This week an Iowa Army National Guard helicopter delivered a historic F-80 fighter jet to the Air National Guard paint facility in Sioux City, Iowa where the jet will be repainted. The F-80 was hoisted from a static display at the state headquarters in Des Moines before making a gentle landing across the state in front of the Air National Guard paint facility in Sioux City. A U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook from B/171 Aviation Regiment assigned to the Iowa National Guard, was responsible for safely delivering the jet to the paint facility. The 1950’s era aircraft was on display painted with markings of the 174th Fighter Intercepter Squadron which was the predecessor to the 185th Air Refueling Wing in Sioux City.
The Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star was the first jet powered aircraft flown by the U.S. Army Air Force when it was introduce in the mid 1940s at the end of the 2nd World War. The story of how the F-80 came to the Iowa Air Guard in Sioux City however, was wrapped up in the forgotten war. In the early 1950’s, Iowa’s 174th FIS was equipped with the slightly newer F-84, but in 1951 everything changed. Jet pilots and the newer F-84s were needed in the Korean peninsula and in Europe as the threat of communism spread. When Sioux City’s 174th was activated in April 1951, Iowa ANG pilots and their F-84s were dispersed around the globe.
During the flight over Iowa this week the Iowa ANG F-80 was in the capable hands of CH-47 Flight Engineer Staff Sgt. Jesse Ayala. Ayala said,”Sling loading the aircraft to Sioux City allowed them to practice aircraft recovery methods. What we did today is great practice for the real world mission we have to do. That downed aircraft recovery is an important part of CH-47 mission. He said that moving the F-80 allows his team to get great experience while moving at a safe pace. In a real world mission it could save lives and equipment.”
When the unit returned to Sioux City, they were relocated the older F-80. Equipped with the F-80 the fledgling unit was able to maintain pilot currency until they would convert to newer aircraft a few years later. Even though the airframe was short-lived in the Iowa, the F-80 and its variations like the T-33 proved to be a solid reliable aircraft. The U.S. Air Force officially retired the airframe in 1959. The T-33 derivative of the F-80 continued to be flown by other nations. The aircraft was retired from the Canadian Air Force in 2005 and was still being flown by the Bolivian Air Force as late as 2017. By keeping historic aircraft on display, organizations like the Iowa National Guard are also under obligation to ensure the aircraft are kept in good shape. After being repainted, the aircraft will be placed back on static display at Camp Dodge were it will serve to educate and inspire visitors about the rich history of the Iowa National Guard.