Fairchild Air Force Base
Fairchild Air Force Base (1942-Active) - A United States Air Force Base first established in 1942 as Spokane Air Depot near Spokane in Spokane County, Washington. Renamed Spokane Army Airfield later in 1942 and Spokane Air Force Base in 1948. Renamed Fairchild Air Force Base in 1949 in memory of Air Force Vice-Chief of Staff, General Muir S. Fairchild, a native of Bellingham, Washington. Active Air Force Base.
World War II
(Text adapted from USAF Fact Sheet)
As World War II approached in 1941 many Spokane businesses and public-minded citizens donated money to purchase land for the proposed airfield. The citizens of Spokane gave nearly $125,000 in less than two weeks to purchase the initial 1,400 acres for the depot site. The city presented the title to the War Department in November 1941 and the government designated $ 14 million to build the depot and purchase additional land. In January 1942, construction began for the new Spokane Air Depot and on 1 Mar 1942, it was officially activated.
The base served as a repair depot for damaged aircraft returning from the Pacific Theater until 1946 and as a supply hub shipping over 150,000 tons of material, with nearly 20 percent going overseas.
In September 1947, the base was transferred to the Strategic Air Command and assigned to the 92nd Bombardment Wing, 15th Air Force flying the Boeing B-29 Superfortresses. A total of over 60 B-29s made the base the largest B-29 base in SAC. In January 1948, the base was renamed named Spokane Air Force Base.
During the Korean war, the base deployed its aircraft to Japan. The 92 BG deployed on July 4, 1950, and the 98 BG deployed on August 4th to join the 92d at Yokota Air Base, Japan. During the conflict, the 92d’s bombers flew 836 sorties dropping 33,000 bombs totaling 750 tons.
On 20 Jul 1951, the wing’s first B-36 Peacemaker arrived.
In October 1956 the wing began a conversion called Operation Big Switch that saw the March 1957 arrival of the first B-52 Stratofortress assigned to Fairchild and the departure of the last B-36. The last of Fairchild’s forty-five new B-52D's arrived on 22 Sep 1957.
In response to the launch of Sputnik, SAC ordered the beginning of 24/7 alerts to posture its bomber force better. In January 1958, the wing placed two crews and bombers on 24/7 alert status. This was followed by the arrival of the B-52’s “Flying Fuel Station,” the KC-135 Stratotanker in February 1958.
In 1961, the 92d became the nation's first “aerospace” wing with the activation of the 567th Strategic Missile Squadron and the acquisition and deployment of Atlas-E intercontinental ballistic missiles at nine complexes located throughout the Inland Empire. The wing was re-designated as the 92nd Strategic Aerospace Wing on February 15, 1962. These ICBMs played an integral deterrence role in the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. Rapid advancements in technology prompted the removal of the missiles in 1965.
On 1 Mar 1966, the 3636th Combat Crew Training Group was established at Fairchild. In 1971, it became a wing and assumed control over all Air Force survival schools.
The wing supported SAC activities in Southeast Asia from September 1964 until October 1975 through the deployment of bomber and tanker aircraft and crews. From March to September 1968 and March to September 1969, all the wing B–52s and half its KC–135 resources, plus over 1,400 support personnel, deployed to Anderson AFB, Guam to support Operation ARC LIGHT and other bombing missions against enemy strongholds in Vietnam including Operations LINEBACKER I and LINEBACKER II.
With the closure of Larson AFB in 1966, the 43rd Air Refueling Squadron transferred to Fairchild to join the 325 BS and 92 ARS.
In July 1972, the 92d SAW was re-designated the 92d Bombardment Wing. As the situation intensified in Vietnam, for the third time in four years, all the wing’s B-52s, nearly all the KC-135s, and nearly 1,500 maintenance and support personnel were once again deployed from June 1972 to October 1973.
On 21 Dec 1972, the wing suffered its second loss of a B-52 and its only loss of a B-52 in combat. During a nighttime raid on Hanoi, a Fairchild B-52 was hit by enemy fire and exploded in flames. Eye-witnesses reported not seeing any parachutes. However, a short time later, the North Vietnamese released a Prisoner-of-War list which included the names of two aircrew. men They were Lieutenant Colonel James Y. Nagahiro, pilot, and Captain Lynn R. Beens, navigator and they returned home in April 1973. The rest of the crew were listed as missing and included Lieutenant Colonel Keith R. Heggen, deputy airborne mission commander; Major Edward H. Johnson, radar navigator; Captain Donovan K. Walters, copilot; Captain Robert R. Lynn, electronic warfare officers; and Airman First Class Charles J. Bebus, gunner. Although the Paris Accords cease-fire was signed in January 1973, combat operations and tanker support continued through August of that year flying Arc Light missions into Cambodia. The wing’s nine-year involvement in Vietnam ended when the wing’s bombers returned home on 25 Oct 1973.
In late 1974, the Air Force announced plans to convert the 141st Fighter Interceptor Group of the Washington Air National Guard at Geiger Field to the 141st Air Refueling Wing (ARW) and move it to Fairchild. Work began soon thereafter and by 1976 eight KC-135E aircraft transferred to the new 141st ARW. Today, the 141st ARW continues its air mobility mission, flying the KC-135R model.
After 1975, the wing performed joint USAF/Navy sea reconnaissance and surveillance missions and provided KC-135s to support tanker task forces in the US, Europe, and the Pacific. In 1983, the wing’s B-52Gs were modified to carry AGM-86B Air Launched Cruise Missiles (ALCM). During the summer of 1983, under Operation BUSY MOSES, all aircraft were reassigned to Grant County Airport (the old site of Larson Air Force Base) for three months during runway repair efforts at Fairchild AFB. In 1985 the Wing upgraded to B–52H with improved strategic weapons carriage and offensive electronics capabilities. The wing earned the Fairchild Trophy in the 1986 SAC Bombing/Navigation competition, nearly sweeping all the awards by taking nine of eleven awards.
Following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait in August 1990, a total of 560 base personnel deployed to DESERT SHIELD and DESERT STORM from August 1990 to March 1991. The 43rd and 92d Air Refueling Squadrons flew a combined total of 4,004 hours, 721 sorties, and off-loaded a total of 22.5 million pounds of fuel to the US and coalition aircraft. The two squadrons' crews and aircraft also flew 200 combat sorties. The wing’s B-52s flew 5 combat missions, each nearly 15 hours long.
On 1 Sep 1991, under Air Force reorganization the 92d Bombardment Wing (Heavy) was re-designated the 92d Wing, emphasizing a dual bombing and refueling role. On 28 Sep 1991, after receiving President Bush's order for all of Strategic Air Command’s bombers to stand down from alert, the wing’s bombers and tankers came off of 24/7 alert status for the first time in 33 years.
Strategic Air Command stood down on 31 May 1992, and on the next day, 1 Jun 1992, the wing became part of the Air Combat Command (ACC) and was re-designated the 92d Bomb Wing. The bombers remained under the 92d, but the two tanker squadrons, the 92d, and 43rd ARS were assigned to Air Mobility Command and the 453rd Operations Group.
The B-52s Leave
On 7 Dec 1993, a wing of B-52 transferred to another base, the first step in Fairchild’s transition to an air refueling wing. The departure of B-52s continued throughout the spring of 1994, with the last bomber leaving on 25 May 1994. With that flight, the bomber mission of the 92d ended after 47 years.
Air Refueling Mission
On 1 Jul 1994, the 92d Bomb Wing was re-designated the 92d Air Refueling Wing (ARW), and Fairchild AFB was transferred from ACC to Air Mobility Command (AMC) marking the creation of the largest air refueling wing in the Air Force with five active duty air refueling squadrons totaling with over 60 KC-135s assigned. Dubbed as the new “tanker hub of the Northwest,” the wing was capable of maintaining an air bridge across the nation and the world in support of US and allied forces.
Throughout much of the decade of the 90s, the wing was actively involved in missions to suppress the aggression of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. The wing also had to deploy aircraft and personnel in 1999 to support Operation ALLIED FORCE, the mission to stop Serb aggression in Kosovo.
The year 2001 will be remembered most for 9/11 and America’s response to the Global War on Terrorism. Following the terrorist attacks, the wing began providing around-the-clock air refueling of Combat Air Patrol fighter aircraft and initiated 24-hour ground alert operations in support of Operation NOBLE EAGLE. Preparations also began for what would become a series of extended Operation ENDURING FREEDOM deployments for aircrews and maintainers as well as combat support and medical personnel.
In 2011, the base relocated operations to Grant County International Airport, Moses Lake, and Spokane International Airport for 10 months while the Fairchild airfield underwent a $34-million runway reconstruction project.
In February 2014, the 92d ARW’s last three aircraft and associated personnel returned from Manas, Kyrgyz Republic for the last time. Since the wing first arrived on 23 Jan 2005, the Airmen from the 92d Air Refueling Wing flew more than 20,000 sorties in nearly 125,000 hours, offloaded nearly 1.5 billion pounds of fuel to more than 110,000 U.S. and Coalition aircraft during the decade-long partnership.
Active Air Force Base.