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57th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron

57th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron

Emblem of the 57th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron
Active 1940–1995
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Type Fighter-Interceptor

The 57th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, also known as "The Black Knights of Keflavik", is an inactive United States Air Force unit. The 57 FIS was last stationed at Naval Air Station Keflavik, Iceland. It was inactivated on 1 March 1995.


World War II

The 57th Pursuit Squadron was established on 1 January 1941 at Hamilton Field, California. Along with the 42d and 56th squadrons it was a part of the 54th Pursuit Group. It was formed with a cadre from the 35th Pursuit Group.

The squadron operated both Bell P-39 Aircobras and Curtiss P-40 Warhawks alongside each other which was rather unusual, and in June 1942 it was sent to Alaska. It was first based at Elmendorf Field, Anchorage and according to the official records, it would seem that it did not in itself take any part in the action against the Japanese in the Aleutians, but a detachment of eleven of the pilots saw service with the 42d which was based at Kodiak NAS, Adak and between them got three confirmed victories and two probables. On 4 August 1942, the 57th was moved to Kodiak NAS, Adak and there replaced the 42d. All its pilots were rotated to Adak to gain combat experience.

The assignment of the 57th to Alaska came to end on 26 November 1942 and the P-39s were to be flown to Duncan Army Airfield, San Antonio, Texas for depot-level overhaul. With the squadron back at Harding Army Airfield, Baton Rouge, it was reequipped with the North American P-51A Mustang, thereby becoming the first P-51 unit in the AAF. On 12 May 1943 the 54th Group with the 57th and 56th Squadrons was transferred to Bartow Army Airfield, Florida. There it became a replacement training group, training P-51 pilots for overseas duty. It reequipped with P-51Bs at Bartow. The 57th Squadron was disbanded on 30 April 1944, being replaced by an Army Air Force Base Unit as part of a re-orgazation of training units.

The unit was reactivated under Strategic Air Command on 24 March 1947 as an Air Force Reserve fighter-escort squadron under the reserve 459th Bombardment Group at Davis-Monthan Field, Arizona. It is unclear whether or nor the unit was manned or equipped as the 459th was located at Long Beach Army Air Field, California with B-29 Superfortresses. It was inactivated in June 1959 due to budget reductions.

Air Defense Command

The 57th was reactivated as an active squadron at Presque Isle AFB, Maine, on 20 March 1953 under Air Defense Command and designated the 57th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. It was equipped with Northrop F-89C Scorpion interceptor, and assigned to the 528th Air Defense Group. It maintained a 24 hour alert at Presque Isle.

On 12 November 1954, the 57th FIS was moved to Keflavik Airport, Iceland, replacing the 82d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron which was temporarily assigned from Larson AFB, Washington. At Keflavik, ADC was a tenant unit under the Military Air Transport Service Iceland Air Defense Force (IADF).

The mission of the 57th FIS at Keflavik was an interceptor squadron charged with the monitoring of the Greenland, Iceland, United Kingdom (GIUK gap) in the North Atlantic that formed a naval warfare choke point during the Cold War. The 57th would respond alerts from ADC Ground-Control Intercept (GCI) and warning stations established on Iceland; the GCI stations guiding its interceptor aircraft toward unidentified intruders picked up on the radar scopes. Over 1,000 intercepts of Soviet aircraft took place inside Iceland's Military Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ).

On 18 December 1955 the IADF was re-designated as the MATS 1400th Operations Group as the mission at Keflavik was expanded to accommodate Tactical Air Command and Strategic Air Command transient aircraft. In 1959, a retrenchment of USAF operations began, including the reduction of F-89 interceptors by ADC and SAC (tenant) activities.

Air Force activities at the airport were reorganized and placed under the ADC Air Forces Iceland, which functioned at a Wing level on 1 July 1960. Shortly afterwards, the USAF transferred jurisdiction of Keflavik Airport to the United States Navy on 1 July 1961 which named it Naval Air Station Keflavik (NASKEF). The Air Force units at Keflavik operated in a tenant status with the 57th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron and two Radar Aircraft Control and Warning Squadrons on 1 July 1961. The USAF facilities remained designated Keflavik Airport.

In 1962 ADC replaced the F-89s with newer F-102 Delta Daggers supersonic interceptors, the F-89s generally being worn-out after nearly a decade of continual interceptions. Challenges by the 57th FIS to Soviet aircraft on flights over the North Atlantic and along the Eastern Seaboard of the United States to bases in Cuba continued throughout the 1960s.

The first F-4C Phantom II aircraft was assigned to the squadron on 16 April 1973, as TAC was replacing the C's with F-4E models at the end of the Vietnam War. By 30 June, the squadron. had six F-4Cs and additional F-4s were received in the third quarter of 1974. The last of the F-102s were replaced in early 1975 when additional F-4Cs were received from TAC squadrons at Luke AFB and George AFB; the last F-4C arriving in March 1976.

In early 1978 preparations for the exchange of the F-4C for F-4Es were underway with the first two aircraft landing on 21 March. These aircraft were better equipped than the C models, with solid state radios and tactical navigation equipment, lead computing optical gunsight and ILS. Twelve aircraft arrived between April and July, and the last F-4Cs left on 14 June.

Some F-106 Delta Darts were received by the 57th FIS by Aerospace Defense Command in 1977 from ADC units inactivating in the United States. because of increased activity around the Kola Peninsula in the USSR, but in all probability it was extra capacity added to assist while the 57th began converting to the F-4E. The Delta Darts did stand alert, but not in the Alert Hangar itself, but from the flight line beside it.

Tactical/Air Combat Command

On 1 October 1979 Tactical Air Command (TAC) absorbed ADC's assets, and the F-4E Phantom II aircraft of the 57th Fighter Interceptor Squadron (57 FIS). In 1982 the construction of hardened aircraft shelters was planned on the west end of the airfield and this construction started in 1983. The shelters were of a Norwegian design, with the doors opening inwards and fitting into a recess in the foundation, thus making the floor for the aircraft to taxi over. Thirteen shelters were constructed.

In 1984 it was announced that the 57th FIS was programmed to receive the F-15 Eagle. Initially, it was believed that the squadron would get the F-15A model, as that was the version going into the ANG units at that time, and the 57th had never been equipped with the most modern front-line aircraft in the USAF. It therefore came as a surprise that July 1985, that modern F-15Cs and F-15Ds replaced the aging F-4s, and the tail code "IS" was assigned to Air Forces Iceland (AFI).

On 1 June 1992, Air Combat Command (ACC) assumed command and control of AFI and the 57th FIS. Air Forces Iceland was inactivated on 31 May 1993. Activated in its place, assuming the mission previously carried out by AFI, was the 35th Fighter Wing (35 WG) that was transferred from the closing George AFB, California. The change was part of the Air Force's "objective wing" plan that was to carry on the history of World War II flying units. On 1 October 1993, an ACC realignment transferred administrative control of the 35th Fighter Wing from First Air Force to Eighth Air Force. However, the 35th would go through another major change less than two years after it was activated at Keflavik.

Because the 35th garnered the majority of its history in the Pacific theater during World War II, and in California since 1971 until its move to Iceland, it was decided to relocate the unit back to that area. Consequently, the 35th Fighter Wing was relieved of its assignment to ACC and transferred to Misawa Air Base (AB), Japan, on 1 October 1994. To assume the mission at Keflavik, the 85th Wing was activated on the same day.

The 85th Wing was a combination of the lineages and histories of the 85th Fighter-Bomber Group and the former Air Forces Iceland (AFI). This allowed the Air Force contingent in Iceland to keep alive its distinguished history in the foreign nation, while also retaining the history of a World War II flying unit.

Air Force reductions and a new agreement with the Government of Iceland continued to affect Keflavik organizations. On 1 March 1995, the 57th FS was inactivated and the interceptor force was replaced by Regular Air Force and Air National Guard F-15 Eagle fighter aircraft rotating every 90 days to Iceland until the USAF inactivated the 85th Group in 2002.


  • Constituted 57th Pursuit Squadron (Interceptor) on 20 November 1940.
Activated on 15 January 1941.
Re-designated 57th Fighter Squadron on 15 May 1942
Disbanded on 1 May 1944.
  • Re-constituted on 24 March 1947.
Activated in the reserve on 15 May 1947.
Inactivated on 27 June 1949.
  • Re-designated 57th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron on 11 February 1953.
Activated on 27 March 1953
Re-designated 57th Fighter Squadron on 1 January 1993
Inactivated on 1 March 1995



Detachment operated from: San Diego Airport, California, 28 May – 12 June 1942
Detachment operated from: Elmendorf Airfield, Alaska, 20 June – 30 September 1942
Detachment operated from: Kodiak, Alaska, 29 September – 1 December 1942



  • A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization 1946 - 1980, by Lloyd H. Cornett and Mildred W. Johnson, Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado
  • Maurer, Maurer. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1982.
  • USAF Aerospace Defense Command publication, The Interceptor, January 1979 (Volume 21, Number 1).

External links

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