159 Fighter Squadron

Eagle History

The 159th Fighter Squadron, Florida Air National Guard, is located at Jacksonville International Airport (IAP), FL, with a NORAD Alert Detachment at Homestead ARB, FL, and a team comprising 1100 citizen airmen and women.

In June 1995, the 125th converted to the F-15 Eagle, a fighter which adds air superiority capability to the Air Defense Mission.

The 125th Fighter Squadron has a dual mission – one state and one federal. The state mission is to provide trained and equipped personnel to protect life and property and to preserve peace, order, and public safety. The federal mission is to provide fully trained and qualified personnel to CINCNORAD in time of war or national emergency for the defense of the North American Continent. On a daily basis, the 125th is responsible for the maintenance of a NORAD Air Defense Alert site at Homestead ARB. In this capacity, the unit provides armed F-15 aircraft capable of intercepting, identifying, and, if necessary, destroying unknown aircraft which penetrate sovereign U.S. airspace. In the past, this threat has included Soviet Bear bombers, Cuban fighters, and narcotics traffickers.

Maj. James Spooner of the Det. 1, 125th Fighter Wing, in an F-15 Eagle at Homestead Air Reserve Base, Fla., Feb. 5, 2009. Photo by Tech. Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa

Since conversion to the ADF-16, the 125th was the first operational NORAD Air Defense Alert, the first operational ADF-16 unit to employ the AIM-7 missile, the first ADF-16 unit to sit alert with the AIM-7, and the first unit to deploy to Howard AFB Panama, in support of JCS-directed operation CORONET NIGHTHAWK using enhanced identification tactics. In October 1995, the 125th became the first unit ever to complete a transition from one fourth generation fighter to another fourth generation fighter as it transitioned from the ADF-16 to the MSIP F-15. In April 1997, the 125th Fighter Squadron became the first Air Defense Unit to employ as Blue Air in an Offensive Counter Air role, integrated with an active duty unit, during a flag exercise.

The unit was rated “Outstanding” during an Alert Force Evaluation by the North American Air Defense Inspector General in November 1997. This was the highest rating ever given by NORAD. In January 1998, the 125th Fighter Squadron received an “Outstanding” on its Operational Readiness Inspection.

The unit also operates a C-26B in support of state and federal law enforcement agencies.

Detachment 1, 125th Fighter Squadron, is responsible for the maintenance of a NORAD Air Defense Alert site at Homestead ARB.

In this capacity, the unit provides armed F-15 aircraft capable of intercepting, identifying, and, if necessary, destroying unknown aircraft which penetrate sovereign U.S. airspace. In the past, this threat has included Soviet Bear bombers, Cuban fighters, and narcotics traffickers.

The FANG was the first Air National Guard unit to deploy to Laage, located north of Berlin, in what was once a Communist Bloc Air Force Base, to fly against one of Germany’s most sophisticated aircraft.

The deployment was designed to teach pilots how to successfully engage and win battles against the MiG-29 FULCRUM. The FULCRUM is one of the most advanced and maneuverable fighters in the world and is employed by many nations with hostile intentions toward the United States; in fact, American forces engaged the MiG-29 in both Iraq and Bosnia. The unit now has more sorties against the FULCRUM than any other American unit.

 While in Germany, pilots flew missions fighting the Fulcrum in two phases: close-in, dog-fighting “Basic Fighter Maneuvers” and longer range “Beyond Visual Range” engagements.

Twenty full-and part-time FANG pilots participated in the training. An additional 65 personnel were airlifted to Germany to provide support for the deployment including Maintenance, Supply, Security Forces, Intelligence, Life Support, and Visual Information personnel.

This deployment presented a unique opportunity to “combat season” FANG pilots against the sophisticated MiG aircraft during a peacetime environment.

F-15Cs forward deploy in Exercise Hype Eagle

By Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury, 380th Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs / Published August 30, 2019

The 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron forward deployed two F-15C Eagles and 14 maintainers from Al Dhafra Air Base, United Arab Emirates, to Prince Sultan Air Base, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, as part of Exercise Hype Eagle

An F-15C Eagle receives fuel during Exercise Hype Eagle Aug. 18, 2019, at Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia. The 159th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron forward deployed to challenge their flexibility at expanding tactical and strategic reach while strengthening coalition and regional partnerships in the U.S. Central Command area of responsibility. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Thornbury)

The adaptive basing exercise tested the Florida Air National Guard’s “Boxing Gators” efficiency and reliability while rapidly relocating to a new environment and remaining mission capable.

“It offers an opportunity to operate out of different airfields, expand our tactical and strategic reach, and partner with other nations for overall common missions,” said Maj. Joseph “Bodhi” Pasko, 159th EFS pilot.

PSAB currently has a small U.S. military presence. According to Pasko, the team remained flexible to accomplish the mission under any conditions.

“The exercise is important because it challenges our ability to move with flexible options throughout the area of operations,” said Pasko.” It proves that we can operate our aircraft out of different airfields in support of our missions and objectives and to strengthen those ties with other nations that we are working with toward our common goals.”

The Air Base Opening Group, primarily out of the 621st Contingency Response Wing from Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst, is building facilities for an Air Expeditionary Group to support U.S. forces that will operate out of PSAB.

“These exercises help us prepare to better organize, train and equip to keep our adversaries on their toes,” said Col. Brad Hall, ABOG commander. “One of the things that separate the U.S. military from other militaries is our ability to rapidly deploy and execute our mission.”

In July, the Secretary of Defense authorized the movement of U.S. personnel and resources to deploy to Saudi Arabia. PSAB was last used by U.S. forces in 2003.

‘Florida pilots take spotlight for Guard’s first Super Bowl flyover.

by MSgt Tom Kielbasa JFHQ FLANG

2/10/2010 – MIAMI (Feb. 9, 2010) — At the biggest sporting event of the year the Florida — Four F-15 Eagle fighter jets from the 125th Fighter Wing roared over Sun Life Stadium at the beginning of Super Bowl XLIV on Sunday, Feb. 7, flying in a perfect formation as singer Carrie Underwood finished her rendition of the National Anthem. “It was awesome!” said Lt. Col. John “Homer” Black, lead F-15 pilot for the Super Bowl flyover. “It was an honor to even be chosen to do this.”

Four F-15 Eagles piloted by 125th Fighter Wing Commander Col. Bob “Squirt” Branyon, 125th Fighter Wing Chief of Stand Eval. Lt. Col. John “Homer” Black, 125th Fighter Wing Operations Group Commander, Col. Bill “Yogi” Bair, and 125th Fighter Squadron Commander, Lt. Col. Mike “Speedo” Rouse fly a historic flight over Sun Life Stadium for Superbowl XLIV, February 7, 2010.The 125th Fighter Wing’s participation marked the first Air National Guard flyover in the history of the Superbowl. (USAF Photo by TSgt. Shelley Gill)

This was the first time an Air National Guard unit performed the prestigious Super Bowl flyover. Black and his wingmen – Col. Bill “Yogi” Bair, Col. Bob “Squirt” Branyon and Lt. Col. Mike “Speedo” Rouse – took off from their base at the Jacksonville International Airport in North Florida about an hour before kickoff and flew in a holding pattern above Miami until the beginning of the National Anthem. While keeping in constant radio contact with an Air Guard ground crew at the stadium, the jets blasted through the South Florida twilight high above the pre-game show. “I was the only one looking forward so I’m the only one who had a pretty good view of what was going on,” Black said, describing the approach over the stadium. “The other guys are just basically looking at me…At about a mile and a half out I could recognize Carrie Underwood on the big (screen).” With afterburners glowing orange in the darkening sky, the jets brought a surge of applause and cheers from the crowd, and even drew a big smile from Carrie Underwood on the center stage. “We just wanted to make the formation look perfect,” said pilot Bair after the successful flyover. “Representing the Air National Guard in one of the biggest venues in the world was awesome! As we were coming across the stadium we could hear the people screaming and see the flash bulbs going off. It was something I’ll never forget.” After the jets landed safely at nearby Homestead Air Reserve Base, the pilots were brought back to the stadium by helicopter and invited onto the field to watch legendary rock band The Who perform the halftime show. Later in the third quarter the Florida Air National Guard pilots were officially recognized on the field – again drawing applause and cheers from the pumped-up football fans.

The Air Guardsmen were again present on the field after the game as Super Bowl winners the New Orleans Saints received the Vince Lombardi trophy amidst showers of confetti and shouts of “Who Dat!!” from jubilant Saints’ fans. Following several photo-ops with players and cheerleaders, the Airmen left the stadium to a peppering of cheers and applause from lingering fans. “I’ve had a pretty incredible 20 years between the Florida Air National Guard and my time in the active duty Air Force,” Black said, “And to have this happen to me toward the twilight of my career is something that I’ll carry with me forever.”

An F-15E Strike Eagle takes to the sky from Jacksonville’s 125th Fighter Wing, Fla., May 22, 2018.(U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Carlynne DeVine)
F-15s taxi back to the ramp on the 125th Fighter Wing’s flightline of Jacksonville, Fla., May 23, 2018. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Staff Sgt. Carlynne DeVine)
Col. Robert Wetzel, a pilot, prepares to take off in an F-15 for a routine training mission at the 125th Fighter Wing, Jacksonville, Fla., Aug. 19, 2014. (U.S. Air Force photo by Master Sgt. Jaclyn Lyons)
F-15 Eagles from the 125th Fighter Wing fly over the City of Jacksonville while waiting perform a flyover for the Jacksonville Jaguars Football game against the Tennessee Titans, October 4, 2009, Jacksonville, Fl. (Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Shelley Gill)
159th Fighter Squadron tails (USAF Photo)
A crew chief with the Florida Air National Guard 125th Fighter Wing in Jacksonville, Fla., prepares a Guard F-15A Eagle fighter for evacuation or “Hurrivaced” to Scott Air Force Base, Ill, as Hurricane Frances draws closer to Florida’s east coast on Sept. 2, 2004. (U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sergeant Shelly Gill) (Released)
An F-15 prepares to taxi during 125th Fighter Wing’s deployment, Combat Readiness Training Center (CRTC), Savannah, GA, March 12, 2010. (Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Shelley Gill)
Lt. Col. Jonathan Kassebaum, 125th Fighter Wing Operations Support Squadron commander, lands after his fini-flight at the Jacksonville Air National Guard Base, FL, March 6, 2021. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech. Sgt. Chelsea Smith)
An F-15C Eagle aircraft assigned to the 159th Fighter Squadron, Jacksonville Air National Guard Base, sits parked on the flight line at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Dec. 3, 2021. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Hastings)
Maj. Frederick Gallup IV, a pilot assigned to the 159th Fighter Squadron, 125th Fighter Wing, Florida Air National Guard, flies an F-15C Eagle aircraft over MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, Dec. 3, 2021.. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Joshua Hastings)
Pilots from the 159th Fighter Squadron / Florida ANG and the Colombian Aerospace Force take a group photo during ‘Relámpago VIII’ in Palanquero, Colombia, Aug. 18, 2023. The exercise marked the sunset deployment for the 159th Fighter Squadron’s F-15C before transitioning to fifth-generation fighter aircraft.
The 159th Fighter Squadron during Combat Archer, Tyndall 2021 WSEP.