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43d Air Refueling Squadron
43d Air Refueling Squadron
Active 1942-1991
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Type Air Refueling
Role Aerial Refueling

KB-29M era 43d ARS patch

43d Air Refueling Squadron KB-29M Superfortresses refueling 48th Fighter Wing F-84G Thunderjets over the Philippines, 1953.

The 43d Air Refueling Squadron is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was last assigned to the 92nd Bombardment Wing, stationed at Fairchild AFB, Washington. It was inactivated on 1 September 1991.


Air Transport Command

Activated on 17 Aug 1942, the 43d Ferrying Squadron did not become operational at Accra Airport, British Gold Coast (now Ghana), Africa, until 4 December. As a unit of the 12th Ferrying Group, the 43d delivered combat and transport aircraft to British forces in the Middle East and later to U.S. forces in North Africa, but its major task was the transport of high priority cargo and personnel within the theater and as far east as Karachi, India. Redesignated the 43d Transport Squadron in March 1943, it disbanded on 30 Sep 1943 during a reorganization of Air Transport Command units in North Africa.

Strategic Air Command

One of two refueling squadrons that the Strategic Air Command activated on 12 Jul 1948, the 43d Air Refueling Squadron, Medium, was the USAF’s first air refueling unit. The 43d AREFS began operations in January 1949, flying KB-29M Superfortress tanker aircraft from Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. The squadron refueled B-50s using the looped method developed by the British. In February 1949 supported the circumnavigation flight of the “Lucky Lady II”, the first aircraft to fly non-stop around the world. During the Korean War, the 43d sent aircrews to Far East Air Force to refuel fighter aircraft, at that time an experimental procedure. Deployed 21 Mar-5 Jun 1953 to RAF Lakenheath, England. In 1953, the 43d AREFS completed transition to new aircraft, the KC-97 Stratotanker, equipped with the recently developed Boeing flying boom. Deployed 18 Sep-9 Dec 1954 to RAF Fairford, England.

While the 43d was still at Davis-Monthan, a new wing was being organized at Larson AFB (Moses Lake), Washington. Headquarters, 4170th Strategic Wing was organized and established at Larson AFB on 1 July 1959 under the command of Lt Colonel Robert R. Johnston. Assisted by one master sergeant, the colonel's job was to pave the way for SAC's assumption of command of the base on 1 January 1960. The 4170th Wing was activated on 1 January 1960, with maintenance, support and medical units. Also on this date command of Larson was taken from Military Air Transport Service's 62nd Troop Carrier Wing. The 4170th Strategic Wing was a heavy bombardment organization to be equipped with B-52 Stratofortress bombers, KC-135 jet tankers and the HGM-25A Titan I Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles at a later date. On 8 April 1960, Colonel Everett W. Best assumed command of the Wing. Under the command of Colonel Best, the 4170th SW became a functional unit of the Strategic Air Command on 13 July 1960 upon assignment of the 327th Bombardment Squadron's crews and aircraft. The 43d Air Refueling Squadron was assigned to the 4170th on 15 November 1960 and changed its suffix from “Medium” to “Heavy” in preparation for transition to the KC-135A. The 43d AREFS flew its last KC-97 mission in October 1960. The first crews of the 43d arrived on 19 March 1961 from Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, and the first of the KC-135's arrived on 24 March 1961.

With this new aircraft, 43d aircrews over the next few years refueled aircraft virtually everywhere in the world. Aircraft and crews deployed temporarily to Guam, Alaska, Greenland, Spain, England, Saudi Arabia, and Iraq. Colonel David A. Tate assumed command of the 4170th Strategic Wing in November 1961 and, on 1 February 1963, when the wing was redesignated the 462nd Strategic Aerospace Wing, Colonel Tate became the commander of the newly designated unit. The redesignation of the wing was part of the Air Force's program to honor former units with outstanding combat records. In Aug 1964, 43d aircrews deployed to Clark AB, Philippines, to begin supporting combat in Southeast Asia. Before terminating this refueling support in December 1975, the 43d AREFS dedicated substantial resources to the Vietnam War.

Colonel Alex W. Talmant assumed command of the 462nd Strategic Aerospace Wing upon the retirement of Colonel Tate on 31 July 1965. Under his command Larson AFB was scheduled to be inactivated on 30 June 1966, with Wing phase out scheduled to be complete by 25 June 1966.

On 2 Apr 1966, the 43d moved from Larson to Fairchild AFB, Wash. In May–June 1980, the explosive volcanic eruption of Mt. Saint Helens forced the suspension of operations from Fairchild for a month, but the 43d operated four tankers each from Beale AFB and Travis AFB, California. Once again, from 7 May to 8 Aug 1983, the squadron left Fairchild, deploying to Grant County Airport (formerly Larson AFB), Wash, while the Fairchild runway was repaired.

Inactivated in 1994 as part of phasedown of USAF after the end of the Cold War.


  • Constituted 43d Ferrying Squadron on 9 Jul 1942
Activated on 17 Aug 1942
Redesignated 43d Transport Squadron on 24 Mar 1943
Disbanded on 30 Sep 1943
  • Reconstituted, and consolidated (19 Sep 1985) with 43d Air Refueling Squadron, Heavy
Constituted 43d Air Refueling Squadron, Medium, on 30 Jun 1948
Activated on 19 Jul 1948
Redesignated 43d Air Refueling Squadron, Heavy, on 15 Nov 1960
Inactivated on 1 September 1991


  • 12th Ferrying (later, 12th Transport) Group, 17 Aug 1942-30 Sep 1943
  • 43d Bombardment Group, Medium, 19 Jul 1948
Attached to 43d Bombardment Wing, Medium, 10 Feb 1951-15 Jun 1952
Attached to Eighth Air Force, 28 Oct-28 Dec 1955


  • Accra Airport, British Gold Coast, 17 Aug 1942-30 Sep 1943
  • Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona, 19 Jul 1948
Deployed at: RAF Lakenheath, England, 21 Mar-5 Jun 1953
Deployed at: RAF Fairford, England, 18 Sep-9 Dec 1954
Deployed at: Ernest Harmon AFB, Newfoundland, 28 Oct-28 Dec 1955



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

  • Mauer, Mauer (1969), Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II, Air Force Historical Studies Office, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. ISBN 0-89201-097-5

 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Air Force website

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