SAC Bases: McConnell Air Force Base

From the Strategic Air Command web site



Home of:

22nd Bomb Wing, 381st Strategic Missile Wing, 384th Refueling / Bomb Wing


Home of 22nd Air Refueling Wing and B-2s flown by 184th BW, National Guard.


McConnell AFB

3520th Combat Training Wing for B-47
381st Strategic Missile Wing – Titan
384th bomb Wing – B1B
McConnell 3520th Combat Training Wing for B-47 later redesignated
4347th CCTW reassigned to SAC appx Jul 58 – Jan 59

Located in
America’s heartland, airmanship in the Wichita area began in the first
decade of the century. In 1916, as the U.S. prepared to enter the World
War, the city of Wichita started buying land to build a municipal airport.
In October 1924, Wichita hosted the National Air Congress that attracted
over 100,000 people. The event highlighted an air race with 47 military
and civilian aircraft participating, including the locally produced
Swallow bi-plane. After this nationally recognized event, several new
aircraft manufacturing companies opened. Firms such as Travel Air, Beech
Aircraft’s predecessor, Boeing, and Cessna began operations. With this
growth of aviation in Wichita, aviators began pushing for the proposed
municipal airport’s construction. Construction crews broke ground on June
28, 1929; however, the Great Depression delayed the terminal’s completion
almost six years.

Although only one hangar and three small
warehouses were available for use, the Army Air Force Material Center
established its headquarters in the Wichita Municipal Airport
administration building in March 1942. The Material Command chose this
site to take advantage of the airport’s five, 50-foot-wide runways, each
with a 60,000 pound wheel load capacity. In September 1945, the Material
Center moved to Oklahoma City, Okla., eventually becoming the Air Force
Logistics Center at what is now Tinker AFB. Meanwhile, the 4156th Army Air
Field Base Unit arrived at Wichita to service and maintain transient and
locally based aircraft. One year later, this unit disbanded, did the Air
Force would not return until 1951.McConnell’s history began in October 1924, when Wichita hosted more than
100,000 people for the National Air Congress. The event was used by city
planners to raise funds for a proposed Wichita Municipal Airport. The event was
a success and ground-breaking ceremonies for the airport were held on Jun 28,
1929. In August 1941, the Kansas Air National Guard was activated as the first
military unit assigned to the Wichita airport. This was the start of a
cooperative relationship between the people of Wichita and military aviation.

Since Wichita
Municipal bordered the Boeing plant, the Air Force moved back into the
site in June 1951 and changed the name to Wichita AFB. This time, the Air
Training Command’s 3520th Combat Crew Training Wing, under the command of
Col. H.R. Spicer, began training Boeing B-47 Stratojet bomber aircrews.
For the first six months after the activation, a “tent city” housed the
assigned people. This “city” consisted of 174 tents, a fire tower and a
few leased buildings in Wichita.
In April 1954, the base became
McConnell AFB in honor of two of the three “Flying McConnell Brothers” of
World War II. The brothers, from Wichita, entered the Army Air Corps
together during WW II. The trio gained fame as “three of a kind.” Second
Lt Thomas McConnell perished in July 1943, when his B-24 Liberator crashed
into a fog covered mountain on Guadalcanal, Soloman Islands, while
returning to his home base, also on Guadalcanal, after a bombing mission.
Captain Fred McConnell died when his private plane crashed in October 1945
near Garden Plains, Kan., while on his way to Garden Plains AFB.
Lieutenant Colonel (reserve) Edwin McConnell passed away in August 1997 at
the age of 76.
From 1954 to
1956, a $22 million construction program turned the old airport into one
of the Air Force’s major bases. These improvements included 490 Capehart-style housing units, 10 miles of paved streets and two aircraft
hangars. Other improvements included clubs, a theater, commissary, bank,
hospital and base exchange. In 1958, 4547 CCTW, under SAC, replaced the
Military presence at the airport consisted primarily of aircraft material and
procurement operations until June 4, 1951 when the 3520th Combat Crew Training
Wing was activated there to conduct B-47 combat crew training. The Air Force
sought to make the airport a permanent military installation, and the city of
Wichita was awarded $9.4 million to build a new airfield, later to become known
as Mid-Continent Airport.

Air Training Command was host at the base from 1951 through 1958, when the
Strategic Air Command took over. In 1960, the first
of 18 Titan II
intercontinental ballistic missile sites was constructed. This led to the
activation of the 381st Strategic Missile Wing
on March 1, 1962. From 1963 through 1972, McConnell served as a Tactical Air Command base with
the 381st Strategic Missile Wing as its major tenant. TAC units operating at
McConnell during this period included: the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing,
During this time, SAC selected sites for 18 Titan II
missile complexes for the newly activated 381st Strategic Missile Wing.
Using McConnell as the center, the silos formed a ring from the northeast
and south to the west, 20 to 50 miles from the installation. Construction
crews finished the project in the early 1960s, at the cost of $80
Host unit responsibilities again transferred to SAC on Dec. 1, 1972. At that
time, the 384th Air Refueling Wing arrived at McConnell, including first the
91st Air Refueling Squadron, which began air refueling operations in June 1971,
and later the 384th Air Refueling Squadron, which began its KC-135A operations
in September 1973.
With the Air Force’s development of more modern strategic missile systems,
the inactivation of the Titan II ICBMs was announced in October 1981. But
McConnell’s role in support of the nation’s strategic defense would continue. In
June 1983, Air Force officials selected McConnell to be one of the future homes
for the B-1B Lancer bomber.

Meanwhile, the first KC-135R, a re-engined, quieter, more fuel-efficient
version of the “Stratotanker,” was received by the 384th Air Refueling Wing on
July 1984. The 384th Air Refueling Wing became the host wing on June 5, 1985. By
Aug. 5, 1985, McConnell became the only Air Force base to be equipped completely
with R-model aircraft for its refueling operations. The 381st Strategic Missile
Wing ended Titan II operations and was inactivated on Aug. 8,1986.
The base took its first steps back toward bomber operations after nearly a
quarter century with the redesignation of the 384th Air Refueling Wing as the
384th Bombardment Wing (Heavy) on July 1, 1987. The new wing became one of only
four B-1B units in the Air Force with the arrival of its first Lancer bomber on
Jan. 4, 1988.
On April 26,1991, a tornado touched down on McConnell, leaving a trail of
devastation as it traveled southwest to northeast across the base. Nine major
facilities on the main base were totally destroyed, including the hospital and
most of the base’s Services facilities. The base housing complex lost 102 units in the storm and ten other facilities
received minor damage. There were no deaths and only 16 injuries on base. This
was attributed to advance warning from McConnell’s weather forecasters. The period following the tornado was a tumultuous one for McConnell. Between
the $55 Million provided by Congress to rebuild tornado-stricken facilities, and
previously scheduled construction projects, the pace of construction at the base
was a whirlwind of its own.
A sparkling new lodging facility opened for business in May 1993. A skills
development center, which includes the auto hobby and arts and crafts
activities, came on line in October 1993. In January 1994, 102 new housing units
were dedicated and opened. Then, in March 1994, the base unveiled and opened a
$17 million Medical Treatment Facility replacing the hospital lost in 1991’s
tornado. Finally, the gem of the tornado rebuilding, the $15.4 million “Emerald
City” was opened in August 1994. This prototype facility combines many of the
services whose facilities were lost in the tornado including the officer and
enlisted lounges and dining rooms, fitness center, bowling alley and pool.
The period from 1992-1994 marked a time of major change in the way McConnell
looked, and changes in mission operations. As the Air Force joined its sister
services in drawing down both its forces and infrastructure, the Congressional
Base Commission and DoD announced a series of changes which would come to impact
McConnell and underscore its continued key role in the nation’s defense.

On September 18, 1991 the President ordered SAC’s strategic forces, including
McConnell’s B-1Bs, to stand down from alert status-a move which reflected the
end of the Cold War and the changing international climate. Then, in June 1992,
the Air Force realigned SAC, TAC and Military Airlift Command into two-Air
Combat Command and Air Mobility Command. McConnell’s 384th Bombardment Wing was
renamed the 384th Bomb Wing, and the unit assumed a conventional bombing role
along with its strategic mission. McConnell’s host command became Air Combat
In October 1993, the Air Force announced the 384th Bomb Wing would
inactivate, become the 384th Bomb Group for 10 months beginning Jan. 1, 1994,
and begin to transfer its conventional B-1B mission to the Kansas Air National
Guard unit at McConnell, the 184th Fighter Group. This KSANG unit, which became
the 184th Bomb Group on July 1, 1994, is the first Air National Guard unit ever
to be assigned a heavy bomber mission. In January 1994, AMC was assigned as McConnell’s host major command. The 22nd
Air Refueling Wing was announced as McConnell’s new host unit, and the buildup
of the wing’s four KC-135R tanker squadrons began. By October 1994, the 22nd
became one of only three Air Force core tanker wings.
In August 1990, more than 6,000
Marines processed through March AFB, en route to the Middle East in
support of Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. After the
Gulf War the Air Force’s senior leadership and planners, learned that
“tactical” and “strategic” assets could successfully be used
interchangeably. This information and the budget constraints forced Air
Force leaders to consolidated its major commands from 13 to 10. On June 1,
1992, SAC inactivated. The Tactical Air Command gained SAC’s bomber fleet
and became Air Combat Command. The 22nd and other tanker units joined
Military Airlift Command’s airlift fleet, forming the Air Mobility
Command. Air Force Space Command gained SAC’s Intercontinental Ballistic
Missile forces.
On January 3, 1994, the 22nd succeeded
the 384th BW as McConnell’s host unit. The bomber unit served as an
associate unit until it transferred its B-1 Lancer fleet to the 184th Bomb
Group, Kansas Air National Guard before inactivating in September 1994.
The 384th Air Refueling Squadron, a geographically separated unit of the
19th Air Refueling Wing (Robins AFB, Geo.) and a previous McConnell tenant
unit, joined the 22 ARW as the first of four KC-135 squadrons to comprise
the wing’s new tanker force. Within eight months, the 344th, 349th and the
350th joined the 384th to fly the wing’s 48 KC-135s to provide global
reach for America. Other wing accomplishments include being the lead unit
in testing adopting the Multi point refueling system, allowing the wing to
provide refueling services to U.S. Navy and allied

More… May duplicate that above.
In October 1962, the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing activated
at McConnell and flew the F-100C Super Sabre, and later the F-105D
Thunderchief. In July 1963, the 388th became the base’s host unit, putting
the base under the Tactical Air Command with a SAC tenant unit. The 388th
inactivated in 1964 and was replaced by the 23rd TFW. It trained F-105
crews for combat in Southeast Asia. In July 1964, the 355th TFW
transferred from George AFB, Calif., joining the 23rd TFW at McConnell
under the 835th Air Division. The 835th AD became the host unit for the
base and its three wings.
The base
received a new mission in April 1971 with the arrival of the 91st Air
Refueling Squadron and their KC-135A Stratotankers. In July 1972, the 23rd
TFW departed for England AFB, La, making the 381st SMW host unit and
McConnell a SAC base once again. The 384th Air Refueling Wing began its
tour McConnell AFB in December 1972.
In October 1981, President
Ronald Reagan announced that the Air Force would phase out its Titan II
ICBMs. In early 1983, the 384th ARW’s leadership learned that it would be
the first wing to receive the Q model KC-135 tanker and the B-1B Lancer
bomber. On August 8, 1986, the 381st SMW inactivated.
The 384th ARW
became the host organization and redesignated to the 384th Bombardment
Wing (Heavy) in the summer of 1987. The 91st Air Refueling Squadron
inactivated later that year, and the 384th Air Refueling Squadron became
the sole refueling unit. The first B-1B touched down at McConnell on
January 4, 1988. One year later, the first Lancer aircrew and aircraft
assumed alert duty.
In August 1990, Iraq invaded neighboring
Kuwait. Team McConnell members deployed throughout the area of
responsibility to help eject the invaders from the small

In May 1992,
the Air Force announced more significant changes McConnell. The Kan. Air
National Guard (the 184th Fighter Group), long a resident of McConnell,
would lose their F-16s and gain the B-1B bombers and become the 184th Bomb
Group. In January 1994, the 22 ARW assumed the role as host wing, moving
without personnel and equipment from March AFB, Calf. The 384 BW became
the 384th Bomb Group until the unit transferred all of its Lancers to the
air reserve component before inactivating on September 30, 1994. On
January 1, 1995, the 931st Air Refueling Group joined activated at
McConnell. The Air Force Reserve associate unit provides aircrews while
the 22nd provides the maintenance crews and aircraft. McConnell came a
long way since the days of landing planes in hayfields to living in tents
in the 1950s, to surviving the devastation of the 1991 tornado. The
professionals of Team McConnell and the 22nd ARW have a rich history and a
proud future.
In 1993, the Air
Force turned its support toward the humanitarian assistance effort in
Somalia in Operation Restore Hope. To support this tasking, the 22 ARW
used its KC-10s to deploy 12,000 Marines and provide air refueling to
Allied aircraft. Also in that year, the Congressional Base Realignment and
Closure Commission and Department of Defense announced their
recommendations for further base realignment and force restructuring. The
plans called for transferring March AFB to the Air Force Reserve and
moving the 6th and 9th ARS’s and their KC-10s to move to Travis AFB,
Calif. At the same time, USAF ordered the 22 ARW to replace the 384th Bomb
Wing at McConnell AFB, Kan.
On January 3, 1994, the 22nd succeeded
the 384th BW as McConnell’s host unit. The bomber unit served as an
associate unit until it transferred its B-1 Lancer fleet to the 184th Bomb
Group, Kansas Air National Guard before inactivating in September 1994.
The 384th Air Refueling Squadron, a geographically separated unit of the
19th Air Refueling Wing (Robins AFB, Geo.) and a previous McConnell tenant
unit, joined the 22 ARW as the first of four KC-135 squadrons to comprise
the wing’s new tanker force. Within eight months, the 344th, 349th and the
350th joined the 384th to fly the wing’s 48 KC-135s to provide global
reach for America.The same year,
the 22nd supported contingencies worldwide. The wing’s units participated
in Operations Deny Flight Support Hope, Maintain Democracy and Vigilant
Warrior. The 22nd ARW continues to lead by continuing to support
contingencies such as NORTHERN WATCH, SOUTHERN WATCH. More recently DESERT
FOX and NOBLE ANVIL in addition to providing refueling and cargo support
to various exercises, drug interdiction operations, channel missions, and