The 37th TFW was originally activated as the 4450th Tactical Group (TG) in 1979. The unit was equipped with A7D Corsair II's which were used as trainers until the first delivery of the first F-117A aircraft. In 1982 the first stealth aircraft were delivered to the unit which directly reported to Tactical Air Command (TAC). The Initial Operational Capability (IOC) was achieved in 1983. The unit operated in strict secrecy from the Tonopah Test Range (TTR), 140 miles northwest of Las Vegas, Nevada, until November 1988. At that time the need to expand operations required a public announcement acknowledging the existence of the F-117A. In October 1989, the 4450th TG was redesignated the 37th TFW and placed under operational command of 12th Air Force Headquarters at Bergstrom AFB, Texas.
The 37th Tactical Fighter Wing's wartime mission was to mobilize and deploy according to USAF war and mobilization plans. The missions of the wing could include Air Interdiction, Counter Air, and Special Operations. The unit saw combat for the first time in December of 1989 with the F-117A's employment in Operation JUST CAUSE in Panama.
In response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on 2 Aug 1990, the Wing began to mobilize for Operation Desert Shield. On 19 August 1990, 18 F-117As of the 415th Tactical Fighter Squadron (TFS) and numerous support personnel from TTR deployed to Saudi Arabia. The deployed unit eventually brought together support personnel from more than 35 bases around the world. By this time "Team Stealth" consisted of over 1400 personnel and was designated 37th provisional wing (37 TFW(P)). In December the wing's 416th TFS deployed another 18 aircraft to Saudi Arabia.
The five month period of Desert Shield allowed the unit to refine procedures and work with other coalition forces to train against the type of targets they would face in Iraq. Desert Storm
On 17 Jan 1991 Operation Desert Storm began. At 0251 Baghdad time, the first F-117A dropped a bomb on an operations center in western Iraq. By the end of the six-week air campaign nearly 1300 sorties were flown.
The 37TFW was deactivated in 1991 when the aircraft were transferred to the 49TFW at Holloman AFB, New Mexico.
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©2005 Joe Azzato