Defying Superstition: The 13th Fighter Squadron's Legacy of Excellence

  • Published
  • 35th Fighter Squadron

The 13th Fighter Squadron, affectionately known as the “Panther Pack,” stands out not only for its unique squadron number but also for its distinct mascot, a black cat. Despite any superstitions, the squadron boasts a storied history, including its time of owning an actual panther and its crucial role in pioneering the Wild Weasel Mission during the 1960s.

Throughout its dynamic history, the 13th FS has remained steadfast in its mission and traditions, continually supporting the U.S. Air Force. Their expertise and effectiveness have been instrumental in advancing the Wild Weasel mission, a critical strategy in combat.

Originally formed as the 313th Bombardment Squadron in World War II, the squadron was reactivated two decades later as the 13th Tactical Fighter Squadron. Stationed at Korat Royal Thai Air Force Base in 1966, they embarked on the vital mission of neutralizing surface-to-air missile sites and officially adopted the Panther Pack moniker. The squadron brought this identity to life by adopting a black Asian leopard, named Eldridge, as their mascot. Eldridge, after growing too large for the base, was eventually rehomed to a U.S. zoo, where he sired three cubs. 

Post-Vietnam War, the squadron saw a period of inactivity before relocating to MacDill Air Force Base for training purposes. In 1985, they were reactivated at Misawa Air Base, their current location, where they have since provided air-interdiction, threat response, and Suppression of Enemy Air Defense (SEAD) services, supporting Pacific Air Forces and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command operations.

Key to their success is the collaboration with the 13th Fighter Generation Squadron, as explained by Senior Master Sgt. Timothy Puckett, 13th Fighter Generation Squadron superintendent. The close coordination between the 13th and 14th Fighter and Fighter Generation Squadrons ensures robust support and protection within the Indo-Pacific region. This partnership showcases the 35th Fighter Wing’s commitment to maintaining operational readiness and demonstrating its capabilities in responding to challenges whenever and wherever needed.