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163d Reconnaissance Wing
163d Reconnaissance Wing MQ-1 and Chase plane.jpg
163d Reconnaissance Wing MQ-1 and Chase plane
Active 1958-Present
Country  United States
Allegiance  California
Branch US-AirNationalGuard-2007Emblem.svg  Air National Guard
Type Wing
Role UAV Reconnaissance
Part of California Air National Guard
Garrison/HQ March Joint Air Reserve Base, Riverside, California
Detachment at: Southern California Logistics Airport, Victorville, California
Tail Code "CA"
163d Reconnaissance Wing emblem 163d Reconnaissance Wing.png

The 163d Reconnaissance Wing (163 RW) is a unit of the California Air National Guard, stationed at March Joint Air Reserve Base, Riverside, California. If activated to federal service, elements of the Wing are gained by the United States Air Force Air Combat Command and Air Education and Training Command.


The 163 RW is one of the first ANG units to fly the MQ-1 Predator. The unit was featured in an ABC News story on January 12, 2010.[1]

The mission of the 163 RW is to execute global unmanned aerial systems, combat support, and humanitarian missions by Air National Guard men and women.[2]


The 163d Reconnaissance Wing consists of the following units:

  • 163d Operations Group
196th Reconnaissance Squadron
210th Weather Flight
  • 163d Mission Support Group
  • 163d Maintenance Group
  • 163d Medical Group


California Air National Guard 196th Fighter Interceptor Squadron Convair F-102A-90-CO Delta Dagger 57-775, in 1970. This aircraft is now on static display at Clovis Park, California

On 17 May 1958, the California Air National Guard 196th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron was authorized to expand to a group level, and the 163d Fighter-Interceptor Group was established by the National Guard Bureau. The 196th FIS becoming the group's flying squadron. Other squadrons assigned into the group were the 163d Headquarters, 163d Material Squadron (Maintenance), 163d Combat Support Squadron, and the 163d USAF Dispensary. Initially flying F-86A Sabre day interceptors, ADC upgraded the squadron to F-86H Sabre day interceptors in 1959 and F-102 Delta Daggers in 1965. The F-102 was being phased out of active-duty units in the early 1960s, the 196th being one of the last units to replace their F-86 Sabres. The aircraft, however, was obsolete as an interceptor by the time it was received by the 196th. The Delta Darts soldiered into the early 1970s with the squadron as they were being retired to AMARC at Davis-Monthan AFB. Serving with distinction, the unit received two Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards for extended periods ending in 1964 and 1974.

Tactical Air Command

On 8 March 1975, the unit once again took on the challenge of a new mission and was reassigned under the Tactical Air Command as the 163d Tactical Air Support Group. The 163d received the 0-2A/B "Super Skymaster" to accomplish the unit's new role.

196th TFS F-4C 63-7644 about 1987. This was the type of aircraft Capt. Dean Paul Martin was flying when he crashed.

In October 1982, the 163d officially assumed a tactical fighter role flying the F-4C Phantom II. The group concurrently moved to March AFB, near Riverside into new facilities built for the unit. The 163d transitioned to the upgraded F-4E on 1 April 1987. This newer aircraft incorporated more sophisticated electronics and weaponry.

On 21 March 1987, Captain Dean Paul Martin (son of entertainer Dean Martin), a pilot in the 196th Tactical Fighter Squadron crashed his F-4C into San Gorgonio Mountain, California shortly after departure from March AFB. Both Martin and his weapons system officer (WSO) were killed.[3]

In July 1990, the unit once again changed missions and was redesignated the 163d Tactical Reconnaissance Group. The 163d was equipped with RF-4C Phantom II unarmed reconnaissance aircraft and maintained a dual state/federal mission. The unit's primary mission was to provide tactical reconnaissance to all friendly forces. The unit was also actively involved in state wide missions. This was accomplished by using a system of visual, optical, electronic, and other sensory devices. During this time the aircrews accumulated over 30,000 hours of flying time and the unit deployed across both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

The 163d deployed to Pisa Airport, Italy, in support of Operation Decisive Endeavor. During that period, the unit also flew as the lead unit in support of flight operations over Bosnia.

Air Refueling

After the end of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the phaseout of the RF-4C Phantom II with the Air National Guard was accelerated In 1993, the 163d was transferred to Air Mobility Command and the RF-4s were retired to Davis-Monthan AFB. It became an Air Refueling Group and was equipped with KC-135E Stratotankers.

196th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135

In 1999, the 163rd deployed nearly 100 members and three KC-135R aircraft in support of Operation Allied Force. The 163d flew combat missions around-the-clock refueling NATO aircraft, including complex night formation sorties with the F-117A.

1999 also saw the 163d's Pacer CRAG conversion begin in June and complete by the end of the year. This extensive aircraft modernization project meant intensive aircrew training and is expected to extend the life of the 40 year-old Boeing jet beyond the year 2020. In one of the highest profile military events of the year, nearly 100 members and three KC-135R aircraft from the 163d Air Refueling Wing deployed in support of Operation Allied Force. The 163d flew combat missions around-the-clock refueling NATO aircraft, including complex night formation sorties with the F-117A Nighthawk Stealth Fighter. The 196th ARS were widely recognized for Wing and Squadron achievements in 1999 and earned the prestigious Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the fourth time. The award covers a period during which the unit deployed 300 personnel and three aircraft to Pisa Airport, Italy in support of Operation Decisive Endeavor and also flew as the lead unit in support of flight operations over Bosnia. The 163d Operations Support Flight, 163d Logistics Group, 163d Logistics Squadron, and the 196th Air Refueling Squadron all earned the Governor's Outstanding Unit Citation.

The 163d ARW provided support to NATO's Operation Joint Forge while deployed to Istres Air Base, France from 31 October through 3 December 2000, deploying three KC-135 Stratotanker air refueling aircraft along with nearly 210 personnel. Under Air Expeditionary Force 9, the Grizzlies also sent personnel to Kuwait, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia and Turkey from October through December 2000.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle operations

The Air National Guard formally stood up the first of several units that will operate the MQ-1 Predator armed unmanned reconnaissance aircraft. During a ceremony 28 November 2007, at March Air Reserve Base in southern California, the 163d Air Refueling Wing officially became the 163d Reconnaissance Wing (RW), taking on the Predator mission in place of operating KC-135R Stratotanker aerial refueling aircraft. The wing's last KC-135R tanker left in April 2008 The Wing was the first Air National Guard unit to receive the MQ-1 Predator and was the first to become a fully functional ANG Flying Training Unit (FTU) and Field Training Detachment (FTD) for the Predator. The wing operates its MQ-1s out of March but also uses the restricted airspace near Edwards AFB, also in southern California, for training. The 163 RW flies its Predators under the service's "remote split operations" approach. This means that the aircraft and a contingent of maintainers are deployed forward, along with some pilots to handle takeoffs and landings. However, the majority of the pilots remains stateside and operates the aircraft via satellite communications links. The FTU falls under Air Combat Command and trains pilots and sensor operators to become Predator aircrew. The FTD, which falls under Air Education and Training Command, trains enlisted personnel to build, maintain and repair the Predator.


  • Constituted as the 163d Fighter Group (Air Defense), and allotted to California ANG, 1958
Extended federal recognition and activated on 17 May 1958
  • Redesignated: 163d Fighter-Interceptor Group on 15 September 1972
Redesignated: 163d Tactical Air Support Group on 8 March 1975
Redesignated: 163d Tactical Fighter Group on 1 October 1982
Redesignated: 163d Tactical Reconnaissance Group on 1 July 1990
Redesignated: 163d Reconnaissance Group on 16 March 1992
Redesignated: 163d Air Refueling Group on 1 October 1993
Redesignated: 163d Air Refueling Wing on 1 October 1995
Redesignated: 163d Reconnaissance Wing on 28 November 2007


Gained by: 27th Air Division, Air Defense Command
Gained by: Los Angeles Air Defense Sector, Air Defense Command, 1 July 1960
Gained by: 27th Air Division, Air Defense Command, 1 April 1966
Gained by: 27th Air Division, Aerospace Defense Command, 15 January 1968
Gained by: 26th Air Division, Aerospace Defense Command, 1 January 1970
Gained by: Tactical Air Command, 8 March 1975
Gained by: Air Combat Command, 1 June 1992
Gained by: Air Mobility Command, 1 October 1993
Elements gained by: Air Combat Command, 28 November 2007
Elements gained by: Air Education and Training Command, 28 November 2007


  • 163d Operations Group, 1 October 1995–Present
Assigned to 163 OG, 1 October 1995–Present


Co-Located at Southern California Logistics Airport, California, 1 June 2012–Present



 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

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