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461st Air Control Wing
461st Air Control Wing.jpg
461st Air Control Wing Insignia
Active 1953–1958, 1962–1968, 2011–
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Role Air Control
Part of Air Combat Command
Garrison/HQ Robins AFB
Motto(s) Al Ataque ("On the Attack")
Vietnam Service Ribbon.svg
  • Vietnam Service (1967)

The 461st Air Control Wing (461 ACW) is a joint Air Force/Army unit flying the E-8 J-STARS aircraft. The 461 ACW is assigned to the Air Combat Command (ACC), Ninth Air Force, and is stationed at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. It was activated on 1 Oct 2011.

Originally activated as a tactical bomber wing by Tactical Air Command (TAC) in the 1950s, the wing was organized as a strategic wing and organized by Strategic Air Command (SAC) at Amarillo AFB, Texas in 1963. The wing flew Boeing B-52 Stratofortress heavy strategic bombers and Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker heavy air refueling aircraft. It deployed aircraft and crews to Andersen AFB, Guam for combat operations in Southeast Asia. The wing was inactivated in March 1968 with the closure of Amarillo AFB.


The 461st ACW is the only active duty Air Force wing operating the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS), an advanced ground surveillance and battle management system. Joint STARS detects, locates, classifies, tracks and targets ground movements on the battlefield, communicating real-time information through secure data links with U.S. Forces command posts.


Tactical Air Command

461st Bombardment Wing Martin B-57B-MA 53-3934, 1956

The unit was established as the 461st Bombardment Wing, Light under the Tactical Air Command Ninth Air Force on 11 December 1953. Unit was formed at Hill AFB, Utah and initially equipped with World War II-era B-26B Invader tactical light bombers brought out of storage depots in the southwest. The mission of the 461st Bomb Wing was to provide training in air support of ground forces and air interdiction from lessons learned during the Korean War. Modifications made to the aircraft were made by depot personnel at Hill as a result of combat in Korea meant that the Invader operated at considerably higher weights and with greater loads than had been achieved in World War II.

The Invader, however, was used as a transitory aircraft until the unit could receive the jet-powered Martin B-57 Canberra, which was still under development by Air Materiel Command. On 1 October 1955 the wing was reassigned to its permanent base at Blytheville AFB, Arkansas. It was redesignated as the 461st Bombardment wing, Tactical, and began receiving production B-57B Canberras. However, a number of B-57Bs were lost in accidents, particularly during high-speed, low-level operations when aircraft suddenly and unexplainably dove into the ground. As these accidents persisted, all tactically-assigned B-57Bs were grounded in May 1956 for a period of four months while the problem was investigated. The fault was eventually traced to a faulty tailplane actuator which set the trim incorrectly. The installation of a new actuator switch cured the problem.

The USAF was not very happy with the B-57B as it was initially produced. It was still deemed to be inadequate to meet the night intruder and close support role for which it had originally been designed. The target acquisition system was inadequate, the navigational range was too short, and the radio navigation could not recover the aircraft after strikes. The armament was inadequate—the gun-bomb-rocket sight, the gun charging systems, and the external stores release mechanisms were all unreliable.

After three years of service with the B-57s in tactical bomb groups, the decision was made to phase out the B-57 in favor of supersonic aircraft. The wing turned in its aircraft to TAC for disposition and the wing inactivated on 1 April 1958.

Strategic Air Command

Emblem of the 4128th Strategic Wing

On 5 January 1959, SAC established the 4128th Strategic Wing at Amarillo AFB, Texas and assigned it to the 822d Air Division as part of SAC's plan to disperse its Boeing B-52 Stratofortress heavy bombers over a larger number of bases, thus making it more difficult for the Soviet Union to knock out the entire fleet with a surprise first strike. The wing initially comprised three maintenance squadrons and a squadron to provide security for special weapons. In July, the 58th Aviation Depot Squadron was activated to oversee the wing's special weapons and the wing was transferred to the 810th Air Division.

The wing became operational on 1 February 1960 when the 718th Bombardment Squadron (BS), consisting of 15 B-52s moved to Amarillo from Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota where it had been one of the three squadrons of the 28th Bombardment Wing. Half of the wing's aircraft were maintained on fifteen minute alert, fully fueled, armed, and ready for combat. The 4128th (and later the 461st) continued to maintain an alert commitment until inactivated. However, SAC Strategic Wings could not carry a permanent history or lineage[1] and SAC looked for a way to make its Strategic Wings permanent.

In 1962, in order to perpetuate the lineage of many currently inactive bombardment units with illustrious World War II records, Headquarters SAC received authority from Headquarters USAF to discontinue its Major Command controlled (MAJCON) strategic wings that were equipped with combat aircraft and to activate Air Force controlled (AFCON) units, most of which were inactive at the time which could carry a lineage and history.[2] As a result the 4128th SW was replaced by reactivated 461st Bombardment Wing, Heavy (461st BW), which assumed its mission, personnel, and equipment on 1 February 1963.[3][4]

In the same way the 764th Bombardment Squadron, one of the unit's World War II historical bomb squadrons, replaced the 718th BS. Under the Dual Deputate organization,[5] all flying and maintenance squadrons were directly assigned to the wing, so no operational group element was activated. The 58th Munitions Maintenance Squadron was reassigned to the 461st, while The 4039th's other maintenance and security squadrons were replaced by ones with the 461st numerical designation of the new wing. Each of the new units assumed the personnel, equipment, and mission of its predecessor.

In April 1963, the wing gained an air refueling capability for its bombers when the 909th Air Refueling Squadron was activated with KC-135 tankers. The 909th remained with the wing until June 1966, when it moved to March AFB, California and was reassigned.[6] The wing trained with B-52s maintained heavy bombardment proficiency and participated in numerous operational readiness inspections and actual and simulated exercises. It deployed B-52 aircraft and crews to Andersen AFB, Guam from 18 January to 4 July 1967 for combat operations in Southeast Asia, however its headquarters remained at Amarillo where it served as a deterrent force and also supported SAC's global air refueling mission.

By 1968, Intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM) had been deployed and become operational as part of the United States' strategic triad, and the need for B-52s had been reduced. In addition, funds were also needed to cover the costs of combat operations in Indochina. The 461st Bombardment Wing was inactivated on 25 March 1968 and its aircraft were reassigned to other SAC units. As part of the inactivation, Amarillo AFB was closed.

Air Combat Command

The wing was redesignated as the 461st Air Control Wing and activated in October 2011 when the regular Air Force assumed associate responsibility to the 116th Georgia Air Nation Guard for the JSTARS mission.


  • Constituted as 461st Bombardment Wing, Light on 11 December 1953
Activated on 23 December 1953
Redesignated: 461st Bombardment Wing, Tactical on 1 October 1955
Inactivated on 1 April 1958
  • Redesignated 461st Bombardment Wing, Heavy and activated on 15 November 1962 (not organized)
Activated on 15 November 1962
Organized on 1 February 1963
Discontinued and inactivated on 25 May 1968
  • Redesignated 461st Air Control Wing on 1 October 2011
Activated on 1 October 2011[7]




  • 461st Bombardment Group (later 461st Operations Group), 23 December 1953 - 8 January 1958, 1 October 2011 – present[7]
  • 461st Maintenance & Supply Group (later 461st Maintenance Group), 23 December 1953 - 8 January 1958, 1 October 2011 – present[8][9]
  • 461st Air Base Group, 23 December 1954 - 1 April 1958[8][9]
  • 461st Tactical Infirmary (later 461st Tactical Hospital), 8 April 1956 - 1 April 1958[9]


Operational Squadrons

  • 764th Bombardment Squadron, 1 February 1953 – 25 March 1968[3]
  • 909th Air Refueling Squadron, 1 April 1963– 25 June 1966[3]

Support Squadrons

  • 58th Munitions Maintenance Squadron, 1 February 1963 - 25 March 1968
  • 461st Armament & Electronics Maintenance Squadron, 1 February 1963 - 25 March 1968
  • 461st Combat Defense Squadron (later 461st Security Police Squadron),1 February 1963 - 25 March 1968
  • 461st Field Maintenance Squadron, 1 February 1963 - 25 March 1968
  • 461st Organizational Maintenance Squadron, 1 February 1963 - 25 March 1968


Aircraft flown

See also



  1. Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). A Guide to Air Force Lineage and Honors (2d, Revised ed.). Maxwell AFB, AL: USAF Historical Research Center. 
  2. Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). A Guide to Air Force Lineage and Honors (2d, Revised ed.). Maxwell AFB, AL: USAF Historical Research Center. p. 12. "MAJCON units could not carry a permanent history or lineage." 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings, Lineage & Honors Histories 1947-1977. Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. pp. 255–256. ISBN 0-912799-12-9. 
  4. The 461st Wing continued, through temporary bestowal, the history, and honors of the World War II 461st Bombardment Group. It was also entitled to retain the honors (but not the history or lineage) of the 4128th.
  5. Under this plan flying squadrons reported to the wing Deputy Commander for Operations and maintenance squadrons reported to the wing Deputy Commander for Maintenance
  6. Robertson, Patsy AFHRA Factsheet, 909th Air Refueling Squadron 5/27/2010 (retrieved April 21, 2013)
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Robertson, Patsy AFHRA Factsheet, 461st Air Control Wing 4/9/2012 (retrieved April 20, 2013)
  8. 8.0 8.1 Mueller, Robert (1989). Air Force Bases, Vol. I, Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. pp. 237–244. ISBN 0-912799-53-6. 
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Mueller, pp. 35-38


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

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