Sixty Years of Redhawk Alert

  • Published
  • By by Terrence G. Popravak Jr.
  • 142nd Fighter Wing

In the wake of the Korean War, air defenses in North America were built up and the ANG was an integral part of that effort.  On this 1 October date in 1958, the 142d Fighter Group (Air Defense) of the Oregon Air National Guard (Ore ANG) established an alert capability at Portland as part of the Air Defense Augmentation Program.  Twenty ANG squadrons participated in this nation-wide program in 1958, which served to increase the combat readiness of ANG aircrews and helped Air Defense Command.

Ten officers of the group’s 123d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron comprising five pilot/radar observer aircrews were placed on active duty orders and scheduled to provide 7 days per week, 14 hours per day alert assistance to the regular Air Force.  About a dozen ground crew were required to refuel and maintain the planes on alert. 

Two Northrop F-89H Scorpion fighter-interceptor jet aircraft were kept on a 5-minute alert status and two more F-89H’s were ready as backups.  The F-89H was the first ANG aircraft to carry guided missiles (the Hughes GAR-1/2 (later known as the AIM-4) Falcon air-to-air missile).

The 142d Fighter Group (Air Defense) jets and aircrews supplemented and sometimes replaced the active duty alert crews of Portland Air Force Base’s 337th Fighter Group.   The aircrews were activated from 1 to 59 day periods at the time, and the squadron endeavored to rotate all of its pilots and radar observers into service in the program.

The initial participation in the augmentation program lasted some 15 months, taking a break in 1960 when the unit transitioned from the F-89H to the F-89J variant of the Scorpion.  Oregon’s participation resumed again circa January, 1961 after the program had become the ANG Air Defense Alert Program.  Alert duty at Portland, now called Aerospace Control Alert (ACA) has been maintained ever since.