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Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base

Air National Guard.png

Part of Ohio Air National Guard (ANG)
Located near: Columbus, Ohio
KC-135R Ohio ANG taking off Andersen AFB 2007.JPG
KC-135R from the 121st Air Refueling Wing taking off from Andersen AFB, Guam
Coordinates Latitude:
Controlled by  United States Air Force
Garrison 121st Air Refueling Wing.png
121st Air Refueling Wing
Airfield information
Airport type Military
Elevation AMSL 744 ft / 227 m
Direction Length Surface
ft m
5R/23L 12,102 3,689 Asphalt/Concrete
5L/23R 11,937 3,638 Asphalt

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For the civil use of this facility and airport information, see Rickenbacker International Airport

Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base (1942–present) is an Air National Guard facility of the Ohio Air National Guard. The base was named for the famous early aviator and Columbus native Eddie Rickenbacker. It is the home of the United States Air Force's 121st Air Refueling Wing (121 ARW), which serves as the host wing and is an Air National Guard (ANG) unit operationally-gained by the Air Mobility Command (AMC).

Rickenbacker ANGB is part of a joint airfield operation as a tenant activity of the Columbus Regional Airport Authority in a joint civil-military airfield arrangement with commercial airlines and other civilian aircraft operators utilizing the colocated Rickenbacker International Airport. Rickenbacker ANGB is also a joint military facility, with tenant activities of the Ohio Army National Guard (Army Aviation Support Facility #2), as well as Navy Reserve and Marine Corps Reserve units and associated facilities.

Rickenbacker ANGB is a former United States Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC) base previously named Lockbourne AFB and later Rickenbacker AFB. During World War II, it was a U.S. Army Air Forces training base. The facility was transferred from SAC and the Air Force on 1 April 1980 and turned over to the Air National Guard.

121st Air Refueling Wing

The Rickenbacker-based 121st Air Refueling Wing (121 ARW) mission is to provide in-flight air refueling support to Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allied aircraft, on a worldwide, daily basis.

The 121 ARW is one of three "super wings" in the Air National Guard, the others being the 131st Bomb Wing, Missouri ANG, and the 146th Airlift Wing, California ANG. If activated, the wing comes under the operational control of the Air Mobility Command.

The Wing operates two operational Air Refueling Squadrons, the 145th and 166th. Both squadrons fly the Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker (blue/red tail stripe "Ohio")



The facility was originally opened in June 1942 as Lockbourne Army Airfield (named after the nearby village of Lockbourne) as a World War II pilot training airfield. It was then named the Northeastern Training Center of the Army Air Corps, and provided basic pilot training and military support. In addition, the training center provided B-17 flight training to the WASPS (Women Airforce Service Pilots), and training for glider pilots in the CG-4A Waco glider.

Female pilots leaving their ship at the four engine school at Lockbourne AAF. They were members of a group of WASPS who were trained to ferry the B-17 Flying Fortresses.

After the war, flight-training activities were halted and the airfield was used as a development and testing facility for all-weather military flight operations. The primary unit at the base was the all-Black 447th Composite Group, also known as the Tuskegee Airmen, commanded by Colonel (later General) Benjamin O. Davis in 1946. This unit merged with the 477th Composite Group in 1947, becoming the 332nd Fighter Wing, one of the first all-Black flying units in the newly created United States Air Force. In addition to commanding 477th as a flying unit, Davis also served as base commander. He was the first African-American to obtain the rank of lieutenant general in the U.S. Air Force and was subsequently promoted to the rank of full general on the retired list in 1998.

Lockbourne Field was renamed Lockbourne Air Force Base on 13 January 1948, by Department of the Air Force General Order No. 2.

In June 1949, the 332nd was reassigned, the base was inactivated, and control transferred to the Ohio Air National Guard.

Strategic Air Command

Shield Strategic Air Command.png

With the outbreak of the Korean War in 1950, and as a response to the ensuing military buildup, the base was reactivated as Lockbourne Air Force Base in January 1951, and placed under the control of the Strategic Air Command in March of that year.

Throughout the 1950s, the Strategic Air Command used the base as a training facility and stationed aircraft on full-time alert duty for national defense.

91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing

Cover of promotional pamphlet of the 91st SRW. Caption was: "An RB-45C piloted by Col Joseph A. Preston, Commander of the 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, was first to land on the 2-mile (3.2 km) runway at Lockbourne Air Force Base". (Aircraft shown is North American RB-45C Tornado AF Serial No. 48-0033. The aircraft was withdrawn from operational use in 1957).

North American RB-45C Tornados of the 91st Strategic Recon Wing. AF Serial Numbers 48-0027, 48–0034, 48–0025 and 48-0012 identifiable. These aircraft were all withdrawn from service on 6 September 1957.

Boeing B-29A-45-BN Superfortress AF Serial No. 44-61727 in RB-29 configuration of the 91st Strategic Recon Squadron. This aircraft was shot down by MiGs, possibly over China or extreme northern North Korea 4 July 1952. 11 of 13 crew were taken as POWs.

On 11 September 1951, the Strategic Air Command's 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing was reassigned to Lockbourne from Barksdale AFB, Louisiana. The mission of the 91st SRW was to provide aerial reconnaissance and mapping services. It was equipped with myriad aircraft fitted with cameras to perform this mission, including B/RB-45 and the B/YRB-47.

When the move of the wing was made to Lockbourne from Barksdale, a detachment of the wing was deployed to Yokota AB, Japan, performing combat reconnaissance for Far East Air Forces over the Korean Peninsula flying RB-29 Superfortresses. Over North Korea, they were being confronted daily by Chinese-piloted MiG-15s and were no longer able to perform reconnaissance, targeting, and bomb-damage assessment photography with impunity.

The RB-45C unit was attached to the 91st Squadron and began flying reconnaissance missions over northwestern Korea. The RB-45Cs were able to evade the MiGs for several months, but on 9 April 1951 one of the RB-45Cs had a close call and was barely able to escape a numerically superior enemy. At that time, it was decided that RB-45s could no longer go into northwestern Korea without fighter escort.

Another close call on 9 November 1951 caused the RB-45s to be restricted from entering northwestern Korean airspace in daylight even when fighter escort was available. In January 1952, the 91st Squadron was ordered to convert to night operations. Some RB-45Cs were painted all black so that they would not show up on enemy searchlights. However, the RB-45s were not well suited for night photography because the aircraft buffeted too badly when the forward bomb bay doors were opened to drop flash bombs. The RB-45s were withdrawn from the Korean theatre shortly thereafter, bringing the Korean experience with the RB-45 to an end.

On 29 July 1952, A 91st Strategic Reconnaissance Wing RB-45C (AF Serial No.48-0042) commanded by Major Louis H. Carrington made the first nonstop trans-Pacific flight from Elmendorf AFB, Alaska to Yokota AB in Japan. There were two inflight refuelings by KB-29s along the way. This feat earned the 1952 Mackay Trophy for the crew.

The 91st SRW won the SAC reconnaissance, photographic, and navigation competition and the P. T. Cullen Award in 1955 and 1956. From Aug to November 1956 most of the wing deployed overseas in detachments to North Africa, Newfoundland and Greenland and were not under the operational control of the small establishment remaining at Lockbourne.

Along with the reconnaissance mission, the 91st had an aerial refueling mission, being equipped with KB-29s and KC-97s.

The wing was inactivated in November 1957.

In 1953, a reconstruction program was completed with the addition of a second and longer runway, several jumbo hangars and a permanent air traffic control tower. Two years later, a major expansion was completed which doubled the land area of the base to approximately 4,400 acres (18 km2). New construction included the two current 12,000-foot (3,700 m) parallel runways, a 3,500-foot (1,100 m) assault strip and a number of new buildings.

26th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing

The 26th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Medium (26th SRW) was established at the base on 9 May 1952 and activated on 28 May 1952.

The 26th SRW's mission was to gather intelligence on a global scale, for the strategic objective of the US as part of the strategic reconnaissance force of SAC. Assigned to the 801st Air Division, the 26th SRW flew day and night strategic reconnaissance missions. Also developed the capabilities of the Boeing YRB-47 "Stratojet". With the exception of the 26th Air refueling squadron, Medium, the wing and its squadrons were manned with only minimal strength.

In 1953, the flying squadrons began receiving additional personnel. The flying squadrons were the 3rd, 4th and 10th Strategic Reconnaissance Squadrons, Medium. In July 1953, the wing began transitional training in YRB-47s. In March of that same year, the RB-47Es began to replace the YRB models. By the end of December 1954, the wing's last two YRB-47s were sent to Dobbins AFB, Georgia, for modification. In February 1955, these two aircraft were returned to the wing as RB-47B-1s. By the following year, the wing was only flying RB-47Es.

The 26 SRW's other aircraft, the Boeing KC-97Fs and later KC-97Gs were flown by the 26th and 321st Air Refueling Squadrons, Medium. These units were assigned to the wing in May 1952 and April 1955, and remained as part of the wing until September 1956 and April 1958, respectively.

The wing participated in a variety of SAC directed exercises and operations between 1953 and 1958. These included numerous simulated combat missions and deployments, ranging from a few days to a few months. The exercises took the wing's reconnaissance and tanker aircraft to such bases as Eielson AFB, Alaska; Thule AFB, Greenland; Royal Air Force stations at Upper Heyford and Fairford, United Kingdom; Sidi Slimane AB in Morocco; Goose Bay AB, Laborador; and Lajes Field in the Azores.

In December 1957, the wing learned that it was to be inactivated the following summer. On 15 April 1958, the 321st Air Refueling Squadron was reassigned to the 301st Bombardment Wing, as were the remainder of the wing's aircrews. The wing's strength was slowly reduced by transferring personnel to other units.

On 1 July 1958, the 26th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing was inactivated.

70th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing

The 70th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Medium was established at the base on 23 March 1953 and activated on 24 January 1955. The wings mission was to provide strategic reconnaissance to meet the Strategic Air Command's (SAC) global commitments. It was initially deployed at Lockbourne while its permanent base underwent construction. During this time, few wing components were actually manned. In 1955, it moved to its new home, Little Rock AFB, Arkansas and began flying strategic reconnaissance missions using RB-47 Stratojets.

301st Bombardment/Air Refueling Wing

Boeing RB-47H-1-BW Stratojet AF Serial No. 53-4299. After being retired from active duty, this aircraft was on display at the former Schilling Air Force Base, near Salina, Kansas for many years. In 1988 it was moved to the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio and underwent restoration and put on display at the museum.

Boeing B-52D-70-BO 56-0582 is refueled by Boeing KC-135A-BN 55-3127

The 301st Bombardment Wing moved from Barksdale AFB to Lockbourne on 15 April 1958. Although equipped with the B-47 Stratojet, the 301st added electronic countermeasures activities to other missions in 1958 with the addition of the RB-47 and later EB-47. With these aircraft, the wing soon devoted most of its activity to ECM work. The RB-47 carried out many ferret missions around the periphery of Soviet territory, and sometimes inside.

The EB-47 was also applied to a number of USAF electronics countermeasure conversions of the standard B-47E. The first of these was equipped with what was known as the Phase IV (or Blue Cradle) ECM package, consisting of 16 AN/ALT-6B electronic jammers mounted on a cradle inside the bomb bay. Phase V aircraft carried a pressurized capsule inside the bomb bay that carried two electronics warfare officers that operated a suite of up to 13 different jammers that could focus on specific threats. Not much is known about the USAF EB-47E program, but it is believed that up to 40 B-47Es were converted to either Phase IV or V standard

In 1964, the mission of the wing was changed to that of an air refueling wing. It was redesignated as the 301st Air Refueling Wing on 15 June 1964. The B-47s were phased out and the wing received KC-135s. However, the ECM work was continued for a few years by the wing operating EC-135s until 1966.

From 9 June to 8 October 1972, most of the wing headquarters staff, all tactical aircraft and crews and most of the maintenance personnel, plus support personnel in various categories were deployed to Southeast Asia and attached to other SAC organizations. A reduced wing headquarters remained in the United States to administer activities of the combat support group and hospital at Lockbourne AFB. From 19 December 1972 to 18 January 1973, the wing repeated the previous deployed condition on a smaller scale with deployed resources forming a provisional air refueling squadron in the Philippines.

Lockbourne AFB was redesignated Rickenbacker Air Force Base on 18 May 1974, by Department of the Air Force Special Order GA-11 of 6 March 1974, to honor Columbus native Eddie Rickenbacker, the leading American fighter pilot of World War I.

The 301 ARW was inactivated on 30 November 1979 in conjunction with SAC turning over Rickenbacker AFB to the Air National Guard. The 301 ARW's KC-135As were sent to various Air National Guard units.

317th Troop Carrier Wing / 317th Tactical Airlift Wing

In June 1964, the Tactical Air Command 317 Troop Carrier Wing was reassigned to Lockbourne from Evreux-Fauville Air Base, France. The 317th was equipped with Lockheed C-130s and Fairchild C-123 Providers

The mission of the 317th was to perform worldwide tactical airlift operations, with emphasis on airborne training. The wing provided C-130 crew replacement training support for PACAF as well as training of C-123 combat crews for the USAF. and Republic of Vietnam Air Force (VNAF) during the Vietnam War. They also developed and perfected the use of the Adverse Weather Delivery System (AWADS) becoming the Air Force's pioneer group behind this method of cargo delivery.

In May 1967 the unit became the 317th Tactical Airlift Wing (317 TAW) and not long after in 1971, was reassigned to Pope AFB, North Carolina.

302d Tactical Airlift Wing

The 302d Tactical Airlift Wing of the Air Force Reserve (AFRES) operated from Rickenbacker from 1971 to 1981. Relocating following the closure of Clinton County AFB, Ohio, the wing operated the C-123 and UC-123 Provider and briefly operated the C-7 Caribou. In April 1973, the wing assumed an aerial spraying mission with the UC-123 aircraft, which frequently took wing crews to Central America, the Caribbean, the Azores, North Africa, islands of the Pacific, and to many U.S. points for insect-spraying missions. In 1985, it transitioned to the E-model C-130 Hercules. In 1992 it transitioned to the H-model C-130 and relocated to Youngstown Air Reserve Station (ARS), Ohio.[1]

Post-Vietnam era

With the cessation of hostilities in Vietnam, the ending of the military draft and the transition to an all-volunteer force, the number of U.S. Armed Forces personnel declined sharply, resulting in downsizing and closures of military bases around the country. The Air Force, in particular, was subject to a substantial Reduction in Force (RIF).

In April 1978, the Air Force announced that Strategic Air Command functions at Rickenbacker were to be transferred elsewhere, estimating that 12,000 jobs would be lost as a result. In September 1979, with the base population at 2,800 military and civilian employees, the Base Closure Commission announced plans for the phased closing of the base, which at the time consisted of approximately 4,400 acres (18 km2), including an estimated 265 buildings with approximately 3,700,000 square feet (340,000 m2) of floor space.

In April 1980, Rickenbacker Air Force Base closed. The base was transferred from the Strategic Air Command to the Air National Guard and redesignated Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base on 1 April 1980 by Department of the Air Force Special Order GA-34 of 20 May 1980.

Air National Guard at Lockbourne AFB / Rickenbacker AFB

Republic F-47N-1-RE Thunderbolt AF Serial No. 44-88140 of the 332d Fighter Group at Lockbourne AFB, 1947. With the inactivation of the 332d in 1949, this aircraft was transferred to the Ohio ANG 55th Fighter Wing, and subsequently to the 121st Fighter Wing in 1950.

Former Ohio ANG / 166th TFS Republic F-84F-40-RE Thunderstreak, AF Serial No. 52-6526. Today, this aircraft is on permanent exhibit at the National Museum of the United States Air Force at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio

LTV A-7D AF Serial No. 71-0367 of the 121st Tactical Fighter Wing at Rickenbacker, late 1970s. This aircraft had served in the Vietnam War with the USAF 354th Tactical Fighter Wing, based at Korat RTAFB, Thailand.

Boeing KC-135R-BN (former KC-135A) Stratotanker, AF Serial No. 61-0264, from the Ohio Air National Guard's 121st Air Refueling Wing at Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base, Ohio, touches down on the flightline at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey

In June 1949, Lockbourne Air Force Base was closed as an active base, and control of the facility was transferred to the Ohio Air National Guard. For the next 18 months, the Ohio Air National Guard's 55th Fighter Wing used the base for training, flying F-47 Thunderbolts and F-51 Mustangs.

In November 1950, the 55th Fighter Wing was redesignated as the 121st Fighter Wing and was assigned an air defense mission. Under various designations, the 121st has been stationed at Rickenbacker for over 50 years. Many of its members were activated for the Korean War and were additionally reassigned to other units for duty in Korea and other overseas locations. In 1954, the F-80C Shooting Star arrived and the wing continued with an air defense mission. F-84E aircraft were received in 1955 followed by the swept-wing F-84F in 1957, which brought with it a fighter-bomber mission.

In October 1961, the wing was called to active duty for the Berlin Crisis. The 166th and additional augmenting personnel deployed to Etain Air Base, France, where they served until returning in August 1962.

Upon its return from France, the 121st converted to the F-100C Super Sabre in August 1962, which greatly enhanced its mission capabilities. Another call-up to active duty occurred on 26 January 1968 as a result of the USS Pueblo Crisis. One year of the 18-month activation was spent in Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea where it wore the "BP" tailcode and red colors as part of the active duty Air Force's 354th Tactical Fighter Wing. During the deployment some of the Air National Guard pilots of the 121st flew combat missions in Vietnam while performing temporary assignments with other units. Aircraft and personnel returned home in June 1969 and an aircraft upgrade to the F-100D was accomplished in 1971.

Under the “Total Force Policy,” Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units began to receive newer aircraft and equipment in the 1970s. The 121st began conversion to the A-7D Corsair II in 1974 which brought with it additional missions. The unit was deployed to Howard AFB, Panama when hostilities began in late December 1989 and participated in Operation Just Cause. They were among the ANG units that rotated to Howard Air Force Base to provide a presence in Panama Cornet Cove deployment exercises.

On 1 July 1976, the 160th Air Refueling Group was activated at Rickenbacker AFB and equipped with Boeing KC-135A/Q Stratotankers. The 160 ARG was one of 13 Air National Guard refueling units assigned to SAC as part of the initial integration of Air Reserve Component units into SAC's forces and mission.

With the end of the Cold War, a major reorganization of the Air Force was soon underway. On the disbandment of SAC in 1992, the 160 ARG was reassigned to the newly established Air Mobility Command (AMC) and AMC's Fifteenth Air Force (15 AF) on 31 May 1992. The 121 Tactical Fighter Wing was redesignated as the 121st Fighter Wing the same year and reassigned to new Air Combat Command (ACC) with the concurrent disbandment of Tactical Air Command (TAC).

In October 1993, the 121st FW was consolidated with the 160th Air Refueling Group, the latter of which was inactivated in the process. The 121st Fighter Wing's A-7Ds were flown to AMARC at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona and the first KC-135Rs were received. With this consolidation, the 121st became the 121st Air Refueling Wing and gained the 145th Air Refueling Squadron from the inactivated 160 ARG with its aircraft, unique history and heritage. The 121st also assumed base support responsibilities.

Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base was recommended for closure by the 1991 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission, but as a result of a proposal by the State of Ohio, the 1993 Commission recommended that Rickenbacker ANGB be realigned rather than closed. The Commission decided to retain the 121st Air Refueling Wing in its existing military cantonment area at Rickenbacker ANGB instead of realigning to Wright-Patterson AFB. The Air National Guard would continue to operate as tenants of the Rickenbacker Port Authority (RPA) on the RPA's airport and the military facilities were realigned as Rickenbacker Air National Guard Station on 30 September 1994 by the 1991 Congressional Base Closure and Realignment Commission.

In August 2001 a groundbreaking ceremony was held to mark the start of construction for a new, consolidated Navy and Marine Corps Air Reserve Center at Rickenbacker International Airport. The $10 million center, scheduled for completion in early 2003, will be located at the intersection of 2nd Avenue and Club Street adjacent to the Air National Guard facility at Rickenbacker. Being developed by the Navy Reserve, the project will consolidate the Naval Air Reserve Center at Rickenbacker with the Navy and Marine Corps Reserve Center currently located on Yearling Road in Columbus. When completed, the nearly 1,000 Navy and Marine Corps Reservists currently located at the two existing Reserve Centers will shift their activities to this new facility. Once the new center opens, the site of the existing Naval Air Reserve Center at Rickenbacker will be redeveloped by the Rickenbacker Port Authority, which operates the 5,000-acre (20 km2) airport.

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website
 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "Rickenbacker Air National Guard Base".

External links

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