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43d Airlift Group
43d Airlift Wing.svg
Active 1947--present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Role Tactical Airlift
Part of Air Mobility Command
Garrison/HQ Pope Air Force Base
Motto(s) Willing, Able, Ready
Decorations Presidential Unit Citation ribbon.svg PUC
Outstanding Unit ribbon.svg AFOUA w/ V Device
Presidential Unit Citation (Philippines).svg PPUC
Vietnam gallantry cross unit award-3d.svg RVGC w/ Palm
Colonel James C. Johnson
David A. Burchinal
Jack J. Catton
File:C-130 over Cape Hatteras.jpg

A 43d Operations Group C-130 flies over the Cape Hatteras lighthouse along the North Carolina coast

The 43rd Airlift Group (43 AG) is a United States Air Force unit assigned to Pope Field, part of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

The 43 AG performs en route operations support at Pope Field to include mission command & control, aircrew management, aircraft maintenance, aircraft loading, aircraft fueling and supply.


The unit provides strategic en route airlift support and C-130 Hercules tactical airlift support to the Army's XVIII Airborne Corps, 82nd Airborne Division and US Special Forces Command. It is capable of deploying a self-sustaining war fighting package anywhere in the world at a moment's notice and reflected Pope's motto "Ready Now".

It traces its roots back to the 43d Bombardment Group (Heavy), which was constituted 20 November 1940, and activated 15 January 1941, at Langley Field, VA. It operated primarily in the Southwest Pacific Theater as a B-17 Flying Fortress, and later a B-24 Liberator heavy bomber unit assigned to Fifth Air Force. The 43d Operations Group carries the lineage and history of its highly decorated World War II predecessor unit.

Active for over 60 years, the 43 AG was a component wing of Strategic Air Command's deterrent force throughout the Cold War.

The 43d Airlift Group is commanded by Colonel James C. Johnson. Its Command Chief Master Sergeant is Chief Master Sergeant Douglas A. Ackerman.

The 2005 BRAC Law mandated the distribution of the assigned 43d Airlift Wing C-130s and the 23rd Fighter Group A-10s to meet Air Force requirements at other locations; establish a Reserve/Active Duty 16 C-130H organization; establish a Medical Squadron; establish an Air Force Group to provide mission execution, planning, and management of efficient load-out of Fort Bragg assets; and transfer Real Property accountability to the Army (Fort Bragg). The 2005 BRAC Law directed the mandates be completed no later than 15 September 2011.

The 440th Airlift Wing stood up at Pope AFB in June 2007 and the active duty squadrons, the 2nd Airlift Squadron and the 43d Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron, were associated in June 2008. The transfer of the Pope assigned 23rd FG A-10s was completed in December 2007 and the 43d AW C-130s was completed in June 2008.


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The factual accuracy of this article may be compromised due to out-of-date information

It consists of the following groups:

Dual Mission: 1) Combat-ready C-130 operations group. On short notice, delivers/resupplies troops in forward battle area via Adverse Weather Aerial Delivery System (AWADS) and/or visual procedures. Employs USAF's only tactical aeromedical evacuation squadron. 2) En route aerial support. Principal airfield for joint training/outload of XVIII Airborne Corps/82nd Airborne Division. Supports 2 tenant A-10 units.
  • 43d Maintenance Group
Provides quality organizational and intermediate-level maintenance and logistics support for the Air Force's premier tactical airlift wing. Maintains worldwide mobilization capability and provides combat-ready C-130 to support United States national interests anytime, anywhere. Provides wing quality assurance program to ensure workforce qualification. In accordance with the 2005 Base Realignment and Closure Law, the last of Pope's active duty C-130E aircraft left in June 2008, realigning under several wings in AMC, including Dyess AFB, Tex. and Little Rock AFB, Ark.
  • 43d Medical Group
Provides comprehensive medical support to over 3,000 active-duty personnel. Promotes the optimal health and combat readiness of warfighters across the entire spectrum of military operations. Enhances the health and fitness for 20,000 beneficiaries through prevention-oriented programs and population-based health-care delivery.
  • 43d Mission Support Group
Creates, sustains and protects combat capability for the 43d Airlift Wing and 18th Air Support Operations Group. Provides aerial port, communications, contracting, engineering/fire protection/readiness, force protection/security, personnel, services/MWR, and supply/transportation support to 3,000 personnel assigned to Pope AFB in addition to supporting the XVIII Airborne Corps (41,000 personnel). Delivers superior mission support to generate combat power worldwide.


For additional history and lineage, see 43d Operations Group

Cold War

Emblem of the 43d Bomb Wing

Convair B-58A-10-CF Hustler 59-2458, formerly of the 43d Bombardment Wing, shown at its permanent assignment at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Pattersn AFB, Ohio. While assigned to the 43d BW, this aircraft set transcontinental speed record 03/05/62 by flying nonstop from Los Angeles to New York and back again. First leg at average speed of 1214.71 mph, return leg at average speed of 1081.77 mph. Return leg was first transcontinental flight that moved across the country faster than the rotational speed of the earth.

The 43d was established on 3 November 1947. It conducted strategic bombardment training from, 1946–1960, and air refueling, 1949–1960, to meet Strategic Air Command's (SAC) global commitments. Wing personnel established flight records, flying two B-29s around the world in 1948 in 15 days, and flying the B-50 Lucky Lady II nonstop around the world in 94 hours and 40 seconds in 1949.

Replaced the propeller-driven B-29s and B-50s with new B-47E Stratojet swept-wing medium bombers in 1954, capable of flying at high subsonic speeds and primarily designed for penetrating the airspace of the Soviet Union. The 43d set a new jet endurance record in 1954 by keeping a B-47 airborne for 47:35 hours. Flew numerous training missions and participated in various SAC exercises and deployments with the Stratojet during the 1950s. In the late 1950s, the B-47 was considered to be reaching obsolescence, and was being phased out of SAC's strategic arsenal. The 43d began reassigning it's Stratojets to other wings as replacement aircraft beginning in 1959.

The wing converted to the Convair B-58 Hustler aircraft, the world's first supersonic bomber, in 1960. The 43d Bombardment Wing was the first USAF B-58 wing, 59-2436, the first fully operational Hustler equipped with all tactical systems, was delivered to the 43d on 15 March. On 23 March a test unit B-58A (55-0671), remained airborne for 18 hours 10 minutes while averaging an airspeed of 620 mph over 11,000 miles. This was apparently the longest-lasting single flight ever by a B-58. The 43d BW received deliveries of new aircraft from Convair throughout the year, the last being in December 1960.

43 BW Boeing B-50D on rotation to England 1953

From March 1960 to July 1961 it operated a combat crew training school for B-58 aircrews, and from July 1962 until late 1969 it served as one of two SAC B-58 wings with a strategic bombardment mission. During the 1960s the wing established world flight speed records in the B-58. For example, in May 1961, a wing B-58 flew from New York to Paris in 3 hours, 14 minutes, and 45 seconds, establishing a new transatlantic speed record of 1,089.36 mph. During a race in 1962, a wing B-58 flew from Los Angeles to New York at an average speed of 1,214.65 mph. It flew from Los Angeles to New York and back in 4 hours, 41 minutes, and 15 seconds. The 43d BW, which had been prevented from being declared combat-ready by the B-58's teething problems, was finally declared as such in August 1962. The Wing was placed on alert in September 1962.

By the mid-1960s, the B-58 had become a fairly effective weapons system. By the end of 1962, USAF crews had made over 10,500 flights and loges 53,00 hours (1150 of them supersonic, including 375 at Mach 2). Initially, all B-58 training was conducted by the 43d Combat Crew Training School. From 1960 through 1964, this unit fulfilled the requirements of both its parent 43d BW and the second B-58 wing, the 305th BW. In August 1964, the 305th activated its own CCTS. The wing also controlled an air refueling squadron from August 1964.

The active service life of the B-58 was destined to be rather short. Phaseout of the B-58 fleet was ordered by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in December 1965, since it was felt that the high-altitude performance of the B-58 could no longer guarantee success against increasingly sophisticated Soviet air defenses. Although SAC had never been happy with the relatively limited range of the B-58 and felt that the Air Force through congressional pressure had forced the B-58 on them, the aircraft had gone through a long gestation period during which lots of bugs had been wrung out of the system, and it was now thought to be a valuable and effective weapons system. Consequently, SAC pressed the Defense Department for the retention of the B-58, at least until 1974. However, the decision of 1965 was to stand. Another factor was the B-58's relatively high cost as compared to the B-52 and B-47. The unit cost of the B-58 was 33.5 million dollars as compared to 9 million for the B-52 and 3 million for the B-47. The cost of maintaining and operating two B-58 wings equaled the cost of maintaining six B-52 wings. In addition, the B-58 was quite costly to maintain.

The first B-58 to go to the boneyard was 59-2446, which flew to Davis Monthan AFB on 5 November 1969. Once underway, the B-58 retirement program moved relatively rapidly. The retirement was completed on 16 January 1970.

Vietnam War

3960th Strategic Wing Emblem

3960th Strategic Wing

Once their B-58s were in storage, the 43d BW was temporarily inactivated, but was immediately reactivated with the assets of the 3960th Strategic Wing (SW) at Andersen AFB on Guam. The 3960th SW had been established at Andersen as the 3960th Air Base Wing when the base transferred from Pacific Air Forces to SAC on 1 April 1955.[1] The 3960th supported SAC Boeing B-47 Stratojet REFLEX deployments to Andersen over the years the wing designation[2] and its mission changed to supporting deployed Boeing B-52 Stratofortress aircraft forming the Andersen Task Force, Provisional.[1]

On 1 April 1965 the wing once again was redesignated the 3960th Strategic Wing and its mission changed to support B-52 elements from SAC CONUS-based units engaged in combat operations over Southeast Asia on a daily basis during the Vietnam War as the 320th Bombardment Wing from Mather AFB California[3] and the 454th Bombardment Wing at Columbus AFB, Mississippi[4] deployed to Andersen that year. These deployed wings conducted the first B-52 strikes in Southeast Asia.[5]

Operations at Andersen AFB

B-52G landing at Andersen after an Operation Linebacker mission

In 1970, in order to retain the lineage of the 43d BW, Headquarters SAC received authority from Headquarters USAF to discontinue its MAJCON 3960th SW and activate a regular AFCON wing which was inactive at the time which could carry a lineage and history of the mission at Anderson. On 1 April 1970, the 3960th SW was discontinued and replaced by the 43d BW, which became the 43d Strategic Wing. In July, it also assumed resources and mission of the Bombardment Wing, Provisional, 4133d,[6] which had operational control over B-52s striking targets in Southeast Asia. The 43d SW employed attached aircraft and aircrews of other SAC units deployed from bases in the United States to participate in Operation Arc Light combat missions in Southeast Asia from 1 July to mid-August 1970, and again from February 1972 to August 1973.

Following the end of combat operations the 43d provided routing training and ground alert with B-52 and KC-135 aircraft, the latter provided by other SAC units on loan. During 1975 the wing provided logistical and medical support to thousands of Vietnamese refugees evacuated from their homeland and located temporarily at Guam awaiting resettlement in the United States.

Post Vietnam era

The wing trained to remain proficient in strategic and conventional warfare capabilities. Beginning in 1974 it controlled TDY tankers and crews participating in the Pacific (formerly Andersen) Tanker Task Force that supported SAC operations in the western Pacific. In July 1986 the 43d activated the 65th Strategic Squadron to control the TDY air refueling forces.

Modern era

Since 1990 the 43d has been inactivated, redesignated and activated on several occasions. In 1989 Andersen AFB was transferred from the Strategic Air Command to Pacific Air Forces. The PACAF 633rd Air Base Wing was activated on 1 October 1989, which led to the inactivation of the 43d Bombardment Wing on 26 March 1990.

The wing was redesignated as the 43d Air Refueling Wing, and activated, on 1 June 1992 at Malmstrom AFB, Montana where it conducted refueling operations under Air Combat Command before being moved to MacDill AFB, Florida when flight operations ended at Malmstrom. At MacDill it was redesignated as a group and operated until 1 October 1996 when it was inactivated and replaced by the 6th Air Refueling Wing when Air Mobility Command assumed the air refueling mission from ACC.

It was brought back into active service in 1997 when the unit was redesignated as the 43d Airlift Wing on 31 March and activated on 1 April 1997 at Pope AFB, North Carolina under Air Mobility Command. Crews and aircraft deployed to Europe and Southwest Asia for expeditionary rotations and contingency operations such as the enforcement of no-fly zones over Iraq. It also took part in humanitarian airlift operations and training exercises, often with U.S. Army airborne organizations stationed at nearby Fort Bragg. After terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001, elements deployed in support of the Global War on Terror.


  • Established as 43d Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy on 3 November 1947
Organized on 17 November 1947
Redesignated 43d Bombardment Wing, Medium on 1 August 1948
Inactivated on 31 January 1970
  • Redesignated 43d Strategic Wing on 4 February 1970
Activated on 4 February 1970.
Organized on 1 April 1970[7]
Redesignated 43d Bombardment Wing, Heavy on 4 November 1986
Inactivated on 30 September 1990
  • Redesignated 43d Air Refueling Wing and activated, on 1 June 1992
Redesignated 43d Air Refueling Group on 1 July 1994
Inactivated on 1 October 1996
  • Redesignated 43d Airlift Wing on 31 March 1997
Activated on 1 April 1997.
Redesignated 43d Airlift Group 1 March 2011


Attached to: 7th Air Division, c. 10 March-5 June 1953 and 5 September-10 December 1954
Attached to: 3d Air Division, 1 July-1 October 1957
Attached to: 825th Strategic Aerospace Division, 19–31 August 1964

Attached to: Air Division, Provisional, 57, 1 June 1972 – 14 November 1973



  • 43d Bombardment (later, 43d Operations) Group: 17 November 1947 – 16 June 1952 (detached 16 August – 16 November 1949; not operational, 10 February 1951 – 16 June 1952); 1 June 1992 – 1 July 1994; 1 April 1997 –
  • 453d Operations Group: 1 June 1992 – 1 July 1994
  • 459th Bombardment Group: attached 27 June 1949 – 16 June 1951
  • 2d Bombardment Group: attached 17 November 1947 – 31 December 1948 (not operational).


Attached: 10 February 1951 – 15 June 1952
Assigned: 19 July 1948 – 15 March 1960 (detached 18 October – 28 December 1955); 19 July 1948 – 16 June 1952 (detached 10 February 1951 – 16 June 1952)


Deployed at: RAF Brize Norton, England, c. 10 March – 5 June 1953
Deployed at: RAF Fairford, England, 5 September – 10 December 1954
Deployed at: Andersen AFB, Guam, 1 July – 1 October 1957

Re-designated Pope Army Airfield, 1 March 2011 – present


B-52D, 1970–1983; B-52G, 1983–1990

References for commands and major units assigned, components and stations:[8][9][10]


See also



  1. 1.0 1.1 Fletcher, Harry R (1993). Air Force Bases , Vol. II, Air Bases Outside the United States of America. Washington, DC: Center for Air Force History. pp. 1–5. ISBN 0-912799-53-6. 
  2. The wing became the 3960th Air Base Group on 1 July 1956, the 3960th Combat Support Group (CSG) on 1 July 1969 and the 3960th Strategic Wing on 1 November 1963, with a brief return to the 3960th CSG designation on 1 Aug 1964. See Fletcher
  3. Abstract, History 320th Bomb Wg, Oct 1965-Mar 1966 (retrieved Jan 34, 2012)
  4. Abstract, History 454th Bombardment Wing Jul-Nov 1965 (retrieved Jan 24, 2013)
  5. Abstract, History 320th Bomb Wg Apr-Jun 1965 (retrieved Jan 24, 2013)
  6. Abstract, History Bombardment Wing, P 4133d Feb-Jun 1970 (retrieved Jan 24, 2012)
  7. assuming the resources (Manpower, Equipment, Weapons, & Facilities) of the 3960th Strategic Wing
  8. Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9
  9. Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  10. Rogers, Brian (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.


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

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