|473d Fighter Group
|Branch||United States Air Force|
|Part of||Air Defense Command|
The 473d Fighter Group is an inactive United States Air Force (USAF) unit. Its last assignment was with the 30th Air Division at K. I. Sawyer Air Force Base, Michigan, where it was inactivated on 30 September 1959.
During World War II, the unit was programmed as a replacement training unit for P-38 Lightning pilots but never became operational. It was disbanded in a general reorganization of the Army Air Forces into base units to make more efficient use of manpower.
The group was reactivated as the 473d Fighter Group (Air Defense) in the spring of 1956 during the Cold War under Air Defense Command. The group opened K.I. Sawyer for use by the USAF, and after 1959 was responsible for air defense in the upper midwestern United States. Its mission, personnel and equipment were transferred to the 56th Fighter Group (Air Defense) in 1959 and the group was inactivated.
The 473d Fighter Group was activated at Grand Central Air Terminal, California in late 1943. It was originally assigned the 482d, 483d and 484th Fighter Squadrons. A month later the 451st Fighter Squadron was activated and assigned to the group. The group was a Replacement Training Unit equipped primarily with Lockheed P-38 Lightnings, but its squadrons flew a variety of aircraft. Replacement training units were oversized units which trained aircrews prior to their deployment to combat theaters.
However, at the time the 473d was being organized, the Army Air Forces found that standard military units, based on relatively inflexible tables of organization, were proving less well adapted to the training mission. Accordingly, it adopted a more functional system in which each base was organized into a separate numbered unit. In the final days of March 1944, the group and three of its squadrons moved to Ephrata Army Air Base, Washington, while the 482d squadron moved to Moses Lake Army Air Field, Washington. The group and squadrons acting as RTUs were then disbanded. The units at Ephrata were combined into the 430th AAF Base Unit (Fighter Replacement Training Unit-Single Engine). The 482d formed the basis for the 431st AAF Base Unit.
The group was reactivated in April 1956 during the Cold War by Air Defense Command to open K. I. Sawyer Air Force Base, Michigan. The 473d was initially assigned to the 4710th Air Defense Wing. The group was the host for all USAF organizations at K.I. Sawyer and was assigned several support organizations to fulfill this responsibility. In July, the 4710th wing was discontinued and the group was assigned directly to the 37th Air Division. The operational squadron assigned to the group was the 484th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, which was authorized Northrop F-89 Scorpion aircraft. However, these aircraft were not delivered before the squadron was inactivated in February 1959 and the squadron did not become operational. In fact, it was 1959 before the K.I. Sawyer runway was completed and ready to accept modern aircraft.
In August 1958, the group became host to a Strategic Air Command wing, the 4042d Strategic Wing. Although the 4042d was initially activated as a headquarters only, it would be the framework for a forward based Boeing B-52 Stratofortress equipped bombardment wing. The following August, the 62d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron moved to K.I. Sawyer, was attached to the wing, and equipped with McDonnell F-101 Voodoos. The squadron had moved from O'Hare International Airport, where there was local resistance to maintaining a regular USAF presence at one of the world's busiest civilian airports. Security for the Voodoo's nuclear armed MB-1 Genie at a civilian location was also a concern. Two months after the arrival of the 62d, its parent group, the 56th Fighter Group and its support units moved on paper from O'Hare to K.I. Sawyer and assumed the mission, personnel and equipment of the 473d, which was inactivated.
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