It’s hard to overstate the fine work that the USAF’s Dark Gray F-15E Strike Eagles and their crews undertake on a routine basis. The jet itself is a workhorse, and can carry just about any air-to-ground weapon in the inventory. Almost 100 of the type reside and operate under the command of the 4th Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson AFB in Goldsboro, North Carolina.
While the 4th FW as a whole has an incredible history on its own, we’re shining the spotlight on one squadron in particular. Proudly displaying the Mud Hen in reheat for all the world to see, today we salute the men and women of the 335th Fighter Squadron, the Chiefs.
The 335 FS rightfully earned their place here at Burner Friday, as they’ve been very busy throughout their rich 74 year history. From their beginnings as a Royal Air Force Eagle squadron with American pilots flying the Supermarine Spitfire and Hawker Hurricane, nowadays the Chiefs now operate two dozen Strike Eagles on behalf of the 4th FW and Air Combat Command.
They’ve repeatedly made history along the way, all while flying some of the world’s most legendary aircraft. After being transferred from the RAF to the US Army Air Forces following the United States entering World War II, the 335th picked up Republic P-47 Thunderbolts and then North American P-51 Mustangs, destroying 262 enemy aircraft before the war’s end – most of which were aerial victories.
After the war ended, the 335th stood down for a short time, only to be reactivated in 1946 – this time for good. After entering the jet age with the Lockheed P-80 Shooting Star, the 335th soon received the swept-wing North American F-86 Sabre, earning them a trip to the Korean peninsula in late 1950. The Chiefs put up a solid showing, officially netting 218.5 MiG kills and a dozen Aces over the course of the conflict.
In later years the Chiefs cycled through the F-100 Super Sabre and the F-105 Thunderchief, and then the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. They operated the F-4 for over two decades, lending their iron-dropping expertise to the war effort in Vietnam.
In early 1990, the Chiefs became the second USAF squadron to receive the F-15E Strike Eagle, and before the end of the year were deployed to Saudi Arabia in anticipation of Operation Desert Storm. Then in January 1991, less than a year after their first sortie in the F-15E, the 335 FS Strike Eagles were in the Iraqi airspace on night 1, striking key infrastructure in the area around Baghdad and later hunting Iraqi SCUD missiles. They did find other targets of opportunity, successfully downing an airborne Iraqi helicopter with a 2000-lb. laser-guided GBU-10 and going into the history books as the only F-15E air-to-air kill to date.
Since their initial combat foray in the Dark Gray jet, the Chiefs have had their hand in Operations Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom, Iraqi Freedom, and even Noble Eagle here at home. Wherever their earth-moving duties take them in the future, you can be sure they’ll do so with pride and professionalism that is the Chiefs’ Standard.
(featured photo by Jonathan Derden)