The 85th Flying Training Squadron, Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, along with the 434th FTS, conducts the T-6A Texan II flying training portion of Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training. The 60 instructor pilots of the 85th FTS train over 150 students annually, flying over 26,000 sorties and 35,000 hours.
The 85th FTS traces its lineage to the 85th Bomb Squadron which was activated in 1940.
Flying the B-18 Bolo aircraft from McChord Field, Washington, the 85th's war record began two days after Pearl Harbor. Its mission was flying anti-submarine patrols off the west coast of the United States. This was a short lived mission, however, as training for overseas duty began six weeks later.
Following 10 months of training, the 85th, a squadron of the 47th Bomb Group, moved to North Africa as part of Twelfth Air Force. The training not only included methods of operation, but also a change to the A-20 "Havoc" aircraft. The unit began operations by flying low-level bombing missions against the enemy in North Africa. When Axis forces broke through at Kasserine Pass in February 1943, the 85th, though undermanned and under supplied, flew attack missions against the advancing armored columns, slowing their advance and helping stop the enemy's offense. For this action, the squadron was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
While remaining active in combat during March and April 1943, the squadron trained for medium-level bombardment operations. The 85th participated in the reduction of Pantellaria and Lampedusa in June 1943, and the invasion of Sicily that July. Near Messina, Italy in August 1943, the squadron bombed evacuation beaches used by the Germans. When the British Eighth Army began the invasion of Italy in September 1943, the 85th was there to lend support. The squadron played an active role during the allied advance toward Rome from September 1943 through June 1944.
The invasion of Southern France during August and September 1944 saw more combat for the 85th. From September 1944 to April 1945 the mission of the 85th was to attack German communications facilities in mountainous northern Italy. It was during this time the 85th began flying night intruder missions in the A-26 Invader. A second Presidential Unit Citation was awarded for the squadron's performance from April 21-24, 1945, when, in bad weather and over rugged terrain, the squadron maintained operations for 60 consecutive hours, destroying enemy transportation in the Po Valley, preventing an organized withdrawal of German forces. Throughout the war, the 85th Bomb Squadron flew against such targets as tanks, convoys, bivouac areas, troop concentrations, supply dumps, roads, pontoon bridges, rail lines and airfields.
The 85th returned to the United States in April 1945. The squadron trained in a variety of tactical operations. The 85th was one of the first squadrons to receive the B-45 "Tornado", America's first jet bomber, which it flew until 1958, when the B-66 Destroyer was introduced.
The 85th Bomb Squadron was deactivated in May 1962 while stationed at RAF Sculthorpe, England. In September 1972, the squadron was reactivated as the 85th Flying Training Squadron, at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas.
On Oct. 1, 1998 the squadron was split in half, forming the 84th Flying Training Squadron. The 84th FTS was redesignated the 434th Flying Training Squadron in 2012. Together they execute Air Education and Training Command's third largest SUPT flying hour program, producing more than 300 new pilots per year.
(Current as of April 2016)