Sabres. In addition 2 C-47 and 6 T-33 aircraft were assigned to the wing for support and training purposes.

Starting on 5 December, the 102d began deploying to Wheelus Air Base Libya for gunnery training. During its time in Europe, the 102d 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, USAFE Seventeenth Air Force directed that the 102d TFW would 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 ANG 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[]

131st TFS F-100D 55-2830

After the Berlin Crisis, the readiness status of the 104th Tactical Fighter Group greatly improved under the “gaining command concept”, whereby the U.S. 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 TFS was 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 TFS's being sent to the New Jersey ANG, and the 119th and 141st TFS's 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 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

For most of its existence, the Air Guard had been a reserve force for use only in wartime. By the 1980s, the Air Guard was an integral part of daily Air Force operations. As a result, the Massachusetts Air Guard took on more missions. With the receipt of the A-10, the 104th began a commitment to the United States Air Forces in Europe (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 proved to be a miserable failure. Subsequently, the conversion of the Wing was cancelled in 1993, and the 131st TFS remained an A-10 Thunderbolt II close air support squadron.

As the Cold War was ending, the Massachusetts Air National Guard was called upon to meet new challenges. Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 led to a U.S. response with air, ground and naval attacks during Operation Desert Storm. While no flying units of the Massachusetts Air Guard were mobilized, mission support units provided personnel to backfill deploying Air Force units in the U.S. The Total Force Policy of the Department of Defense stipulated that the Reserve Components were to play a large role in the nation’s defense.

Air Combat Command[]

In March 1992, with the end of the Cold War, the 104th adopted the Air Force Objective Organization plan, and the unit was re-designated as the 104th Fighter Group. In June, Tactical Air Command was inactivated as part of the Air Force reorganization after the end of the Cold War. It was replaced by Air Combat Command (ACC). In 1995, in accordance with the Air Force "One Base-One Wing" directive, the 104th was changed in status back to a Wing, and the 131st Fighter Squadron was assigned to the new 104th Operations Group.

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. 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 "Provisional" 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 104th played a major role with its air support.

BRAC 2005[]

131st FS F-15C 78-0476

In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to Barnes Municipal Airport Air Guard Station and send its A-10s to the Maryland Air National Guard 104th Fighter Squadron, Warfield Air National Guard Base, Middle River, Maryland. In return, the 104th 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 104th's nearly 30-year mission of flying close-air support missions with the A-10. The 104th 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-15C and a trainer F-15D arrived.

In addition to the air defense mission, the men and women of the 104th Fighter Wing 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.


131st EFS Operation Allied Force patch, 1999

Legacy 333d Fighter Squadron emblem

  • Constituted 333d Fighter Squadron on 18 August 1942
Activated on 23 August 1942
Inactivated on 12 January 1946
  • Re-designated 131st Fighter Squadron and allotted to Massachusetts ANG, on 24 May 1946
Extended federal recognition and activated on 24 February 1947
Re-designated: 131st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, 1 November 1951
Re-designated: 131st Tactical Fighter Squadron , 10 November 1958
Federalized and placed on active duty, 1 October 1961
Released from active duty and returned to Massachusetts commonwealth control, 31 August 1962
Re-designated: 131st Fighter Squadron, 1 June 1992-present.
Components designated as: 131st Expeditionary Fighter Squadron when deployed as part of an Air and Space Expeditionary unit after June 1996.



  • Naha Airfield, Okinawa, November–December 1945
  • Fort Lewis, Washington, 11–12 January 1946.
  • Barnes Municipal Airport, Massachusetts, 14 May 1946
Designated: Barnes Air National Guard Base, 1991-Present

Massachusetts Air National Guard deployments[]

Operated from: Phalsbourg-Bourscheid Air Base, France, 1 October 1961 – 20 August 1962
Yenişehir Airport, Turkey, 1982
  • Operations Deny Flight and Deliberate Force
Aviano Air Base, Italy, 1995

Al Jaber Air Base, Kuwait, 2000
Balad Air Base, Iraq, 2003
Undisclosed Location, Afghanistan, 2012



 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

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