McConnell Air Force Base

McConnell AFB

McConnell Air Force Base



Airport type



U.S. Air Force

Elevation AMSL

1,371 ft (420 m)


37°37′00″N, 097°16′0″W















From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

McConnell Air Force Base (IATA: IAB, ICAO: KIAB) is a United States Air Force base located in Wichita, Kansas. It is the home of the USAF 22d Air Refueling Wing (22 ARW), the Air Force Reserve Command’s 931st Air Refueling Group (931 ARG), and the Kansas Air National Guard’s 184th Air Refueling Wing (184 ARW).

McConnell is the only Total Force base, and its primary mission is to provide global reach by conducting air refueling and airlift where and when needed. The Commander of the 22d ARW is Colonel Donald J. Halpin, the Vice-Commander is Colonel John D. Zazworsky, Jr., and the Command Chief is Chief Master Sergeant Peggy J. Savage.


Major units at McConnell are:

  • 22d Air Refueling Wing
    • 22nd Operations Group (KC-135Q/T KC-135R) “Keeper of the Plains”
      • 344th Air Refueling Squadron (Black fin flash)
      • 349th Air Refueling Squadron (Blue fin flash)
      • 350th Air Refueling Squadron (Red fin flash)
      • 384th Air Refueling Squadron (Magenta fin flash)
    • 22nd Maintenance Group
    • 22nd Medical Group
    • 22nd Mission Support Group

KC-135Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers based at McConnell in formation as they taxi down a runway.

Associate Units:

  • 184th Air Refueling Wing (Kansas ANG)
    • 127th Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135R) (“Kansas” – White)
  • 931st Air Refueling Group (USAF Reserve)
    • 18th Air Refueling Squadron*

* The 18th ARS does not have any assigned aircraft. Rather, the squadron provides additional personnel to augment the active-duty personnel of the 22d ARW.


Major Commands

  • United States Army Air Forces
    • Materiel Comd, 1 March 1942 – 17 July 1944
    • AAF Materiel and Services, 17 July 1944 – 31 August 1944
    • AAF Technical Service Comd, 31 August 1944 – 1 July 1945
    • Air Technical Service Comd, 1 July 1945 – 9 March 1946
    • Air Materiel Comd, 9 March 1946 -15 November 1946
  • United States Air Force
    • Air Training Command, 7 June 1951 – 1 July 1958
    • Strategic Air Command, 1 July 1958 – 1 July 1963
    • Tactical Air Command, 1 July 1963 – 1 July 1972
    • Strategic Air Command, 1 July 1972 – 1 June 1992
    • Air Combat Command, 1 June 1992 – 31 December 1993
    • Air Mobility Command, 31 December 1993 – Present

Base Operating Units

  • United States Army Air Forces
    • Midwestern Procurement District Gp, 1 March 1942 – 7 September 1945
    • 4156th AAF Base Unit, 7 September 1945 – 15 November 1946
  • United States Air Force
    • 3520th Flying Training Wg, 5 June 1951 – 5 July 1951
    • 3520th Air Base Gp, 5 July 1951 – 1 July 1958
    • 4347th Air Base Gp, 1 July 1958 – 1 January 1959
    • 4347th Combat Support Gp, 1 January 1959 – 1 March 1962
    • 866th Air Division, 1 March 1962 – 1 July 1963
    • 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, 1 July 1963 – 8 February 1964
    • 23d Tactical Fighter Wing, 8 February 1964 – 1 July 1964
    • 835th Air Division, 1 July 1964 – 8 June 1969
    • 23d Tactical Fighter Wing, 8 June 1969 – 1 July 1972
    • 384th Air Refueling Wing, 1 July 1972 – 31 December 1993
    • 22d Air Refueling Wing, 1 January 1994 – Present

Major USAF Units Assigned

  • 3520th Combat Crew Training Wing (ATC) (5 June 1951 – 1 July 1958)
  • 4347th Combat Crew Training Wing (SAC) (1 July 1958 – 15 June 1963)
  • 42d Strategic Aerospace Division (SAC) (15 June 1959 – 1 July 1963)
  • 835th Air Division (TAC) (June 1964 – June 1969)
  • 381st Strategic Missile Wing (SAC) (1 March 1962 – 8 August 1986)
  • 388th Tactical Fighter Wing (TAC) (1 October 1962 – 8 February 1964)
  • 23d Tactical Fighter Wing (TAC) (8 February 1964 – 27 April 1972)
  • 355th Tactical Fighter Wing (TAC) (3 September 1963 – 4 August 1966)
  • 91st Air Refueling Squadron (SAC) (7 April 1971 – 30 November 1971)
  • 384th Air Refueling Wing (SAC/ACC) (1 December 1971 – 31 December 1993)
  • 22d Air Refueling Wing (AMC) (1 January 1994 – Present)

Operational History


McConnell’s history began in October 1924, when the city of 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 National Guard 127th Observation Squadron was activated as the first military unit assigned to the Wichita airport. The unit’s limited equipment included one BC-1A, one C-47, and four L-1 aircraft. This was the start of a cooperative relationship between the people of Wichita and military aviation. On 6 October 1941, the unit was ordered to extended active duty and remained an integral part of the United States Army Air Corps until 6 October 1945, with duty assignments in Tennessee and Okinawa.

During World War II, Boeing Aircraft produced B-17 Flying Fortress and B-29 Superfortress bombers at their plant which shared a runway with Wichita Airport. The USAAF Air Materiel Command took over control of the airport in 1942 to accept, service and coordinate the transfer of newly-produced aircraft to other installations. On 11 October 1946, the last military personnel departed Wichita Airport and the facility was returned to civilian jurisdiction. It remained so until 1951.

Cold War

B-47 Stratojet Training

The Boeing B-47 Stratojet was the first swept-winged jet bomber built in quantity for any air force, and was the mainstay of the medium-bombing strength of the Strategic Air Command all throughout the 1950s. The Boeing plant at Wichita was shut down after World War II. However, on September 3, 1948, the first production order was placed for the B-47. Since Boeing’s Seattle facility was already heavily committed to the KC-97 tanker and the B-50 Superfortress bomber, as well as to the conversion of obsolescent B-29 bombers to aerial tankers, it was decided that the production Stratojets were to be built at Boeing’s factory in Wichita.

By the summer of 1950, Boeing was ready to turn out the first production models of the B-47, and the United States Air Force sought to make Wichita Airport a permanent military installation. Public hearings began to consider locating an Air Force base near the Wichita Boeing facilities, and the city of Wichita was awarded $9.4 million to build a new airfield, later to become known as Mid-Continent Airport. In addition, the production of the B-47 Stratojetjet bomber at Boeing made the airport a desirable location for the Air Force to conduct B-47 combat crew training.

On 31 May 1951 the USAF took title to Wichita Municipal Airport, and on 4 June the Air Training Command 3520th Combat Crew Training Wing was activated at the facility. The base was named Wichita Air Force Base on 15 May 1953, however, the name was changed to McConnell Air Force Base after less than a year in honor of Wichita brothers Fred and Thomas McConnell, both Air Force pilots and World War Two veterans. Fred was killed in a private plane crash in 1945, and his brother Thomas died in a bombing raid on Bougainville in the Pacific.

Air Training Command was host at the base from 1951 through 1958, training B-47 aircrews. Strategic Air Command took control over the base on 1 July 1958 and the B-47 training mission. The SAC 4347th Combat Crew Training Wing replaced the 3520th and the 42d Strategic Aerospace Division was activated on 15 July 1959. B-47 crew training continued at McConnell until 1 March 1963 when the 4347th CCTW was inactivated.

Titan II ICBMs

On March 1, 1962, Strategic Air Command stood up the 381st Strategic Missile Wing (SMW). Using McConnell as its base, 18 Titan II ICBM missile silos formed a ring from the northeast and south to the west on an irregular radius of 20 to 50 miles from the installation. This mission of deterrence would dominate base activity for the next twenty-four years until 1986 when the 381st Strategic Missile Wing was inactivated. Deactivation of all Titan II ICBM systems began in July 1982 and was completed in June 1987.

F-105F-1-RE Thunderchief

F-105F-1-RE Thunderchief Serial 63-8360 of the 561st Tactical Fighter squadron, McConnel AFB, Kansas – 1970. This aircraft was later converted to the F-105G "Wild Weasel" configuration. It was hit by flak over North Vietnam on 17 September 1972 and crashed at sea.

Tactical Fighter Aircraft

In October 1962, the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing was reactivated at McConnell with four (560th, 561st, 562d, 563d) fighter squadrons. The wing initially flew the North American F-100C Super Sabre, being replaced in 1963 by theRepublic F-105D/F Thunderchief. On 4 July 1963, Tactical Air Command became responsible for the base with the 388 TFW as host unit.

On 8 April 1966 the 388th TFW deployed to Southeast Asia, being ordered to Korat RTAFB Thailand where its F-105 squadrons had been on a rotational deployment for the past two years.

On 21 July 1964 the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing also had been reactivated at McConnell with four F-105 (354th, 357th, 421st, 469th) squadrons. The 355th was also deployed to Southeast Asia, being ordered to Takhli RTAFB on 8 November 1965.

On 8 February 1964 the 23d Tactical Fighter Wing was reactivated at McConnell initially with three F-105 (561st, 562d, 563d) squadrons. The 4519th Combat Crew Training Squadron was activated on 1 August 1967 with F-105B/D/F/G aircraft, then was inactivated on 16 October 1969, being replaced by the 419th TFS.

Squadron markings on the natural metal / silver lacquered aircraft included the following: 561 TFS – black/yellow checkerboarding on rudder; 562 TFS – a red, white and black "sharkmouth" on the nose of the aircraft; 563 TFS red and white stripes on the rudder, wingtips and stabilizers with a white band on the top of the vertical fin. When the finish on tactical jets was replaced by Southeast Asian Camouflaged, the squadrons carried the following tail codes: 561 TFS "MD"; 562 TFS "ME"; 563 TFS "MF", and the 4519th, (later 419th TFS).TFTS "MG".

The mission of the 23 TFW at McConnell was to provide training for F-105 pilots prior to their deployment to Southeast Asia. The 560th acted as a combat training squadron, while the other three squadrons began rotational TDY deployments to Southeast Asia beginning in November 1964.

In February 1965, when the 23 TFW deployed three squadrons to Southeast Asia for combat, these units were initially under the control of the 2d Air Division. Later, the 6441 TFW (P) was activated at Takhli RTAFB in July 1965, taking control of the 23d’s squadrons deployed there. In addition to the deployments to Thailand, detachments of the 561 TFS also deployed to Da Nang Air Base RVN for operations within the borders of the Republic of Vietnam.

On 1 August 1967, the 4519th Combat Crew Training squadron was added to the 23 TFW, and the 560 TFS was deactivated on 25 September 1968.

The wing maintained proficiency in tactical fighter operations, and later also functioned as an F-105 replacement training unit and assisted Air National Guard units in their conversion to the F-105 when the Thunderchief left first-line service. For the dual role it played from June 1970 to June 1971 as both an operational and a training unit, the wing received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. In 1970, the "Wild Weasel" F-105G model replaced the D/F models in the 561st and 419th TFSs.

On 1 July 1972, the 23d TFW was transferred to England AFB, Louisiana where it replaced the temporary 4403d TFW, and the 561, 562 and 563 TFS were assigned to the 35 TFW at George AFB California.

The administrative organization in command of these wings was the 835th Air Division, activated on 24 Jun 1964. The AD was inactivated 30 June 1971, leaving the 23d TFW as the main unit at McConnell until its departure a year later.

Strategic Bomber/Air Refueling

McConnell received a new mission in April 1971 with the arrival of the 91st Air Refueling Squadron (ARS) and their Boeing KC-135A Stratotankers from Robins AFB, Georgia. Control of the base was transferred back to SAC on 1 July 1972, and the 384th Air Refueling Wing (ARW) began its tour at McConnell AFB in December 1972 and took control of the 91st ARS. On 30 September 1973, a second KC-135A refueling squadron, the 384th ARS was activated on the base, making McConnell an air refueling hub for SAC.

In early 1983, the 384 ARW’s leadership learned that it would be the first wing to receive the new Boeing KC-135R model tanker. The 91st and 384th ARW were both upgraded to the new model in 1984. The "R" model had upgraded engines which produce much greater fuel efficiency than the older models, as well as having a higher on-board fuel storage capacity. The initial aircraft marking for both squadrons was a light blue/navy blue diamond checkerboard fin flash.

On October 2, 1981, President Ronald Reagan announced a Strategic Modernization Program (SMP), a key feature of which would be the procurement of 100 North American-Rockwell B-1B bombers. The first production models entered the USAF inventory in March, 1985. It was announced by the Air Force that McConnell would be equipped with the B-1B in 1987. The 384th was redesigated as the 384th Bombardment Wing, Heavy on 1 July 1987, and the 28th Bombardment Squadron was activated that date to fly the 25 bombers assigned to the wing.

With the arrival of the B-1s, the 91st ARS was inactivated, leaving the wing with one KC-135 tanker squadron. The 91st was later reactivated in July 1988 with the new 301st ARW at Malmstrom AFB, Montana with KC-135R aircraft.

In January 1987, the Kansas Air National Guard 184th Tactical Fighter Training Group upgraded its McDonnell-Douglas F-4D fighters to General Dynamics F-16A/B Fighting Falcon aircraft, and conduct conversion and upgrade training in the F-16. On 8 July 1987, the 161st Tactical Fighter Training Squadron was established as the third flying squadron at McConnell. Formal activation ceremonies for the 161st occurred on 12 September 1987, with the unit flying 10 F-16s and conducting its first student training class.

In August 1990, Iraq invaded neighboring Kuwait. McConnell personnel and aircraft were deployed throughout the Middle East, performing refueling missions of Coalition aircraft in support of Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm to help eject the invaders from the small kingdom of Kuwait.

On April 26, 1991, a tornado devastated McConnell during the Andover, Kansas Tornado Outbreak. As a result of the tornado, the base constructed new facilities to replace the destroyed base services.

KC-135R Stratotanker

A KC-135R Stratotanker from the 22nd Air Refueling Wing refuels an F-22A Raptor from Edwards AFB, California

Post Cold-War

With the end of the Cold War, the Air Force went though many changes. One of these changes was the Ojbective Wing concept, with created "Operation Groups" (OG) to place operational aircraft squdrons under organizationally. The 38tth engaged this change on 1 September 1991 and was redesignated simply as the 384th Wing, with the 28th Bomb Squadron (B-1B) and the 384th Air Refueling Suadorn (KC-135R) as its operational units.

In 1992, additional changes were made at McConnell. In March, the 184th Tactical Fighter Group was designated as the 184th Fighter Group. On 1 June Strategic Air Command was inactivated as part of a massive re-alignment of the Air Force command structure. The 384th was assigned to the newly-established Air Combat Command (ACC), a new command which replaced SAC, TAC and elements of Military Airlift Command (MAC). The wing was again redesignated as the 384th Bomb Wing, and the 28th BS aircraft were assigned the tail code "OZ". The 384th ARS was relieved from assignment to McConnell, and was reassigned to the 19th OG (19th Air Refueling Wing) at Robins AFB, Georgia. The 184th FG also became part of ACC.

In July 1993, the 184th Fighter Group changed gaining commands and became part of the new Air Education and Training Command, due to its F-16 training commitment, however just one year later the 184th rejoined ACC when the F-16s were transferred out. The unit was redesignated as the 184th Bomb Wing and the 127th Bomb Squadron received the first of 14 B-1B bombers. The unit became operational in the summer of 1994. The 184th was the first Air National Guard unit to fly the B-1.

As a result of a BRAC related realignment, March AFB, California was taken off active-duty status and assigned to the Air Force Reserve. As part of a program to keep historically significant wings active, its 22d Air Refueling Wing was reassigned to McConnell without personnel or equipment on 1 January 1994. As a result, on 1 January, the 384th was redesignated as the 384th Bomb Group, as a unit under the 22d ARW.

The USAF planned to return McConnell to being an air refueling hub, and as a result the B-1 equipped 28th Bomb Squadron was reassigned without equipment or personnel to the 7th OG at Dyess AFB, Texas on 1 October 1994. Its B-1 aircraft were transferred across the runway to the Kansas Air National Guard 127th Bomb Squadron and the 384th BG was inactivated on 30 September 1994. Throughout 1994, various KC-135R air refueling squadrons were reassigned from other units to the 22d ARW as follows:

  • 344 ARS from 68th ARW, Seymor Johnson AFB, NC (29 Apr 1994)
  • 349 ARS was reactivated at McConnell (1 Jan 1994)
  • 350 ARS from 43d ARW, Beale AFB, CA (1 Jul 1994)
  • 384 ARS from the 19th ARW, Robins AFB, GA (1 Jan 1994)

On 1 April 1994, The Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) selected McConnell as its training base for its KC-135 crews and maintenance personnel. The RSAF stationed two of their Stratotankers with the 22 ARW, naming the organization the Peace Guardian Detachment.

On 1 January 1995, the Air Force Reserve 931st Air Refueling Group (ARG) joined Team McConnell. The Air Force Reserve associate unit provides aircrews while the 22d furnishes the maintenance crews and aircraft.

Since 1996, McConnell served as the test site for the PACER CRAG avionics modernization program. The next year, the base became the test unit for the multi-point refueling.

During the 1990s, the 22d ARW deployed crews and aircraft to support no-fly missions over northern and southern Iraq and over Bosnia-Herzegovina. In 1999, wing aircraft and crews deployed to the Mediterranean to refuel NATO aircraft over Serbia.

Global War On Terror

With the devastating terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon on September 11, 2001, the 22d initially deploys jets in support of Operation Noble Eagle. Before the end of the year, McConnell tankers were sent to Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Southwest Asia and other locations to support Operation Enduring Freedom.

In 2002, in order to save money, the USAF agreed to reduce its active fleet of B-1Bs from 92 to 60 aircraft. All FY 1983 and most of the FY 1984 aircraft were retired beginning in August 2002, leaving only the more recent aircraft still flying. As a result, the 184th Bomb Wing’s aircraft were transferred to AMARC. Initially they were retained in "active storage" which means that they could be quickly returned to service should circumstances dictate. In fact, the older aircraft were scavanged for parts to keep the active-duty aircraft flying.

With the retirement of their B-1s, in September 2002, the 184th took on a new mission flying KC-135s and was officially designated the 184th Air Refueling Wing. This officially established McConnell as the sole base in the U. S. Air Force where all three components, Active, Guard and Reserve supported the same mission together in a pure “Mirror Force” concept.

McConnell Air Force Base Emblem Gallery

381st Strategic Missile Wing
(Now 381st Training Group)

388th Tactical Fighter Wing

23d Tactical Fighter Wing

355th Tactical Fighter Wing

384th Air Refueling Wing
(Now 381st Air Expeditonary Wing)

22d Air Refueling Wing

931st Air Refueling Group

184th Air Refueling Wing

Air Training Command
(Now Air Education And Training Command)

Strategic Air Command

Tactical Air Command
(Now Air Combat Command)

Air Mobility Command


  • Endicott, Judy G. (1999) Active Air Force wings as of 1 October 1995; USAF active flying, space, and missile squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. CD-ROM.
  • Larsen, Steve A. (2006), Heritage and Legacy: A Brief History of the 22d Air Refueling Wing and McConnell Air Force Base. Office of History, 22d ARS, McConnel AFB, Kansas.
  • Martin, Patrick (1994). Tail Code: The Complete History of USAF Tactical Aircraft Tail Code Markings. Schiffer Military Aviation History. ISBN 0887405134.
  • Mueller, Robert (1989). Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. USAF Reference Series, Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-53-6
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0912799129.
  • Rogers, Brian (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.
  • USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers–1908 to present

External links