The 61st Fighter Squadron was constituted as the 61st Pursuit Squadron as part of the 56th Pursuit Group at Savannah, Georgia, on 15 January 1941. The squadron immediately began training for its wartime missions under III Fighter Command, rapidly transitioning through the Seversky P-35, Curtiss P-36 Hawk, Bell P-39 Airacobra and Curtiss P-40 Warhawk aircraft. On 7 December 1941, the 61st stepped up to defend the Southeastern United States from anticipated enemy air attack while it converted to the Republic P-47 Thunderbolt aircraft and prepared to deploy overseas. In November 1942, P-47 Thunderbolt dive test pilots achieved 725 mph, faster than the speed of sound. The 61st Fighter Squadron is an active United States Air Force unit, assigned to the 56th Operations Group, at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona. It operates the F-35 Lightning II aircraft, conducting Instructor Pilot training. The 61st, known as the 'Top Dogs', fly F-35A aircraft, to train instructor pilots and initial qualification pilots for Air Combat Command assignments.
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