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Hanscom Air Force Base Air Force Materiel Command
Part of Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC)
Bedford / Lexington / Lincoln, Middlesex County, Massachusetts
A replica P-40 on static display at the end of Vandenberg Drive.
Hanscom AFB is located in Massachusetts
Airplane silhouette
Hanscom AFB
Coordinates 42°28′12″N 071°17′21″W / 42.47°N 71.28917°W / 42.47; -71.28917Coordinates: 42°28′12″N 071°17′21″W / 42.47°N 71.28917°W / 42.47; -71.28917
Type Air Force Base
Site information
Controlled by Flag of the United States Air Force United States Air Force
Site history
Built 1942
In use 1942–present
Garrison information
Garrison 66th Air Base Group - emblem 66th Air Base Group
For the civil use of this facility and airport information, see Hanscom Field

Hanscom Air Force Base (AFB) (IATA: BED, ICAO: KBED, FAA Location identifier: BED) is a United States Air Force base located approximately 2 miles (3.2 km) south-southwest of Bedford, Massachusetts. The facility is a joint use civil airport/military base with Hanscom Field which provides general aviation and charter service.

Hanscom AFB is the home of the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center. It is one of five centers under Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center is the single center responsible for total life cycle management of Air Force weapon systems. The host unit at Hanscom is the 66th Air Base Group (66 ABG) assigned to AFMC.


A non-flying base, Hanscom Air Force Base is named after Laurence G. Hanscom (1906–1941) in honor of the pilot, aviation enthusiast, and State House reporter who was killed in a plane crash at Saugus, Massachusetts when he had been lobbying for the establishment of an airfield in Bedford. Laurence G. Hanscom was a reporter for the Worcester Telegram-Gazette. Hanscom was active in early aviation, founding the Massachusetts Civil Air Reserve. The base was named in his honor on 26 June 1941.

The AFLCMC mission is to deliver affordable and sustainable war-winning capabilities to U.S. and international partners—on time, on cost, anywhere, any time from cradle to grave.

Hanscom Field, a civilian general-aviation airport adjacent to the Air Force Base, and MASSPORT, are the primary operators of the air field and runways. Less than one percent of the aircraft that land at Hanscom Field are military aircraft.


The Air Force Life Cycle Management Center is the single center responsible for total life cycle management of Air Force weapon systems
Performs host unit functions of the base, supporting the Air Force Life Cycle Management Center.


Hanscom also supports the Massachusetts National Guard Joint Force Headquarters, MIT Lincoln Laboratory and MITRE Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, and various other companies and groups related to the Department of Defense.


World War II[]

Hanscom Air Force Base began its existence while the United States was considering its entry into World War II. In May 1941, the Massachusetts Legislature authorized the purchase of a large tract of farmland bordering the towns of Bedford, Lincoln, Concord and Lexington for a Boston Auxiliary Airport. Funds to build the new airport were contributed by the federal government, which had appropriated $40 million to build 250 new civil airports across the United States that could serve for future national defense.[2]

In mid-1942, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts leased the Bedford airport to the War Department for use by the Army Air Forces. Fighter squadrons trained there in 1942 through 1943. The 85th Fighter Squadron and the 318th Fighter Squadron, who trained at Bedford on the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk, went on to combat in North Africa and Europe.[2]

In February 1943, the airport was renamed Laurence G. Hanscom Field in honor of a Massachusetts-born pilot and aviation enthusiast who had been a reporter for the Worcester Telegram-Gazette. Hanscom had died in February 1941, in an aircraft accident in Saugus, Massachusetts, while he was lobbying vigorously at the State House for the establishment of the airport at Bedford.[2]

Later in the war, the Bedford Army Air Field served as a site for testing new radar sets developed by MIT's Radiation Laboratory. It was this secondary wartime activity at Hanscom that gave rise to the base's postwar role.[2]

Cold War[]

Since 1945 Hanscom has emerged as the Air Force's center for the development and acquisition of electronic systems. The base has also played a significant role in the creation of a national high-technology area around Route 128.[2]

World War II established the key military importance of radar. In 1945, when the MIT and Harvard wartime laboratories were dissolved, the Army Air Forces aimed to continue some of their programs in radar, radio and electronic research. It recruited scientists and engineers from the laboratories, and its new Air Force Cambridge Research Laboratories (AFCRL) took over MIT's test site at Hanscom Field.[2]

By 1950, the Air Force was working closely with MIT to develop a new air defense system for the continental United States. Expanding its facilities at Hanscom Field was a step to accomplishing this massive project. After some negotiation, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts agreed in May 1952 to cede land on one side of the airport to the federal government and to give a 25-year renewable lease on the airfield itself.[2]

The first buildings for the new MIT Lincoln Laboratory at Hanscom were completed in 1952, and the Air Force's electronic and geophysics laboratories in Cambridge started to migrate out to its own new facilities in Bedford in 1954. The airfield's runways were reconfigured and expanded in 1953, and new hangars, headquarters and facilities were built. To provide test and evaluation for Lincoln Lab's new "Cape Cod" experimental air defense system, Hanscom's 6520th Test Support Wing logged thousands of hours of flying time.[2]

The Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) air defense computer system, completed in the early 1960s, revolutionized air defense and also contributed significantly to advances in air traffic control systems. As the SAGE system matured, the Air Force pursued the development of a number of advanced command, control and communications systems.[2]

In 1961 the Electronic Systems Division (ESD) was established at Hanscom Field in order to consolidate the management of the Air Force's electronic systems under one agency. Since that time, the Electronics Systems Division (re-designated the Electronic Systems Center in 1992) was the host organization on the base.[2]

While Hanscom's role in system acquisition flourished after the 1950s, its operational mission gradually diminished. As of September 1973, all regular military flying operations at Hanscom ceased. The following year the Air Force terminated its lease of the airfield portion of Hanscom Field, which reverted to state control, but retained the right to use the field. The Air Force re-designated its own acreage surrounding the field as the Laurence G. Hanscom Air Force Base. In 1977 the name was shortened to the present Hanscom Air Force Base.[2]

The base saw a second wave of construction during the 1980s. The Electronic Systems Division put up four new systems management engineering facilities (the O'Neill, Brown, Shiely and Bond buildings). For base personnel, there were new service facilities—medical, youth and family support centers—as well as additional housing and a temporary lodging facility.[2]

Since July 1992, Hanscom and the Electronic Systems Center (ESC) have been part of the Air Force Materiel Command. In 1994 the Air Force designated ESC as the Air Force Center of Excellence for Command, Control, Communications, Computers and Intelligence (C4I).[2]

The Standard Systems Group at Gunter Annex, Maxwell AFB, Ala.; the 38th Engineering Installation Wing at Tinker AFB, Okla.; the Materiel Systems Group at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio; and lastly the Cryptologic Systems Group at Kelly AFB, Texas; were all attached to ESC between 1993 and 1996 in order to consolidate related functions in AFMC under the Center, and to support its expanded mission. Subsequent reorganizations changed the groupings, but all the above organizations (though renamed) except the 38th EIW remained under Hanscom's reporting chain.[2]

In 2004, ESC was reorganized into a named wing, group and squadron unit, to better reflect the organization of the Air Force as a whole. In 2006, the wings, groups and squadrons were given numbered designations. 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 redesignated the 66th Air Base Group.[2]

In June 2011, the Air Force Research Laboratory Sensors Directorate moved move from Hanscom to Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, the and Space Vehicles Directorate moved to Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M., closing more than 60 years of laboratory presence on Hanscom.[2]

The Electronic Systems Center as an organization was realigned in July 2012, and became a part of the newly created Air Force Life Cycle Management Center at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio.[2]

Previous names[]

Hanscom Air Force Base - MA

2006 USGS aerial photo of Hanscom AFB

  • Laurence G. Hanscom Field, Boston Auxiliary Airport at Bedford, 26 Jun 1941
  • Bedford Municipal Airport, 29 Jun 1942
  • Bedford Army Air Field, 8 Apr 1943
  • Hanscom Airport, 15 Oct 1947
  • Bedford Air Field, Mar 1948
  • Hanscom Field, Jun 1948
  • Laurence G. Hanscom Field, 24 Dec 1952
  • Laurence G. Hanscom Air Force Base, 22 Jun 1974-18 January 1977


Major commands to which assigned[]

  • First Air Force, 2 July 1942
  • AAF Technical Service Command, 15 October 1944
Re-designated: Air Technical Service Command, 1 July 1945-12 August 1945
Re-designated: Air Force Systems Command, 1 April 1961


Note: Station placed on standby status: 1 Jan-to Apr 1944; discontinued, 12 Aug 1945; disposed, 8 Mar 1946; transferred to Commonwealth of Massachusetts, 21 Aug 1946; leased from Commonwealth of Massachusetts to US Government, 1 Jul 1947, flying facilities are property of Commonwealth of Massachusetts with USAF not having exclusive use.[3]

Major units assigned[]

Re-designated: 3d Air Division, 20 December 1946-27 June 1949
Re-designated: 89th Fighter-Bomber Wing, 14 June 1952-16 November 1957

  • 6520th Air Base Group
Re-designated: 3246th Air Base Group, 18 October 1951-1 March 1963
  • 6250th Support Wing, 1 April 1952 – 1 July 1955
  • AF Cambridge Research Center, 20 June 1955
Re-designated: Air Force Geophysics Laboratory, 1 July 1960-
Re-designated: Electronic Systems Center, 1 July 1992
Re-designated: Air Force Life Cycle Management Center, 16 July 2012-Present
  • 901st Troop Carrier Group**, 11 February 1963 – 17 September 1973
  • Air Force Computer Acquisition Center, 1 July 1976 – Present

[3][4] .** Note: Air Force Reserve units. Active flying at Hanscom ended on 30 September 1973.

See also[]


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

  1. Hanscom Air Force Base units page
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 2.13 2.14 2.15 2.16 Hanscom Air Force Base history
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Mueller, Robert, Air Force Bases Volume I, Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982, Office of Air Force History, 1989
  4. Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office 1961 (republished 1983, Office of Air Force History, ISBN 0-912799-02-1).

External links[]

Official website

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The original article can be found at Hanscom Air Force Base and the edit history here.