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66th Air Base Wing
66th Air Base Wing.png
66th Air Base Wing emblem
Active 1941-2010
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Part of Air Force Materiel Command
Garrison/HQ Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts
Decorations AFOUA Streamer.JPG AFOUA

The 66th Air Base Wing (66 ABW) is an inactive United States Air Force unit. It was last assigned to the Air Force Materiel Command Electronic Systems Center, stationed at Hanscom Air Force Base, Massachusetts. It was inactivated on 30 September 2010.


For additional lineage and history, see 66th Air Base Group

On 15 November 1952, the 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing was established at Shaw AFB, South Carolina, replacing the federalized Air National Guard 118 Tactical Reconnaissance Wing. The wing was activated on 1 January 1953. The 66th TRW commanded the functions of both the support groups as well as the flying 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Group and the squadrons assigned to it. The wing and squadrons trained at Shaw prior to deployment to NATO. The squadrons formed and activated were:

On 25 June 1953 the 66th TRW departed Shaw, being reassigned to Sembach Air Base West Germany. Just prior to the wing's deployment to NATO, the 303d TRS was reequipped with RF-80As.

Sembach Air Base

Major General B. C. Struther, commander of Twelfth Air Force, arriving at Sembach Air Base as part of the activation ceremony of the 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at the base, 6 July 1953.

66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing - 5 RF-84F Formation - 1956 Wing Commander's Aircraft in the lead, 302d TFS (Red tail), 303d TFS (Blue Tail)

Newly Arrived Douglas RB-66B-DL Destroyer Serial 54-0511 of the 30th TRS - 1957

Major General B. C. Struther, commander of Twelfth Air Force, welcomed the wing upon its arrival in Europe. The Wing Commander landed at 1509 hours in a T-33, bringing the remainder of the wing’s aircraft with him: 32 RF-80 Shooting Stars and 4 additional T-33s.

At Sembach, the 66th TRW had three operational squadrons: the 30th, 302d and 303d TRS. The 30th TRS flew the RB-26's, while the 302d and 303d flew the RF-80A.

On 30 November 1954, the 30th TRS received the first Martin RB-57A Canberra, to replace its World War II vintage RB-26 Invaders. In August 1955, the 302d and 303d TRS started to receive the Republic RF-84F Thunderflash.

On 1 January 1957 a fourth squadron, the 19th TRS was transferred from the 47th Bombardment Wing (SAC) at RAF Sculthorpe to the 66th TRW. The 47th TRS flew the RB-45C Tornado, however the squadron remained at Sculthrope and did not physically transfer its assets to Sembach. At Sculthorpe, the 19th TRS transitioned to the Douglas RB-66 Destroyer aircraft.

As 1957 progressed USAFE HQ decided to reorganise its tactical reconnaissance assets. Both the 66th TRW and the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Spangdahlem Air Base were flying dissimilar types of aircraft: the RF-84F and the RB-66. This was counterproductive not only in terms of operational efficiency, but also in terms of maintenance and supply. On 6 December 1957 HQ, USAFE transferred the 19th and 30th TRS and their RB-66's to the 10th TRW. In return the 32d and 38th Tactical Fighter Squadrons at Phalsbourg AB, France were transferred from the 10th TRW which made the 66th TRW a four-squadron RF-84 wing. However due to space restrictions at Sembach, the 32d and 38th would remain in France, as a separate detachment of the 66th.

The 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Group was inactivated on 8 December 1957 when the group was considered redundant as part of the Air Force tri-deputate reorganization. All of its flying squadrons were assigned directly to the wing.

In January 1958, it was announced that the 66th TRW would transition to the McDonnell RF-101C Voodoo. However the poor flying weather of the German winter was causing an excessive amount of operational delays due to the inclement weather. The 66th was directed to utilise Nouasseur AB, Morocco to its limits in detachments of USAFE aircraft. At Nouasseur all training missions were accomplished as required. The very favourable North African weather provided the ideal environment in which new pilots could be transitioned on to the squadron aircraft in the minimum of time. In addition, the 66th TRW used Nouasseur to transition all its pilots onto the RF-101C aircraft.

In July 1958, following the inactivation of the 38th Bombardment Wing, the 66th TRW, was reassigned from Sembach to Laon-Couvron Air Base, France. This move was in accordance with USAFEs plan to realign the posture of various bases in anticipation of the 66th's pending aircraft conversion to the RF-101. Another reason for the move to France was the unsuitability of Sembach's runway, which was barely adequate for the RF-84, but absolutely unsuitable for the higher performance RF-101 aircraft

Laon Air Base

McDonnell RF-101F-56-MC Voodoo 56-0217 of the 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, Laon Air Base France, 1959. The combination green, yellow, blue and red stripes on the tail signify the wing commander's aircraft

On 10 July 1958, 66th TRW Wing Headquarters was transferred to Laon, however its flying squadrons (32d, 38th, 302d and 303d) were located at Phalsbourg AB until considerable runway improvements, in particular the preparation of runway overruns could be made at Laon.

Just prior to the move to France, in a public relations exercise, the 66th TRW engaged in some large-scale oblique photo coverage of all towns and cities within a 30-mile radius of Laon. The processed photos were presented to the various town and city officials as a means of introducing the newcomers to the community.

In early 1959 it was announced that the RF-84 equipped 302d and 303d TRS were to be inactivated and their places in the 66th taken by the RF-101-equipped 17th and 18th TRS from Shaw AFB, South Carolina. These two units arrived at Laon in May 1959, with the 302d and 303d inactivated on 20 June. All the RF-84s were ferried to the IRAN facility at Naples for eventual distribution to NATO forces.

In January 1959 the announcement was made that the 32d and 38th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadrons were to receive the McDonnell RF-101C "Voodoo". Many of the pilots of the 302d and 303d squadrons were transferred to the new Voodoo squadrons. These moves made the 66th TRW a four-squadron RF-101C wing.

Routine training operations were flown from Laon for over seven years. On 7 March 1966, French President Gen Charles De Gaulle announced that France would withdraw from NATO's military structure but not leave the political organization. He gave NATO forces one year (until 1 April 1967) to depart France.

However there was no space available in Germany to relocate the 66th TRW, so it was decided by HQ, USAF that the Strategic Air Command's standby base at RAF Upper Heyford, England, would be transferred to USAFE and the 66th TRW would be relocated to the UK from Laon AB.

The relocation of the 66th TFW was completed by November 1966. On 17 March 1967, the remaining USAF equipment and personnel were transferred out of Laon and the base was turned over to the French government.

RAF Upper Heyford

Newly arrived RF-4Cs of the 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing - September 1969. McDonnell RF-4C-31-MC Phantom 66-0430 is in the foreground. This aircraft served for many years, eventually being retired to AMARC on 8 October 1992.

After two years at Upper Heyford, in 1968 it was announced that the 66th TRW was to convert to the McDonnell Douglas RF-4C Phantom II in the following year. On 27 March 1969, the first two Phantoms flew into Upper Heyford. and the 66th became a mixed reconnaissance force. The RF-101C's were assigned to the 18th TRS and were limited to the daylight role. The RF-4C's were assigned to the 17th TRS and were capable of an all weather day and night operation.

The advent of the RF-4C gave the 66th TRW a longer arm in terms of target access. In the event of a ‘hot’ war the longer reach of the wing’s aircraft would have made many previously inaccessible targets behind the iron curtain easily acquired from the bases in West Germany to which they would have been deployed.

The Phantoms did not stay for long, however, as in January 1970 the inactivation of the 66th TRW commenced. On 10 December 1969, Detachment 1, 20th Tactical Fighter Wing was established at RAF Upper Heyford as part of congressional budget cutbacks; a USAFE-wide base realignment/consolidation of units, as the 20th's base at RAF Wethersfield had a limited potential for development and was awkwardly close to the expanding London Stansted Airport. The relocation also served the need to reorganize the USAFE base structure after the French withdrawal from NATO and the eviction of non-French military forces from French soil.

As part of the budget reductions and to consolidate all of the wing's elements at a larger facility, the 20th Tactical Fighter Wing was relocated from RAF Wethersfield to Upper Heyford, replacing and absorbing the 66th TRW. The RF-4Cs of the 17th TRS were reassigned to the 86th Tactical Fighter Wing at Zweibrücken Air Base in West Germany, and the RF-101Cs of the 18th TRS were reassigned to the 363d Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina.

Some support elements of the inactivated 66th TRW, primarily Civil Engineering, were reassigned to Wethersfield, being designated the 66th Combat Support Group. The group was again redesignated 66th Combat Support Squadron (CSS) and became the host unit at the station.

The 66th CSS performed whatever duties were necessary to keep the base in a usable, operational state. It was inactivated in 1976 when the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at RAF Alconbury assumed caretaker responsibilities at Wethersfield.

66th Electronic Combat Wing

EC-130H from 43rd ECS over Sembach AB in 1987

On 1 June 1985, the 66th was reactivated again at Sembach AB, West Germany as the 66th Electronic Combat Wing. The 66th ECW trained (43d ECS) Lockheed EC-130 Hercules aircrews at Sembach in the Compass Call mission; administratively controlled (42d ECS) General Dynamics/Grumman EF-111A Raven aircrews based at RAF Upper Heyford, England, and acted as a command and control coordination function for the 52nd FW F-4G & F-16C/D Wild Weasel SAM suppression (SEAD) mission. The 66th provided tactical and electronic combat operations during Operation Desert Storm.

The 66th ECW was inactivated on 31 March 1992

Modern era

In 1994, the 66th Air Base Wing was designated as the host unit at Hanscom AFB, MA. It was a non-flying wing with a mission to support the numerous organizations assigned to the base.

The 66th ABW supported the Electronic Systems Center and provides host base services to over 3,000 active duty, Reserve and National Guard military personnel and DoD civilians who work and live at Hanscom Air Force Base. Additionally, the 66 ABW supports over 100,000 retired military personnel, annuitants and spouses living in the seven-state New England area.

On 26 March 2010 the wing commander, Colonel David “Iron” Orr, was relieved of his position by Lieutenant General Ted Bowlds, commander of the Electronic Systems Center. Bowlds found that Orr had held an unprofessional relationship with a subordinate female lieutenant colonel and had exhibited undue favoritism to the officer with regards to a promotion recommendation.[1]

In 2010, ESC reverted to an organization of program offices and the 38th Engineering Installation Wing (by then a group) was re-assigned. New Air Force standards caused the 66th Air Base Wing, because of its size to be inactivated and replaced by the 66th Air Base Group on 30 September.


  • Established as 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing on 15 November 1952
Activated on 1 January 1953
Inactivated on 1 April 1970
  • Redesignated as 66th Electronic Combat Wing, and activated, on 1 June 1985
Inactivated on 31 March 1992
  • Redesignated as 66th Air Base Wing on 16 September 1994
Activated on 1 October 1994
Inactivated on 30 September 2010








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

  •  This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Air Force website [Shaw Air Force Base Shaw Air Force Base].
  • Mueller, Robert (1989). Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982 USAF Reference Series, Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-53-6
  • Martin, Patrick (1994). Tail Code: The Complete History of USAF Tactical Aircraft Tail Code Markings. Schiffer Military Aviation History. ISBN 0-88740-513-4.
  • McAuliffe, Jerome J. (2005). US Air Force in France 1950-1967. San Diego, California: Milspec Press, Chapter 13, Laon-Couvron Air Base. ISBN 0-9770371-1-8.
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
  • 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.
  • Rogers, Brian (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.
  • [1] Joe Baugher's Encyclopedia Of Military Aircraft
  • [2] USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers—1908 to Present

External links

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