The “Gunfighters” of the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing

The 366th Tactical Fighter Wing was originally activated as a Fighter Bomber Wing in January of 1953. The group replaced the Iowa National Guard’s 132nd Fighter Bomber Wing and was stationed at Alexandria Air Force Base in Louisiana. The 366th was initially equipped with the 51D Mustang but were quickly upgraded to the F-86F Sabre and F-84F Thunderstreak. The wing served on rotation with Nato moving between France and Italy. In September of 1957, the group began to transition to the F-100 Super Sabre and later in 1958 they were redesignated as the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing.

The wing was deactivated in 1959 and subsequently reactivated in 1962 at Chaumont-Semoutiers Air Base in France. In October of 1962, components of the group spent two weeks on 24/7 alert in response to the Cuban Missile Crisis. The 366th Wing eventually left France in July of 1963 and were relocated to Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico. In their time in New Mexico, the group largely converted to the F-4C Phantom II. Their time in Southwest came to a swift end, as the wing was relocated to Vietnam in 1966.

A group of F-84s from the 7108th Tactical Wing fly over Chaumont AFB. The planes were transferred to the 366th TFW in at the end of the Berlin Crisis.

The 366th Tactical Fighter Wing made a name for itself while deployed in the Vietnam War. In 1965, the 390th Fighter Squadron was deployed to Da Nang Air Base and was the first group from the 366th Wing to enter Vietnam. Several months later in 1966, the HQ 366th Tactical Fighter Wing and various supporting units were assigned to Phan Rang Air Base. At the beginning of their time in Vietnam, the squadrons of the 366th mostly flew a mixture of F-100 Super Sabre’s and F-4C Phantom II’s.  

When the 366th’s pilots first made their entrance into Vietnam and were still stationed at Da Nang, they became frustrated as they were missing many opportunities to shoot down MIGs due to the F-4C’s inefficiency at short range and lack of any cannon. So the group made some alterations and mounted external 20 mm. gatling guns that had been previously used for ground attacks. Within weeks of adding the guns, the pilots had shot down four separate MIGs. The innovative thinking to add the gatling guns and the series of MIG scores that followed, earned the group the name that they carry today, the “Gunfighters.” 

The Wing eventually upgraded to some more advanced aircraft, the F-4D and the F-4E. When November of 1971 came around, the 366th was the only remaining fighter wing left that was based in Vietnam. By July of 1972, the 366th Wing had left Da Nang and been moved to Takhli Royal Thai Air Force Base in Thailand. Later in 1972, the Wing was deactivated in Thailand and also on that day, reactivated at Mountain Home Air Force Base in southern Idaho, where it has remained to date. 

In their time in Vietnam, the 366th Fighter Wing earned two Presidential Unit Citations and scored a total of 18 confirmed MIG kills. 


Mitchel Hightower

I am a recent graduate from the University of Idaho with a bachelor's degree in marketing.

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