60 Years Tactical Fighter Wing 74

Normally, Tactical Fighter Wing 74 in Neuburg an der Donau celebrates its milestone birthdays with a big open day. So it was planned this year in connection with “Tag der Bundeswehr”. But unfortunately, the still ongoing pandemic has its influence and so there was only a digital edition of “Tag der Bundeswehr”. The squadron celebrated in advance on May 11nd its birthday in a rather small event. As a special feature for this day there was the freshly foiled Eurofighter Typhoon 31+01 and the specially painted C160 Transall “Retro Brummel” to see in the air. Additionally some formation flyovers over the airbase and the city of Neuburg took place to celebrate this event. For the anniversary video, the first “elephant walk” of Luftwaffe was prepared with 18 Eurofighter Typhoon lined up on the runway.

Neuburg an der Donau is home of the JG 74 (Fighter Wing 74) since 5th of May 1961. Its roots go back two years earlier, by then named JG 75 and based at Leipheim. The first fighter jet used by the wing was the F-86K Sabre Dog. The wing also had some Piaggio P.194D and T-33A aircraft on base for training and liaison purpose.

As the protection of the German Air space is the wings primary mission, all efforts were made to achieve a fast NATO certification for flying Quick Reaction Alert Intercept (QRA (I)) missions. The NATO assignement happened eventually on 5th of October 1962 and was since then continuously renewed. For this duty, two aircraft are kept in high readiness for 24 hours, 365 days of the year to be able to scramble (alert take off) within 15 minutes after being alarmed. With the F-86K this mission could already be fullfilled in all weather conditions during day and night. JG 74 was the only wing of Luftwaffe (West German Air Force) capable to do so at this time!

Nevertheless, the periode of Sabre Dog was a rather short one as the successor already arrived on 12th of May 1964 in Neuburg: The F-104G Starfighter. Squadron 741 “Falkensteaffel” (falcon squadron) was assigned to NATO in January 1966. However, operations at night were not possible at the beginning. During transition period, one squadron was equipped with Sabre Dogs and the other with Starfighters. This ended, when second squadron (742 “Zapata”) was NATO assigned two years later as well and the wing became again fully capable of QRA (I) duties. In remembrance of Mexican freedom fighter Emiliano Zapata, the Mexican Military Attaché awarded the squadron with their nickname in 1971.

During these years, many flight hours were achieved which leads to the 100,000st flight hour of the wing in August 1971 with all aircraft types in use (P.149D, Do 27A, T-33A, F-86K and F-104G). 200,000 flight hours were logged on 29th of March 1984 with the F-4F Phantom II already replaced the Starfighter and Do 28D2 replaced Do 27A.

On the death anniversary of Werner Mölders on 21st November 1973, the wing was named after him and subsequently called JG 74 “Mölders” until German Ministry of Defence decided to revoke it in March 2005.

JG 74 “M” collected approximately 80.000 flight hours on the F-104G with 11 accidents and the death of three pilots. Compared to other wings, this is a very low loss rate in comparison to a total loss of almost one third of the 916 aquired German Starfighters. From July 1974 onwards, the remaining F-104 were given to Fighter Bomber Wings 32, 33 and 34 as the Fighter Wings 71 and 74 should be equipped with the more powerful type F-4F Phantom II.

Due to change in NATO doctrine from massive retaliation to flexible response, the demands on the weapon system increased and lead to a new procurement of a gap filling aircraft with better performance in range, dogfight and safety. Other criteria were a fast procurement, support within NATO and the ability to navigate under all weather conditions. This led to the order of 175 F-4F Phantom II for the Luftwaffe. The first 4 Phantoms arrived in September 1974 at JG 74.

Because the pilot training was shifted from Germany to Sheppard Air Force Base in USA, the remaining T-33A training aircraft left the wing on February 17th 1975.

On 23rd January 1985 the wing already achieved 100,000 flight hours on Phantom II. But at that time, the F-4s were already outdated and needed an upgrade program to fill the gap to state of the art fighters. The Improved Combat Efficiency (ICE) program was initiated. The biggest update of this program was the AN/APG-65GY radar, which was developed for the F/A-18 program. Hand in hand with the procurement of AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, the Luftwaffe became capable of engage targets beyond visual range. Included in the update program was also a service life extension program (SLEP) from 4,000 to 6,500 flight hours. The first light Phantom II with lighter radome arrived at Neuburg on April 16th 1992. Almost exactly four years later (April 18th 1996), 300,000 flight hours were achieved by the wing.

But the end for the mighty Phantom at JG 74 came on June 12th 2008 and left the JG 71 “Richthofen” in Wittmundhafen as the sole fighter wing with F-4s in service of German Air Force. In Neuburg, 241,000 FH on Phantom with 5 losses during 34 years of service were logged with these aircrafts.

The European Fighter Project for a multi role fighter brought up the Eurofighter Typhoon for the air forces of Great Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain as a new primary weapon system. It was introduced in Neuburg as of 2008. Only one year later, on May 16th the Fighter Wing already logged 10,000 flight hours on this type!

JG 74 was the leading fighter wing for shooting campaign of AIM-120 AMRAAM in Great Britain in 2010. Due to disbanding of JaboG 32 and its first tiger fighter squadron, the wing took over the tiger spirit and created the Bavarian Tigers (with both squadrons 741 and 742) on April 18th 2013. The full member status was achieved on NATO Tiger Meet 2016 at Zaragoza (Spain). So 2021 also marks the 5th anniversary of full membership for the Bavarian Tigers!

Also in 2016, the fighter wing recorded its 20,000st flight hour on the type Eurofighter Typhoon. What is missing, is the renaming of the wing from JG 74 to Taktisches Luftwaffengeschwader 74 (“TaktLwG 74”) in accordance with realignement of German Armed Forces on October 1st 2013. From this date, all fighters wings are used in multiple roles.

We look ahead for many beautiful anniversaries with this bavarian fighter wing!

Primary source: Andreas Bauer & Johann Wohlmuth mit Andreas Klein: Jagdgeschwader 74 “Mölders” – TaktLwG 74 1961 – 2016 (AirDOC)

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