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434th Flying Training Squadron

The 434th Flying Training Squadron at Laughlin Air Force Base, Texas, along with the 85th FTS, conducts primary flight training in the T-6A Texan II as part of the Specialized Undergraduate Pilot Training program.

 

The 434th FTS traces its lineage to the 434th Fighter Squadron which was activated on Oct. 15, 1943 during a buildup of Army Air Forces. The squadron was activated at Grand Central Air Terminal, California when it came under control of the 479th Fighter Group. Initial manning consisted of six officers, one warrant officer, and 16 enlisted men. Equipped with the Lockheed P-38 Lightning, pilots trained for combat. Incidentally, the German's called the P-38 the "Gabelschwanzteufel," translated as the fork-tailed or twin-tailed devil. That could be the reason the squadron has two devils on its emblem. In April 1944 they departed California for their base in England and arrived almost a month later.

On May 25, 1944, eleven days after the squadron's arrival in England, pilots flew their first combat mission. In the early hours of D-Day, nearly 120,000 Allied troops approached the French coast. Over 12,000 aircraft flew cover to provide support for interdiction and other support missions. The 434th pilots involved in this flew as many as three missions, returning to base only long enough to refuel and rearm. It wasn’t until July 29, 1944 that the 434 Fighter Squadron shot down its first aircraft. First Lt. Arthur F. Jeffrey, one of the original six pilots assigned to the squadron, bagged an Me-163 Komet. Over the next nine months squadron members flew bomber escort missions, attacked airfields, and even supported the beleaguered ground forces involved in the Battle of the Bulge. On April 25, 1945, pilots flew their last combat mission and 1st Lt. Hilton O. Thomas shot down the last aircraft credited to an Eighth Air Force pilot - an Arado 234 Blitz. Of the four aces produced by the 479th Fighter Group, three came from the 434th Fighter Squadron: Arthur F. Jeffery, Robin Olds, and George W. Gleason. Rapid demobilization took place as the war wound down, and by Dec. 1, 1945 the squadron had returned to the United States and was deactivated.

Seven years year later, as the US started rebuilding its armed forces due to the Korean War and increased tensions with the Soviet Union, the 434th was reactivated as the 434th Fighter-Bomber Squadron. Equipped with the P-51 Mustang, pilots trained for interdiction and close air support missions. By July 1953, the squadron became an all-jet unit, flying the F-86F Sabre and the F-100A Super Sabre. The squadron participated in Exercise SAFE BRUSH, the largest joint exercise since the end of World War II. During this exercise, the 434th trained to deliver conventional and nuclear weapons. Four years after the introduction of the F-100A, the 434th received the Lockheed F-104C Starfighter. Soon the 434th started rotating to Spain where they augmented North Atlantic Treaty Organization forces countering the Warsaw Pact and assisted Air Defense Command by sitting alert in the US. While deployed to Spain in 1961, the squadron moved to Bitburg, Germany during the Berlin Crisis.

 

Shortly after their return to the US in December 1961, nearly all squadron personnel went to other units. The 434th remained unmanned until November 1966, at which time it gained the F-4C Phantom II and trained both US and foreign combat crews. The squadron became operational again in 1969, and deployed to Southeast Asia in 1972 where they flew combat missions over North and South Vietnam. In 1975, the squadron again reverted to an F-4 training squadron. In December 1976, all squadron personnel were once again reassigned.


In January 1977, the now, 434th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron moved to Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico. There it performed the lead-in fighter training mission in the T-38 Talon, similar to today's introduction to fighter fundamentals. Squadron personnel trained US and foreign pilots, in addition to weapons system officers, bound for fighter and attack aircraft, as well as acting as aggressor forces for students in the A-10 flying training unit.

The squadron was once again deactivated from May 3, 1991 until 21 Jun 2007 when it was reactivated as the 434th Flying Training Squadron at Laughlin AFB, Texas. It’s mission was once again teaching Introduction to Fighter Fundamentals in the T-38 to new pilot training graduates before they moved on to fighter aircraft. It was reassigned on 24 August 2012 to begin instructing primary flight training in the T-6 Texan II. Today the 434th supports the second largest flying hour program and flies over 35,000 hours annually. The instructors develop fundamental skills critical to combat pilots, officers, and leaders by preparing students for follow-on training.

 

(Current as of November 2017)