18th Wing

18th Wing

18th Wing Insignia
Active August 1948-present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Role Fighter / Command & Control / Airlift / Rescue
Part of Fifth Air Force
Pacific Air Forces
Garrison/HQ Kadena Air Base
Motto(s) “Unguibus Et Rostro”
With Talons and Beak
  • World War II
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign (1941–1945)
  • Korean Service (1950–1953)
Decorations AFOUA
RVGC w/ Palm
Barry R. Cornish, Brigadier General, USAF
Patrick K. Gamble
Richard E. Hawley
William T. Hobbins
Lauris Norstad
George B. Simler

The United States Air Force's 18th Wing is the host wing for Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, Japan and is the Air Force’s largest combat wing. It is the largest and principal organization in the Pacific Air Forces Fifth Air Force.

The Wing's 18th Operations Group is a successor organization of the 18th Pursuit Group, one of the 15 original combat air groups formed by the Army before World War II.


The 18th Wing's mission is to defend U.S. and Japanese' mutual interests by providing a responsive staging and operational airbase with integrated, deployable, forward-based airpower. The focus of the unit's operations is directed to accomplishing this mission. Strategy used to employ this mission centers around a composite force of combat-ready fighter, air refueling, airborne warning and control and rescue aircraft as well as medical aircrews tasked with transporting patients by air.


The 18th Wing is composed of five groups each with specific functions. The Operations Group controls all flying and airfield operations. The Maintenance Group performs Aircraft and Aircraft support equipment maintenance. The Mission Support Group has a wide range of responsibilities but a few of its functions are Security, Communications, Personnel Management, Logistics, Services and Contracting support. The Civil Engineer Group provides facilities management, while the Medical Group provides medical and dental care.

Team Kadena includes associate units from five other Air Force major commands, the Navy, and numerous other Department of Defense agencies and direct reporting units. In addition to the 61 aircraft of the 18th Wing, associate units operate more than 20 permanently assigned, forward-based or deployed aircraft from the base on a daily basis.


The fighting cock emblem, approved in 1931, symbolizes the courage and aggressiveness of a combat organization.


For additional history and lineage, see 18th Operations Group

On 10 August 1948 the 18th Fighter Wing was established. On January 20, 1950, the wing was re-designated the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing.

Korean War

North American F-51D-30-NA Mustang 44-74651, 1950, South Korea Aircraft marked as Wing Commander's
North American F-86F-25-NH Sabre 52-5371 of the 18th Fighter-Bomber Group, 1953. Aircraft marked as Wing Commander's.

The 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing was reassigned to Korea in July 1950 and entered combat. Its organization was as follows:

At the outbreak of the Korean War, the 18th FBG's 12th FBS provided personnel to form the "Dallas" fighter squadron, which rushed into battle. In late July, the group headquarters with two of its squadrons (12th and 67th FBSs) deployed with F-80s from the Philippines to Taegu AB (K-37), South Korea.

From July 28 to August 3, the 18th Group operated directly under Fifth Air Force then passed to the control of the 6002nd Fighter (later, Tactical Support) Wing. Pilots exchanged their F-80s for F-51 Mustangs. Combat targets included tanks and armored vehicles, locomotives and trucks, artillery and antiaircraft guns, fuel and ammunition dumps, warehouses and factories, and troop concentrations.

In August, advancing enemy forces and insufficient aircraft parking at Taegu forced the group to move to Japan, but it returned to South Korea the following month to support UN forces in a counteroffensive. Because the front advanced so rapidly, operations from Pusan East (K-9) Air Base soon became impractical, and the group moved in November to Pyongyang East Air Base (K-24), North Korea. The 2nd SAAF Squadron joined the 18th in mid-November.

Maj Louis J. Sebille was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his action on August 5, 1950: although his plane was badly damaged by flak while attacking a concentration of enemy trucks, Maj Sebille continued his strafing passes until he crashed into an armored vehicle.

The Chinese Communist (CCF intervention) caused the group to move twice in as many weeks, first to Suwon AB (K-13), South Korea, then to Chinhae (K-10). From there the 18th FBG continued to support ground forces and carry out armed reconnaissance and interdiction missions. From November 1950 through January 1951, it earned a Distinguished Unit Citation for destroying roughly 2,400 enemy vehicles and severely damaging almost 500 more.

From early 1951 until January 1953, the group and its tactical squadrons, moving from base to base in South Korea, operated separately from the rest of the 18th FBW. The group earned its second Distinguished Unit Citation from April 22 to July 8, 1951, when it flew 6,500 combat sorties while operating from sod, dirt filled, and damaged runways to counter the enemy's 1951 spring offensive.

When in January 1953 the group rejoined the wing at Osan-ni AB (K-55), its squadrons transitioned to F-86 Sabrejets without halting the fight against the enemy. It flew its first F-86 counter air mission on February 26, 1953. In the final days of the war, the 18th FBG attacked dispersed enemy aircraft at Sinuiju and Uiju Airfields.

The group remained in Korea for some time after the armistice. The wing was reassigned to Kadena Air Base, Okinawa in November 1954.

Cold War

Since November 1954, the 18th Wing under various designations has been the main United States Air Force operational unit at Kadena Air Base. Over the past 50 years, the 18th has maintained assigned aircraft, crews, and supporting personnel in a high state of readiness for tactical air requirements of Fifth Air Force and the Pacific Air Forces. Known Cold War-Era operational squadrons were:

18th TFW North American F-100A-15-NA Super Sabre Serial 53-1587 landing at Kadena Air Base.
Republic F-105D-31-RE Thunderchief 62-4375 12th TFS/18th TFW May 18, 1971. Noted October 2003 at Combat Air Museum, Topeka, KS. Still there October 2006. This plane was the last of its kind in use with any US military service when retired from the ANG in 1983. It was in static display for four years at McGhee Tyson ANG Base, Knoxville, Tennessee, prior to transfer to the Combat Air Museum in 1992.
McDonnell F-4C-18-MC Phantom 63-7474 67th TFS/18th TFW (Photo taken at Korat RTAFB, Thailand). This aircraft was later modified to the EF-4C Wild Weasel flak suppression aircraft.
Douglas RB-66B-DL Destroyer (Modified to EB-66E) Serial 54-0542 19th TEWS/18th TFW August 23, 1974.
McDonnell Douglas F-15C-22-MC Eagle Serial 78-0497 67th TFS/18th TFW October 13, 1984.

Flying the North American F-86 Sabres, the wing supported tactical fighter operations in Okinawa, as well as in South Korea, Japan, Formosa (later Taiwan), and the Philippines with frequent deployments. In 1957, the wing upgraded to the North American F-100 Super Sabre and the designation was changed to the 18th Tactical Fighter Wing. In 1960, a tactical reconnaissance mission was added to the wing with the arrival of the McDonnell RF-101 Voodoo and the 15th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron (Tail Code: ZZ) The McDonnell Douglas RF-4C Phantom II replaced the RF-101 in the reconnaissance role in 1967.

Beginning in 1961, the 18th was sending its tactical squadrons frequently to South Vietnam and Thailand, initially with its RF-101 reconnaissance forces, and beginning in 1964 with its tactical fighter forces supporting USAF combat missions in the Vietnam War. In 1963, the Republic F-105 Thunderchief replaced the Super Sabres. Known Vietnam-era squadrons of the wing were:

The deployments to Southeast Asia continued until the end of United States involvement in the conflict. An electronic warfare capability was added to the wing in late 1968 with the reassignment of the 19th Tactical Electronic Warfare Squadron from Shaw AFB South Carolina flying the Douglas EB-66E Destroyer (Tail Code: ZT). The B-66s remained until 1970, flying daily over the skies of Southeast Asia.

During the 1968 Pueblo crisis, the 18th deployed between January and June to Osan Air Base, South Korea following the North Korean seizure of the vessel. Frequent deployments to South Korea have been performed ever since to maintain the air defense alert mission there. The McDonnell Douglas F-4C/D Phantom II replaced the F-105s in 1971, and a further upgrade to the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle was made in 1979.

In May 1971, the 556th RS was also transferred from Yokota to Kadena with Martin EB-57E Canberra aircraft (Tail Code: GT) to the wing. It inactivated in 1973. In 1972, the 1st Special Operations Squadron was assigned, bringing their specialized C-130E-I. (Combat Talon) The RF-4C reconnaissance mission ended in 1989 with the transfer of the RF-4Cs to the 460th TRG at Taegu AB in Korea.

Post Vietnam-era squadrons have been:

Modern era

The designation of the wing changed on October 1, 1991, to the 18th Wing with the implementation of the Objective Wing concept. With the objective wing, the mission of the 18th expanded to the Composite Air Wing concept of multiple different wing missions with different aircraft. The mission of the 18th was expanded to include aerial refueling with Boeing KC-135R/T Stratotanker tanker aircraft (909th ARS); and surveillance, warning, command and control Boeing E-3B/C Sentry (961st AACS), and communications. Added airlift mission in June 1992 with the Beech C-12 Huron, transporting mission critical personnel, high-priority cargo and distinguished visitors.

In February 1993, the 18th Wing gained responsibility for coordinating rescue operations in the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean with the addition of the 33d Rescue Squadron (33d RQS).

In November 1999, the 18th Wing underwent another change as one of its three F-15 units, the 12th Fighter Squadron, was reassigned to the 3d Wing at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.

In 2003 the 374th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron at Yokota Air Base, Japan was moved to Kadena and redesignated the 18th AES giving the 18th Wing an added mission of patient transport. 18 AES crews utilize the KC-135s of the 909th ARS as well as other opportune aircraft including the C-17 and C-130.

Between 24–31 March 2006, during Foal Eagle 2006 exercises, aircraft from the 18th Wing teamed with the U.S. Navy's Strike Fighter Squadron 151 (VFA-151) from Carrier Air Wing Two (CVW-2) to provide combat air patrols and coordinated bombing runs via the exercise’s Combined Air Operations Center.[1]

The 18th Wing has earned many honors over the years, including 17 Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards.


Activated on 14 August 1948
Redesignated: 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing on 20 January 1950
Redesignated: 18th Tactical Fighter Wing on 1 July 1958
Redesignated: 18th Wing on 1 October 1991


Attached to: Fifth Air Force, 1 December 1950-31 October 1954
Attached to: Twentieth Air Force, 1 November 1954
Attached to: 6332 Air Base Wing, 1–9 November 1954
Attached to: Twentieth Air Force, 10 November 1954-31 January 1955
Attached to: Air Task Group Fifth, Provisional, 1–15 February 1955
Attached to: Twentieth Air Force, 16–28 February 1955
Attached to: 313th Air Division, 1 March 1955-31 January 1957
Attached to: Fifth Air Force, 1 February-30 September 1957

Attached to: Fifth Air Force ADVON, 28 January-13 June 1968






  • P (later, F)-47, 1948
  • F-51, 1948–1950, 1950–1953
  • RB-17, 1948–1949, 1949–1950; VB-17, 1948–1949
  • F-2, 1948–1949
  • C-47, 1948–1949
  • C-46, 1949
  • RC-45, 1949–1950
  • F-80, 1949–1950
  • F-86, 1953–1955, 1955, 1955–1957

  • T-33, 1954
  • F-100, 1957–1963
  • F-105, 1962–1965, 1965–1968, 1968–1972
  • RF-101, 1960–1967
  • RF-4, 1967–1989; F-4, 1971–1980
  • C-130 (later, MC-130), 1972–1981
  • T-39, 1975–1976; CT-39, 1977–1984
  • F-15, 1979–present
  • KC-135, 1991–present
  • E-3, 1991–present
  • HH-60, 1993–present


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

  1. Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class (AW) M. Jeremie Yoder, USN (March 27, 2006). "Lincoln Wraps Up Successful Exercise, Heads for Port". NNS060406-15. Abraham Lincoln Public Affairs. Retrieved 2010-12-26.

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