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5th Bomb Wing
5th Bomb Wing.png
5th Bomb Wing emblem
Active 1 July 1949–present
Country United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Role Bomber
Part of Air Force Global Strike Command
Eighth Air Force
Garrison/HQ Minot Air Force Base
Nickname(s) the Warbirds
Motto(s) "Kiai o ka lewa"
Hawaiian: Guardians of the Upper Realms
Equipment B-52H Stratofortress
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg
Vietnam Service Ribbon.svg Southwest Asia Service ribbon.svg AFEMRib.svg
KosovoRib.svg Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary ribbon.svg Afghanistan Campaign ribbon.svg
  • World War II
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign (1941–1945)
  • Vietnam Service (1965–1968)
  • Southwest Asia (1990–1991)
  • Expeditionary Service (1990s)
  • Kosovo Campaign 1999
  • Global War on Terrorism (2001-present)
    • War in Afghanistan (2001-present)
    • Iraq War (2003-2010)
Decorations see "Lineage and Honors" section below
Colonel Alexis Mezynski.
Brigadier General Robert F. Travis, Brigadier General Edwin B. Broadhurst, Brigadier General William R. Hodges, Brigadier General Ralph Pasini

A B-52 with the 5th Bomb Wing taxis past the Minot AFB tower

The 5th Bomb Wing (5 BW) is a United States Air Force unit assigned to Air Force Global Strike Command's Eighth Air Force. It is stationed at Minot Air Force Base, North Dakota. The wing is also the host unit at Minot. The 5 BW is one of only two B-52H Stratofortress wings in the United States Air Force, the other being the 2d Bomb Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana.

Its 5th Operations Group is a successor organization of the 5th Group (Composite), one of the 15 original combat air groups formed by the Army before World War II.

On 7 December 1941, the 5th Bombardment Group suffered the loss of B-17 Flying Fortress and B-18 Bolo bombers when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, but it sent two B-17s to search vainly for the Japanese task force. After the attack, the group patrolled the waters off the Hawaiian Islands until November 1942, taking part in the Battle of Midway (3–6 June 1942). Active for over 60 years, the 5 BW was a component wing of Strategic Air Command's heavy bomber deterrent force throughout the Cold War.


The 5 BW is part of the Air Force Global Strike Command's Eighth Air Force and is the host unit at Minot Air Force Base. Its current command staff consists of Colonel Alexis Mezynski., Wing Commander; and Chief Master Sergeant Kevin J. Jurgella., Wing Command Chief. The wing includes a total force of approximately 3,640 military members as well as 420 civilian employees.

The 5 BW consists of the following groups:

  • 5th Operations Group: 16 July 1949 – 16 June 1952 (detached 12 November 1949 – 10 February 1951); 1 September 1991–present.
  • 5th Maintenance Group
    • 5th Munitions Squadron
    • 5th Maintenance Squadron
    • 5th Maintenance Operations Squadron
    • 5th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
  • 5th Medical Group
    • 5th Medical Operations Squadron
    • 5th Medical Support Squadron
  • 5th Mission Support Group
    • 5th Civil Engineer Squadron
    • 5th Communications Squadron
    • 5th Force Support Squadron
    • 5th Security Forces Squadron
    • 5th Contracting Squadron
    • 5th Logistics Readiness Squadron

As the host unit at Minot, the 5 BW also controls the special staff functions of the inspector general, wing plans, the chaplain, staff judge advocate, arms control, command post, public affairs, history and safety. The 5th Comptroller Squadron also reports directly to the 5 BW commander.


For additional history and lineage, see 5th Operations Group

Cold War

Strategic Reconnaissance

Emblem of the 5th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing

5th SRW Emblem (1949-1955)

The wing was established on 1 July 1949. Until 1958, the wing underwent several name and assignment changes while continually upgrading its aircraft. Performed long-range strategic reconnaissance, July 1949 – October 1955, with some limited reconnaissance to September 1958. Operational squadrons were 23d, 31st and 72d Strategic Reconnaissance flying Boeing RB-17G/F-2/F-9/F-13 aircraft (1947–49) and beginning in 1948, Boeing RB-29 aircraft until 1951.

The wing performed operations to probe the eastern borders of the Soviet Union and China. Little was known about the air defence capability of the Soviet Union at this time and the most effective way of determining their capability was to probe the borders and see whether they would respond. Initially, the RB-17Gs and later aircraft (RB-29, RB-36D) mapped the perimeter of the Soviet Air Defences from the Baltic to the Sea of Okhotsk, north of Japan.

This mission, along with many others, found that west of the Bering Strait there was virtually no radar coverage. As a result of these missions, USAF war plans were drawn up which directed a massive bomber attack to hit Russia from this direction, flying on to land in the Middle East or Africa, or more likely bailing out as the aircraft ran out of fuel. Gradually, during the 1950s, the Soviets began filling in the gaps in their radar coverage over northern Siberia, but large gaps on the outer perimeter between Alaska and Murmansk were still wide open for many years to come.

The wing was fully integrated with the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing (later, 9th Bomb Wing), 12 November 1949 – 10 February 1951; maintained a manned headquarters, but had no operational control over assigned units, and from 1 February 1950 to 10 February 1951 shared a commander in common with the 9th Wing.

In June 1951, the wing began converting to the Convair RB-36D Peacemaker, forming three squadrons (23d, 31st, 72d Bombardment Squadrons). Later, B-36J models were assigned to the wing and it began maintaining proficiency in strategic bombardment in July 1953 but the 5th was not redesignated as a bombardment wing until October 1955.

Strategic Bombardment

5th Bomb Wing (1950s) Emblem

While stationed at Travis AFB, Calif., the 5th Bombardment Wing (Heavy) entered the jet age in on 13 February 1959 when Strategic Air Command assigned the wing its first Boeing B-52B Stratofortresses. Two operational bomb squadrons (23d and 31st) were formed. With that change, the wing also gained the 916th Air Refueling Squadron and its KC-135A air refueling aircraft. The wing's 23d Bombardment Squadron and its people saw combat over Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. Its crews attacked targets in the region while supporting American and allied ground forces during Operation Arc Light between 1965 and 1968.

The wing moved to Minot AFB, North Dakota on 25 July 1968 with the 23d Bomb Squadron absorbing the resources of the 450th Bombardment Wing/720th Bomb Squadron and ended its Southeast Asia deployments. At Minot, the wing transitioned to the B-52H, which brought added vigor to its strategic deterrence mission. It also supported the post-attack command and control system (PACCS), July 1968 – December 1969.

In the summer of 1975, the wing gained the Boeing AGM-69A Short Range Attack Missile (SRAM), which enhanced the ability of the B-52H to penetrate and survive in this hostile environment. Armed with a nuclear warhead and equipped with a simple inertial guidance system, the AGM-69A was propelled to its range of 20 to 50 nautical miles (93 km) by a solid-propellant rocket motor. Each B-52 could carry up to 20 SRAMs, six on each of two wing pylons and eight on a rotary launcher located in the bomb bay.

Entering the 1990s, the 5th BW continued to set the standard as it deployed troops to the Persian Gulf as part of Operation Desert Shield. During the war’s air campaign, the wing joined U.S. and coalition bombers and fighters to defeat Iraq’s air and ground forces.

In September 1991, the wing marked a historic moment in the final days of the Cold War when it pulled its aircraft from continuous alert status – a job it performed for 35 years. The wing was relieved of its air refueling mission in June 1992 On 1 June 1992, the 5th Wing became the 5th Bomb Wing following the activation of Air Combat Command.

Modern era

The bomb wing saw combat again in the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Fox in December 1998. Months later, three Minot B-52s and crews joined the 2d Air Expeditionary Group at RAF Fairford, England, in support of Operation Allied Force over the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.

Budgetary cuts in 1996 led to a need for further force reductions which reduced the 5th's B-52H fleet. The 72d BS was inactivated late in the year and their 12 aircraft were retired.

In the weeks following the 11 September 2001 attacks, the 5th BW deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. Flying from a forward operating location, bomber crews attacked strategic targets in Afghanistan to topple the Taliban regime.

In 2003, the wing deployed approximately 550 people and 14 B-52s to the U.S. European Command region in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. During the war, the wing’s B-52s flew more than 120 combat missions and logged more than 1,600 combat flying hours. The bombers dropped more than 3 million pounds of weaponry, including conventional air-launched cruise missiles, joint direct attack munitions, gravity weapons, laser-guided bombs and leaflet dispensers. For the first time in combat history, a 5th BW crew employed a Litening II targeting pod to strike targets at an Iraqi airfield 11 April 2003.

In March 2004, the wing sent six B-52s and over 300 support personnel to Andersen AFB, Guam. The aircraft and crews supported U.S. Pacific Command operations to provide a stabilizing military force in the region.

In April 2005, the wing forward deployed aircraft and personnel to the 40th Air Expeditionary Wing in support of U.S. Central Command combat operations in Afghanistan. Flying a mix of close air support and strike missions, 5th BW crews ensured success of ground combat units in meeting their objectives.

Today, the 5th's B-52Hs are a major component of the USAF's strategic bombing force, alongside the Rockwell B-1B Lancer and the Northrop B-2A Spirit. The USAF is currently considering converting some of its B-52Hs to EB-52Hs to act as a stand-off electronic warfare platform. During Operation Allied Force (the bombing of Serbia undertaken in an attempt to halt the ethnic cleansing of Kosovo), the USAF found that additional jamming aircraft were needed to supplement the current fleet of Grumman EA-6A/B Prowler. With modern technology and advanced weapons like the JDAM and JASSM, the 5th's B-52 are expected to remain operational until the year 2040.

In 2007 the Wing lost its commanding officer after Colonel Bruce Emig was removed in connection with the 2007 United States Air Force nuclear weapons incident, when negligent handling of nuclear weapons breached safety and security procedures. Emig was replaced by Joel S. Westa. Following that incident, the wing failed a nuclear surety inspection (NSI) conducted by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency in May 2008. The wing, however, kept its certification to perform missions and training with nuclear weapons.[1]

On 30 October 2009 Westa was relieved as commander of the 5th Bomb Wing by Major General Floyd L. Carpenter, commander of 8th Air Force. Carpenter stated that Westa was relieved due to his "inability to foster a culture of excellence, a lack of focus on the strategic mission … and substandard performance during several nuclear surety inspections, including the newly activated 69th Bomb Squadron." Colonel Douglas A. Cox was appointed new wing commander.[2] In January 2010, the 69th BS passed its initial NSI, and the wing as a whole passed a no-notice NSI.[3]

In June 2010, the wing once again deployed aircraft and personnel to Guam in support of PACOM's continuous bomber presence mission providing stability in the Pacific. While supporting Pacific region stability, the wing also passed its Nuclear Surety Inspection in August 2010, and followed this 70 days later with a successful Nuclear Operational Readiness Inspection in November 2010.[4]


The group's emblem, approved in 1924, features a winged human skull on a black and green background.


  • Established as 5 Strategic Reconnaissance Wing on 1 July 1949
Activated on 16 July 1949
Redesignated: 5 Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Heavy on 14 November 1950
Redesignated: 5 Bombardment Wing, Heavy on 1 October 1955
Redesignated: 5 Wing on 1 September 1991
Redesignated: 5 Bomb Wing on 1 June 1992


Attached to 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, 12 November 1949-
Remained attached to 9th Bombardment Wing to 10 February 1951
Attached to 3d Air Division, 14 January-12 April 1955

Attached to 810 Air Division Provisional, 30 November 1972-14 January 1973





Major Aircraft Assigned


Campaign Streamers

  • World War II: Central Pacific; Guadalcanal; New Guinea; Northern Solomons; Eastern Mandates; Bismarck Archipelago; Western Pacific; Leyte; Luzon; Southern Philippines


  • Distinguished Unit Citations: Woleai Island, 18 April 1944 – 15 May 1944; Borneo, 30 September 1944
  • Presidential Unit Citation (Navy): South Pacific, 1 December 1942 – 9 December 1942
  • Philippine Presidential Unit Citation (WWII)
  • Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Combat "V" Device: 1 June 1999 – 31 May 2001
  • Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards (3): 1 July 1983 – 30 June 1984; 1 July 1985 – 30 June 1986; 1 July 1991 – 30 June 1993.


  • Won the Omaha Trophy as the outstanding wing in SAC for 1985.
  • Won the SAC Bombing and Navigation Competition and the Fairchild Trophy in 1988.
  • Received the Omaha Trophy from U.S. Strategic Command as the best strategic aircraft unit for 2000.[5]

See also


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

  • Much of this text in an early version of this article was taken from pages on the Minot Air Force Base website, which as a work of the U.S. Government is presumed to be a public domain resource.


  • Davis, Major Fred. (ed). History of the Fifth Bomb Group (Heavy): History of the Bomber Barons of the 13th "Jungle" Air Force. Raleigh, North Carolina: Hillsbourough House, 1946.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories, 1947–1977. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1984.
  • Rogers, Brian. United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications, 2005. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.
  • Air Force Historical Research Agency: 2d Bomb Wing

External links

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