The 97th Air Mobility Wing (97 AMW) is a United States Air Force (USAF) unit assigned to Nineteenth Air Force of Air Education and Training Command. It is stationed at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The wing is also the host unit at Altus. It plans and executes McDonnell Douglas C-17 Globemaster III and Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker pilot and aircrew training, providing formal school initial and advanced specialty training programs for up to 3,000 students annually. The training is done in a three-phase approach: Academic Phase, Simulator Phase, and Flying Phase.
Active for over 60 years, the 97th Bombardment Wing was a component organization of Strategic Air Command's deterrent force during the Cold War, as a strategic bombardment wing.
The wing's 97th Operations Group, at that time the 97th Bombardment Group, earned two Distinguished Unit Citations during combat missions in World War II. Through the USAF's bestowed history program, the 97th wing is temporarily entitled to display these and other honors earned by the group while the group is assigned to the wing.
The 97th was organized in 1947 during the test of the Wing Base Organization, composed of the 97th Bombardment Group and support elements transferred from the 519th Air Service Group. This organization gave the wing commander the authority to direct activities rather than merely request support from the base support group commander. This organization became permanent in 1948.
The 97th Air Mobility Wing is commanded by Colonel Todd A. Hohn. Its Command Chief Master Sergeant is Chief Master Sergeant James M. Powell III. The wing's operational mission is, in conjunction with its training mission, to have its instructor force maintain operational currency so that they, as highly qualified combat-ready aircrew members, can deploy to augment worldwide contingencies. The 97th maintains approximately 500 mobility personnel ready to deploy all over the world in a moment's notice in support of national interests.
On April 23, 2014, Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James announced Altus Air Force Base as the preferred training unit for the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus aerial refueling aircraft. The 97th Air Mobility Wing is expected to receive the first aircraft sometime in 2016.
For additional history and lineage, see 97th Operations Group
On 1 December 1947, the 97th Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy was established at Mile 26 Field (later named Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska). The new wing reported to Fifteenth Air Force, Strategic Air Command (SAC), although the Yukon Sector of the Alaskan Air Command controlled its operations.
Operational squadrons of the 97th Bombardment Wing were the 340th, 341st and 342d Bomb Squadrons, which were assigned to the 97th Bombardment Group.
The 97th was originally a test organization, made up of the 97th Bombardment Group and three support groups organized from elements of the 519th Air Service Group, which had deployed to Mile 26 Field from Smoky Hill Army Air Field, Kansas. The Air Force was conducting a service test of the wing base structure that elevated the wing headquarters to the highest echelon of command on the base. This gave the wing commander the authority to direct activities rather than merely request that his flying mission receive support.
The wing consisted of a combat group, an airdrome group, a maintenance and supply group, and a medical group. The unit's March 1948 history stated: "The mission of the 97th Bombardment Wing (VHB) is to man, train, and maintain a self-sustaining strategic bombardment group capable of operations in any theater." While in Alaska (1947-1948), the 97th flew Boeing B-29 Superfortress training missions over the Arctic Ocean, testing the aircraft and maintenance crews in the harsh climate. At the end of the Alaskan deployment the wing returned to Smoky Hill AFB, near Salina, Kansas, in March 1948.
Throughout its existence the 97th Bombardment Wing contributed to the deterrence of nuclear war with the former Soviet Union by being prepared to execute Emergency War Order (EWO) assignments. It continually demonstrated its resolve in the same manner as other SAC bombardment wings, primarily by maintaining the Operation Chrome Dome aerial-alert capability and by keeping crews on ground alert, capable of launching bomber sorties within minutes. The wing's tankers participated in the Atlantic, Pacific, European, and Alaskan Tanker Task Forces, ensuring that the bombers would be able to reach their targets. Until the Soviet Union's demise in 1989 the crews of the 97th trained for war, unless other world events demanded their attention.
While at Smoky Hill, the wing was attached to the 301st Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy, for further training and to assist the 301st prepare for its upcoming move to Germany. The 301st never moved, hence the 97th moved to Biggs Air Force Base, Texas, on 22 May 1948, only two short months later. Meanwhile, the Eighth Air Force assumed control of the wing on 16 May 1948. Eighth Air Force discontinued the 97th Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy, on 12 July 1948 and subsequently redesignated it the 97th Bombardment Wing, Medium, and activated it on the same date. This made the 97th a permanent combat wing. The combat wing service test was over, leaving the 97th with a combat group, an air base group, a maintenance and supply group, and a medical group.
The 97th Bombardment Wing, under SAC, took over operation of Biggs from the departing 47th Bombardment Wing, a Tactical Air Command unit. Biggs would remain the wing's home for over ten years. As the 1940s ended, changes were on the horizon for the 97th's flying mission.
Early in 1950 the 97th received its first Boeing B-50 Superfortress, an improved version of the B-29 capable of delivering atomic weapons. As crews trained and became qualified in the B-50, the wing transferred some of its B-29s to other units. Aerial refueling increased the new bomber's range and brought a new flying mission to the wing.
The 97th Air Refueling Squadron, activated in March 1949, saw its manning increase as it received its first KB-29P tanker in January 1950. Its mission, as stated in the wing's history, was: "to extend the range of the strategic bombers." The 97th was the first unit to operate the new boom-type or "American-type" equipment. As such it had the burden of testing the equipment and standardizing the operating procedures. The unit received Boeing KC-97 Stratotankers in 1954 to replace its KB-29s.
The 97th Bombardment Wing experienced two mission changes in 1955. First, the 340th Bombardment Squadron, a subordinate unit, started flying RB-50Gs on electronic reconnaissance missions. The 340th went to RAF Upper Heyford, England and Japan on intelligence gathering missions and operated in this capacity for over a year.
Meanwhile, the other bombardment squadrons in the 97th started replacing the propeller-driven B-50s with new Boeing B-47E Stratojet swept-wing medium bombers, capable of flying at high subsonic speeds and primarily designed for penetrating the airspace of the Soviet Union in 1954. The last B-50 assigned to the strategic bomber forces left the 97th wing on 20 October 1955.
The bomb wing conducted training missions and participated in various SAC exercises and deployments with the Stratojet and aerial refueling until December 1958 when SAC rendered it inoperable. Some of the 97th's crews went to other B-47 units, while others began training for duty in the Air Force's latest bomber, the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress.
The 97th Bombardment Wing moved to Blytheville Air Force Base, (later named Eaker Air Force Base), in northeast Arkansas, after SAC reassigned the wing to the 4th Air Division on 1 July 1959. Later that year SAC redesignated it the 97th Bombardment Wing, Heavy; its new mission was "to provide command and staff supervision over assigned combat tactical units that execute bombardment missions designed to destroy enemy forces and facilities."
The wing's first B-52G, City of Blytheville, Arkansas, arrived in January 1960. That summer, SAC declared the 97th combat-ready and slightly changed the scope of the mission statement. Now operational, the 97th "was to conduct strategic bombardment operations on a global scale, either independently or in cooperation with land and sea forces." The wing's bomber crews, who were assigned to the 340th Bomb Squadron, would fly their share of Operation Chrome Dome missions, which kept a number of SAC's B-52s on airborne alert.
In the early 1960s the 97th received missiles that would improve its B-52's survivability during penetration into enemy territory. On 27 September 1960 the 97th deployed its first GAM-77/AGM-28 Hound Dog, capable of delivering a nuclear warhead 500 nautical miles (930 km) from its launch point, to defeat heavy air defenses. Four months later, on 31 January 1961, the GAM-77/ADM-20 Quail entered the 97th's arsenal. The Quail was a decoy that could generate radar and heat signatures resembling those of a B-52, thereby saturating the enemy's defenses.
The aerial-refueling capability of the KC-135 Stratotankers extended the range of the wing's B-52s. On 12 January 1962, the 97th received its first KC-135, christened the Arkansas Traveler before its first mission three days later. Along with refueling the B-52s on training missions, the tankers participated in an ongoing command-wide rotation to bases in Southern Europe to support Operation Chrome Dome bombers.
The political climate grew tense in October 1962 as Cuba began preparing sites for offensive Soviet missiles.
On 22 October SAC responded by establishing Defense Condition Three (DEFCON III), and ordered the 97th to place two B-52s on airborne alert. Tension grew and the next day SAC declared DEFCON II, a heightened state of alarm. While at DEFCON II the 97th maintained two B-52s on airborne alert. These, along with bombers from other SAC wings, were ready to strike targets within the Soviet Union. No missions were aborted or canceled during the crisis. The 97th and other units deployed more tankers to Spain to refuel the alert forces.
Reconnaissance photographs taken on 1 November 1962 indicated that the Cubans had begun dismantling the sites. The wing returned to DEFCON III on 15 November and subsequently resumed normal activity on 20 November.
The 97th Bomb Wing's involvement in the Vietnam War started slowly, but would demand the wing's undivided attention before ending.
Its involvement began on 14 December 1965 when the wing sent one KC-135 to participate in the Young Tiger Task Force, the operation to refuel fighters involved in the war.
At first, the wing's B-52s remained at Blytheville AFB while bomber crews went to Guam to fly Operation Arc Light bombing missions. However, by the summer of 1972 all the 97th's bombers were at Guam. From there wing crews flew Operation Linebacker II (sometimes called the "11-Day War" because of its intensity) missions in December 1972. On 18 December 1972 Hanoi's air defenses claimed the lives of nine crew members during this operation, while North Vietnamese ground forces captured another four and held them as prisoners of war.
On 15 August 1973, after months of committing most of the wing's people and resources to the war, crew E-21 had the distinction of flying the last mission over a target in Cambodia. This marked the end of the United States' bombing in Southeast Asia.
The 97th resumed its bomber training and refueling missions after the Vietnam War ended while it continued to participate in contingency operations and assume new roles.
Tanker crews and aircraft refueled other Air Force units supporting the rescue of American citizens in Grenada in October and November 1983. In 1984 the wing upgraded its B-52G force to carry the AGM-86 ALCM air-launched cruise missile. The wing further expanded its mission in 1987 to include conventional bombing, sea search and surveillance, and aerial mining.
After Iraq's August 1990 invasion of neighboring Kuwait, the 97th began deploying elements to various locations in the United States and overseas to support Operation Desert Shield. In late December, 97th Bombardment Wing B-52 crews practiced high-altitude bombing missions at the Nellis Test Range in Nevada, anticipating their role in the inevitable war to come.
Once Operation Desert Storm was underway (January 1991) the nature of the wing's involvement changed. At the end of January 1991 six of the wing's bombers and crews assumed ground alert duty at Wurtsmith Air Force Base, Michigan, allowing the 379th Bombardment Wing, stationed at Wurtsmith, to participate in Operation Desert Storm.
On 1 February 1991 major elements of the 97th deployed to RAF Fairford, United Kingdom, forming the 806th Bombardment Wing (Provisional). The wing conducted more than 60 conventional bombing sorties and many air-refueling sorties.
As the Air Force began reorganizing in 1991, it redesignated the wing as the 97th Wing on 1 September to indicate it was composed of both bomber and tanker aircraft, and inactivated it on 1 April 1992 as Eaker Air Force Base closed.
On 1 October 1992 the Air Force activated the wing at Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, and redesignated it the 97th Air Mobility Wing under Air Mobility Command. At the same time the Air Force inactivated the 443d Military Airlift Wing, which had been the host wing at Altus since 5 May 1969. Less than a year later, on 1 July 1993, Air Education and Training Command assumed control of the 97th.
The redesignated wing possessed Lockheed C-5 Galaxies, Lockheed C-141 Starlifters, and Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers; it subsequently started to add McDonnell Douglas C-17 Globemaster IIIs in March 1996.
The 97th's new mission was: to conduct strategic airlift, aerial delivery, aerial-refueling training schools, conduct training for AMC aircrews, ...provide strategic aircraft support for Joint Chiefs of Staff Single Integrated Operational Plan and conventional contingencies, provide aerial port of embarkation for US Army, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, and accomplish other tasks when assigned by higher authority.
The 97th Air Mobility Wing no longer possesses the C-5 Galaxy aircraft which were transferred in 2007 when the Air Force Reserve Command's 433d Airlift Wing at Lackland AFB/Kelly Field Annex assumed responsibility for all C-5 Formal Unit Training for the Regular Air Force, Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard. The last C-5 Galaxy (nose number 0462) "flyaway" from Altus AFB took place on July 20, 2007, when this aircraft was transferred to the 167th Airlift Wing of the West Virginia Air National Guard at Shepherd Field Air National Guard Base in Martinsburg, West Virginia.
Today the 97th Air Mobility Wing consists of the following major units:97th Operations Group
Plans and executes C-17 and KC-135 formal school (initial and advanced) specialty training programs for up to 3,000 students annually. Sustains C-17, KC-135 airland, airdrop and air refueling mobility forces providing global reach for combat and contingency operations. Provides air traffic control and weather forecasting for flying operations.
97th Mission Support Group
Provides mission, infrastructure, and community quality-of-life support for personnel and all assigned organizations on Altus AFB. Supports worldwide USAF taskings with deployment-ready personnel and equipment.
97th Maintenance Directorate
Provides maintenance and support to all KC-135R and C-17 aircraft and provide the same maintenance support to transient aircraft, engines and associated ground equipment. To provide backshop support to both aircraft, allowing the 97th Air Mobility Wing to perform its aircrew training mission.
97th Medical Group
Ensures maximum wartime readiness and combat capability by promoting the health, safety and morale of active duty personnel. Staffs, trains, mobilizes and provides medical services in support of contingency operations worldwide. Develops and operates a prevention-oriented, cost-effective managed healthcare system for more than 9,500 beneficiaries.
Established as the 97 Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy on 11 September 1947
Organized on 1 December 1947
Redesignated: 97 Bombardment Wing
, Medium on 12 July 1948
Redesignated: 97 Bombardment Wing
, Heavy on 1 October 1959
Redesignated: 97 Wing
on 1 September 1991
Inactivated on 1 April 1992
Redesignated 97 Air Mobility Wing on 21 August 1992
Activated on 1 October 1992
Groups97th Airdrome Group (later 97th Air Base Group, 97th Combat Support Group, 97th Support Group, 97th Mission Support Group): 1 December 1947 - 16 June 1952; 1 January 1959 - 1 April 1992; 1 October 1992 – present
97th Bombardment Group (later 97 Operations Group): 1 December 1947 – 16 June 1952 (detached 4 November 1948 – 15 February 1949, and, c. 27 July 1950 – 9 February 1951); 1 September 1991 – 1 April 1992; 1 October 1992 – present
97th Maintenance & Supply Group (later 97th Logistics Group): 1 December 1947 - 15 June 1952; 1 September 1991 - 1 April 1992; 1 October 1992 - c. 1 October 2002
97th Station Medical Group (later 97th Medical Group, 97th Medical Squadron, 97th Medical Group, 97th Tactical Hospital): 1 December 1947 - 1 January 1959
398th Operations Group: 1 October 1992 – 31 March 1995
401st Bombardment Group: attached 10 February-25 June 1951
851st Medical Group (later USAF Hospital, Blytheville; 97th Strategic Hospital; 97th Medical Group; 97th Medical Squadron; 97th Medical Group): 1 January 1959 - 1 April 1992, 1 October 1992 – present
Squadrons97th Air Refueling Squadron: attached 12 July 1950 – 15 June 1952, assigned 16 June 1952 – 1 September 1957 (detached c. 21 November-c. 20 December 1954, c. 31 May- 10 July 1955, 1 May-9 July 1957, and 25 August-1 September 1957); assigned 23 October 1964 – 1 September 1991
340th Bombardment Squadron: attached 10 February 1951 – 15 June 1952, assigned 16 June 1952 – 1 September 1991 (detached 16 December 1953-c.15 March 1954 and 24 September- 2 November 1957)
341st Bombardment Squadron: attached 10 February 1951 – 15 June 1952, assigned 16 June 1952 – 15 February 1960 (detached c. 15 March-c. 12 July 1954 and 12 August-24 September 1957)
342d Bombardment Squadron: attached 10 February 1951 – 15 June 1952, assigned 16 June 1952 – 1 May 1960 (detached 10 December 1952 – 19 March 1953 and 1 July-12 August 1957)
914th Air Refueling Squadron: 1 October 1961 – 23 October 1964
4024th Bombardment Squadron: attached 1 April 1955 – 1 May 1956.
Mile 26 Field, Alaska (later Eielson Air Force Base), 1 December 1947 – 12 March 1948
Smoky Hill Air Force Base, Kansas, 16 March 1948
Biggs Air Force Base, Texas, 22 May 1948
Blytheville Air Force Base (later Eaker Air Force Base), Arkansas, 1 July 1959 – 1 April 1992
Altus Air Force Base, Oklahoma, 1 October 1992 – present
B-29 Superfortress, 1947–1950
KB-29 Superfortress (tanker), 1950–1956
B-50 Superfortress, 1950–1955
ERB-29 Superfortress, 1954–1956
RB-50 Superfortress, 1954-1956
KC-97 Stratotanker, 1954–1957
B-47 Stratojet, 1955–1959
B-52 Stratofortress, 1960–1972, 1973–1991
KC-135 Stratotanker, 1962–1972, 1973–1992, 1992–1993, 1994–present
C-141 Starlifter, 1992–2001
C-5 Galaxy, 1992–2007
C-17 Globemaster III, 1996–present
Strategic Air Command's Bombing Award: 1951
Strategic Air Command's Fairchild Trophy: 1951