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USAF units and aircraft of the Korean War


USAF units and aircraft of the Korean War

Obverse image of the medal with a Korean gateway encircled by the inscription "Korean Service".

The USAF units and aircraft of the Korean War are significant because the Korean War (25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953) was the first shooting war for the newly independent United States Air Force.

It was the first time U.S. jet aircraft entered into battle. Air Force F-86 Sabre jets took control of the skies, as American fighter pilots bested Soviet-built MiG-15 fighters in combat against aircraft, Soviet tactics, and, on some occasions, Soviet pilots.[1] World War II-era prop-driven F-51D Mustangs were pressed into the ground-air support role, and large formations of B-29 Superfortresses flew for the last time on strategic bombardment missions. The Korean War also saw the first large-scale use of rotary-wing helicopters

The USAF suffered 1,841 battle casualties, of which 1,180 were killed in action. It lost 1,466 aircraft to hostile action or other causes.


  • Overview 1
  • Effects 2
  • Organization 3
  • Aircraft of the Korean War 4
    • Fighters 4.1
      • Types employed 4.1.1
      • Fighter units 4.1.2
    • Bombers 4.2
      • Types employed 4.2.1
      • Bombardment units 4.2.2
    • Reconnaissance 4.3
      • Types employed 4.3.1
      • Reconnaissance units 4.3.2
    • Transport 4.4
      • Types employed 4.4.1
      • Transport units 4.4.2
    • Tactical air control units 4.5
    • Other units 4.6
    • Temporary tactical support wings 4.7
  • Far East Air Force Korean airfields (K-sites) 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


Shaped in World War II by an increasing concentration on the strategic role of attacking an enemy's homeland, the Air Force now faced a conflict almost entirely tactical in character and limited as to how and where airpower could be applied.

The Japan. Fighter and troop carrier wings from Tactical Air Command and federalized Air National Guard units from the United States deployed to the Far East and reinforced FEAF units engaged in combat. These tactical units conducted interdiction strikes on supply lines, attacked dams that irrigated North Korea's rice crops and flew missions in close support of United Nations ground forces. AT-6 Mosquitoes, trainers used as airborne controllers, provided communication links between ground troops and supporting aircraft.

Although President Truman wasn't willing to risk extensive use of the U.S. bomber force, which was being used as a deterrent for possible Soviet aggression in Europe, a few groups of Strategic Air Command aging B-29 Superfortress bombers that were not part of the nuclear strike force were released for combat over the skies of Korea. Many of these B-29s were war-weary and brought out of five years of storage. These bombers wreaked havoc on North Korean military installations, government centers and transportation networks.

Like the rest of the American military establishment, the Air Force was in no way prepared for battle at the western rim of the Pacific. Yet despite these limitations, the Air Force responded quickly and effectively, proving in many ways the utility of airpower in modern war. With virtually no warning, the Air Force injected itself into the war in the first critical week. It transported troops and equipment from Japan to Korea, evacuated American nationals, provided significant intelligence through aerial reconnaissance, and most importantly helped to slow the North Korean advance so that the United Nations forces could construct a defensive position on the peninsula.


Korea marked the end of the line for major use of prop-driven combat aircraft of the active-duty USAF and brought in the jet age in real terms. All F-82 Twin Mustangs had been removed from the theater by 1952 and F-51D Mustang strength had been cut in Korea from 190 to 65. First generation straight-winged F-80C Shooting Star and F-84E/G Thunderjet jet aircraft were shown inadequate against the Soviet MiG-15s. However, the swept-wing F-86 Sabre took control of the skies, bringing an entire new generation of swept-wing aircraft into the USAF arsenal in the 1950s.

The exception to the jet revolution was the specialized use of various counterinsurgency aircraft (A-1 Skyraider, A-26A Invader) by the 56th Special Operations Wing which were flown over Laos during the Vietnam War. (The F-51D/H Mustang was used by some ANG units in the Air Defense role, but by 1957 it was out of the inventory).

With the end of fighting in Korea, President Eisenhower, who had taken office in January 1953, called for a "new look" at national defense. The result: a greater reliance on nuclear weapons and air power to deter war. His administration chose to invest in the Air Force, especially Strategic Air Command. The nuclear arms race shifted into high gear. The Air Force retired nearly all of its propeller-driven B-29/B-50s and they were replaced by new Boeing B-47 Stratojet aircraft. By 1955 the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress would be entering the inventory in substantial numbers, as the prop-driven B-36s were phased out of heavy bombardment units rapidly.


During World War II, The

  • 36th Fighter-Bomber Squadron in Korea, 1953

External links

  1. ^ Zaloga, Steven J. "The Russians in MiG Alley: The nationality of the "honcho" pilots is no longer a mystery. The Soviets now admit their part in the Korean War" Air Force Magazine, volume 74, issue 2, February 1991. [2]
  2. ^  
  3. ^ "Factsheets : North American P-51". Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  4. ^ a b American Military Aircraft (North American P-51D/K Mustang)
  5. ^ "Factsheets : Lockheed F-80C Shooting Star". Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  6. ^ a b American Military Aircraft (F-80 Shooting Star Service History)
  7. ^ "Factsheets : Lockheed F-94A Starfire". Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  8. ^ American Military Aircraft (F-94B Service History)
  9. ^ "Factsheets : North American F-82". Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  10. ^ American Military Aircraft (Service Record of the North American P/F-82 Twin Mustang)
  11. ^ "Factsheets : Republic F-84". Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  12. ^ American Military Aircraft (Republic F-84E Thunderjet)
  13. ^ "Factsheets : North American F-86 (Day-Fighter A, E and F Models)". Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  14. ^ a b American Military Aircraft (F-86 in Korea)
  15. ^ a b c d e Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  16. ^ a b c d e Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
  17. ^ a b c d e f g USAF Organizations in Korea 1950–1953 United States Air Force Office of Historical Research, Maxwell AFB, Alabama
  18. ^ "Factsheets : Boeing B-29 Superfortress". Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  19. ^ a b American Military Aircraft (B-29 in Korean War)
  20. ^ "Factsheets : Douglas B-26K (A-26) Counter Invader". Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  21. ^ American Military Aircraft (A-26/B-26 Invader in USAAF/USAF Service)
  22. ^ a b c d e f g History of the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron
  23. ^ Final Cut: The Postwar B-17 Flying Fortress: The Survivors, Scott A. Thompson, Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, 1993.
  24. ^ "Factsheets : Boeing RB-29J". Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  25. ^ "Factsheets : North American B-45C Tornado". Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  26. ^ "Factsheets : Vultee XP-54". Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  27. ^ "Factsheets : Douglas C-47D Skytrain". Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  28. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Futrell, Robert Frank (1983) The United States Air Force in Korea, 1950–1953, Maxwell AFB, Alabama Office of Air Force History, ISBN 0-912799-71-4
  29. ^ "Factsheets : Curtiss C-46". Retrieved 27 December 2014. 
  30. ^ "Factsheets : Douglas C-124 Globemaster II". Retrieved 27 December 2014. 

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • Aircraft Serial Numbers—1908 to present


These are the known bases that the U.S. Far East Air Forces operated during the Korean War. The place name spellings used are those found in Fifth Air Force general orders designating the K-Sites and other official Fifth Air Force documents.[28]

USAF airfields in Korea 1950–53.

During the Korean War, the large number of locations used for bases and the similarity of some geographical names prompted the Air Force to use alphanumeric identifiers for bases in addition to their proper designations. Under this system, each base in Korea received a "K number," simplifying positive identification when referring to the various bases.[28]

Far East Air Force Korean airfields (K-sites)

Source for unit history: [17][28]

  • 6150th Tactical Support Wing
    Organized 5 September 1950 at Tsuiki AB, Japan, to support the 35th Fighter-Interceptor Group, the wing moved to Pohang AB (K-3) on 5 October and to Yonpo AB (K-27) on 27 November, where it was replaced by the 35th Fighter-Interceptor Wing on 1 December.
  • 6149th Tactical Support Wing
    Organized 5 September 1950 at Taegu AB (K-2) to support the 49th Fighter-Bomber Group, this wing was replaced by the 49th Fighter-Bomber Wing effective 1 December.
  • 6002d Tactical Support Wing
    Organized effective 1 August 1950, at Taegu #1 AB (K-2), to support the 18th Fighter-Bomber Group. Forced to withdraw with its tactical units to Ashiya AB, Japan, on 8 August, it returned to Korea on 5 September and advanced to Pyongyang on 22 November. It retreated to Suwon AB (K-13) on 30 November, where it was replaced on 1 December 1950, by the 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing.

Their success bought time for the Fifth Air Force to reorganize, and on 1 December 1950, regular wings replaced them.

Logistically, poor roads and rail lines, limited port facilities, and overextended airlift hampered the wings. Organizationally, they were without regular status, such as authorization for personnel and equipment or for promotions. Even with these handicaps and hardships, the tactical support wings performed valiantly. They worked hard to make combat airfields operable and to provide the support and control combat units needed. They struggled to keep pace with the dynamically changing battle lines, opening new bases and forward operating locations as needed.

Formed to assist in the projection of force to Korea, these temporary wings provided facilities, administration, services, and operational control for assigned and attached combat units. The task was formidable, for the installations the wings controlled were usually "bare base" operations with no amenities and only marginally serviceable airfields.

In July 1950 United States Department of Defense planners did not foresee that the Korean campaign would be of long duration. Consequently, the Fifth Air Force modified its command structure only to meet immediate needs. When the time came to move tactical air units to Korean airfields, Fifth Air Force did not deploy its permanent wings because they were heavily committed to the air defense of Japan. Instead, it utilized temporary air base squadrons and air base units to support tactical units in Korea. By August, the situation called for larger organizations with greater allotments of personnel and equipment, and Fifth Air Force set up five temporary tactical support wings to support the combat groups.

Temporary tactical support wings

Source for unit history: [17][28]

Other units

Source for unit history: [15][16][17]

Temporary unit composed of:
942nd Forward Air Control Squadron
6148th Tactical Control Squadron
6149th Tactical Control Squadron
6150th Tactical Control Squadron
Stationed at: Taegu AB, South Korea, August – October 1950; Kimpo AB, South Korea October 1950; Seoul Afld, South Korea, October 1950; Pyongyang East Adrm, North Korea, October – November 1950; Taegu AB, South Korea, November 1950 – March 1951; Pyongtaek Adrm, South Korea, March 1951 – April 1952; Chunchon, South Korea, April 1952 – July 1953
Temporary unit composed of:
605th Tactical Control Squadron: duration.
606th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron: duration.
607th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron: duration.
608th Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron: 2 November 1951–.
6132d Aircraft Control and Warning Squadron: 9 October 1950 – 2 November 1951.
1st Shoran Beacon Unit (later, Squadron): attached 27 September – 1 December 1950 and 6 September 1952–.
Stationed at: Pusan, South Korea, September – October 1950; Taegu, South Korea, October 1950; Seoul, South Korea, October 1950 – July 1953

Units that flew the AT-6 in Korea were:

  • North American AT-6 Texan
    The Texan trainer found a new life in Korea as a forward air control aircraft. To meet an urgent operational need for close air support of ground forces, the Texans flew "mosquito" missions, spotting enemy troops and guns and marking them with smoke rockets for USAF fighter attack. The T-6s of the 6147th Tactical Control Group performed invaluable work.[28]
6147th Tactical Control Group
502nd Tactical Control Group
North American AT-6 Texan

Tactical air control units

Source for unit history: [15][16][17]

Transport units

Types employed


Source for unit history: [15][16][17]

Reconnaissance units

Types employed


Source for unit history: [15][16][17]

Attached to: 8 Fighter-Bomber Wing, 15–30 November 1950
Attached to: 314th Air Division, 1 December 1950 – 10 May 1952
Stationed at: Itazuke AB, Japan, 26 October 1950; Miho AB, Japan, c. 10 December 1950 ;Pusan-East AB, South Korea, 23 May 1951 – 10 May 1952
Stationed at: Pusan-East AB, South Korea, 10 May 1952 – 10 October 1954
Stationed at: Johnson AB, Japan, 1 April 1950; Yokota AB, Japan, 14 August 1950; Iwakuni AB, Japan, 1 December 1950; Kunsan AB, South Korea, 22 August 1951 – 1 October 1954

Fifth Air Force

  • Attached to: Far East Air Force Bomber Command

Strategic Air Command (SAC)

Twentieth Air Force
Kadena Air Base, Okinawa
19th Bombardment Group (B-29) (June 1950 – May 1954)
28th Bombardment Squadron
30th Bombardment Squadron
93d Bombardment Squadron
Inactivated 19th BW assigned to SAC, June 1954
  • Far East Air Force Bomber Command

Far East Air Forces (FEAF)

Bombardment units

Types employed


Source for unit history: [15][16][17]

Fighter units

Types employed


Aircraft of the Korean War


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