by Sabrejet Classics Staff

A photo appearing in Sabrejet Classics, Fall 1999, showing an F-86D of an unknown unit at Tyndall AFB solicited several responses from the membership. The question "Who were they?" was answered with the identification of the airplane as one from the Interceptor Weapons School from Tyndall AFB, Florida, officially known as the 3628th Combat Crew Training Squadron. Several members filled in some of the unanswered questions about the Interceptor Weapons School. Thanks to members Bill Creech, Paul Jones, and Erwin Wallaker for their contributions. The following is based on information received.

The Interceptor Weapons School (IWS) was established at Tyndall AFE, Florida on I February 1954 with Major John Nelson as Commander. Initially it was called the Interceptor Weapons Instructor School. Schools for all three major types of interceptor were established at Tyndall at the time - the North American F-86D, Northrop F-89 Scorpion, and Lockheed F-94 Starfire. During the first year of operation, the F-89 and F-94 schools were transferred to Moody AFB, Georgia. The F86D school opened on I July 1954.

It wasn't until 31 December 1955 that the IWIS was renamed as simply the Interceptor Weapons School or IWS. Both the IWIS and the IWS were under the control of the 3628th Combat Crew Training Squadron, 3625th Combat Crew Training Wing (Interceptor). On 1 July 1957, Tyndall AFB was transferred to Air Defense Command the IWS came under the control of 73rd Air Division (Weapons), 4756th Air Defense Wing.

For the next six months, the aircraft and crew training was conducted by the 4757th Air Defense Squadron (Interceptor Weapons School), which was redesignated the 4757th PAIS on 1 November 1957, then renamed the 4757Lh TWS on 15 December 1957. Ala, the IWS replaced the F-86Ds with Convair F-102As on 30 December 1957.

The mission of the IWS was "To train flight command/ instructor pilot quality students to be able to teach and demonstrate any all-weather tactic that the aircraft was capable of performing." The IWS was in operation during the entire life of the air defense mission as qualified by Air Defense Command and later Aerospace Defense Command. When ADC was incorporated into TAC on 15 October 1983, the IWS was shut down.

With the mission of the IWS clearly stated, the instructors and students developed various tactics that could be flown against any 'bad guys' that might attempt to penetrate the air defenses of the United States. Each unit sent a pilot and Ground Control Intercept Controller to the IWS at Tyndall, where they were trained in the latest interceptor tactics, before returning to their units to pass on the information they had learned at Tyndall. The instructors at the IWS considered themselves to be the 'elite' of the all-weather interceptor business, as they were always ready to try something new and different. The instructors developed tactics to counter the electronic counter-measures anticipated by the Soviet bomber forces, perfected night firing on multiple target situations, and regularly flew (illegally) in weather with out an available alternate whenever their area of operations was socked in. The IWS instructors literally pushed the envelope Of all-weather tactics to the limit (and beyond) of safety.

The IWS had students flying both daylight and night intercepts, with a live-fire exercise at the end of each session. The night intercepts were especially interestIng as the target was usually at about 1500 feet over the Gulf Of Mexico. The F-86D pilot would come in at about 500 feet to plot the intencept. This was often necessary because Of the failure of the Hughes E-4 Fire Control System, which had a tendency to 'break lock' at just the wrong time,

As interceptor aircraft progressed from the F-86D era to the Century series of double-sonic interceptors like the McDonnell F-101B Voodoo, the Convair F-102A and F-106A delta-wing interceptors, and the Lockheed F104A Starfighter, the IWS instructors developed and refined the tactics for each new type of aircraft. This was true up through the use of the F-4 Phantom and the F-15 Eagle.

No portion of this article may be used or reprinted without permission from the President of the F-86 Sabre Pilots Association or the editor of Sabre Jet Classics magazine.

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