43d Airlift Wing C-130H
Fly with the 43d Airlift Wing in this hand crafted C-130 model. Each model is carved from wood and hand painted to provide a piece you’ll love.
Superfortress and Stratojet operations at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base On 17 November 1947, the 43d Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy was organized at Davis-Monthan Field, Arizona  as part of the United States Air Force’s wing base reorganization, in which combat groups and all supporting units on a base were assigned to a single wing. The 43d Bombardment Group, flying Boeing B-29 Superfortresses became its operational component. When the wing base organization was made permanent in 1948, the wing was redesignated as the 43d Bombardment Wing, Medium on 1 August.
On 20 February 1948, a wing crew picked up a Boeing B-50 Superfortress at the factory, and the wing became the first in SAC to fly the B-50, with regular deliveries beginning in June. However, due to maintenance and supply problems, the wing did not achieve operational capability until 1949, despite the fact that it was one of the few units in the Air Force that was authorized manning at wartime levels due to its nuclear-bombing mission. These deficiencies were demonstrated in November when the wing deployed four B-50s to Alaska. One of the planes crashed, and, the others were grounded pending the results of the aircraft investigation.
On 2 March 1949, a wing B-50A, the “Lucky Lady II”,[a 1] commanded by Capt. James Gallagher, completed the first nonstop, around-the-world flight. The flight departed from and ended at Carswell Air Force Base, Texas. Boeing KB-29s of the wing’s 43d Air Refueling Squadron refueled the Lucky Lady II four times on this mission. The mission received both the Mackay Trophy from the National Aeronautical Association and the Vandenberg Trophy from the Air Force Association for this mission.[a 2]
The wing conducted strategic-bombardment training from 1946 to 1960, and air refueling from 1949 to 1960, to meet Strategic Air Command’s (SAC) global commitments.
Replaced the propeller-driven B-29s and B-50s with new B-47E Stratojet swept-wing medium bombers in 1954, capable of flying at high subsonic speeds, primarily designed for penetrating the airspace of the Soviet Union. The 43d set a new, jet endurance record in 1954 by keeping a B-47 airborne for 47:35 hours. Flew numerous training missions and participated in various SAC exercises and deployments with the Stratojet during the 1950s. In the late 1950s, the B-47 was considered to be reaching obsolescence, and was being phased out of SAC’s strategic arsenal. The 43d began reassigning its Stratojets to other wings as replacement aircraft beginning in 1959.
Hustler operations at Carswell Air Force Base
The 43d Bombardment Wing moved to Carswell Air Force Base without personnel or equipment on 15 April 1960. At Carswell, it was manned and equipped from the 3958th Operational Test and Evaluation Group and the 6592d Test Squadron of Air Research and Development Command, which were discontinued. The wing immediately began training crews on the Convair B-58 Hustler, the world’s first supersonic bomber, and, it began participating in Category III testing (operational testing) of the Hustler in August. The 43d was the first USAF B-58 wing.
Aircraft number 59-2436, the first fully operational Hustler equipped with all tactical systems, was delivered to the 43d on 15 March. On 23 March a test-unit B-58A (55-0671), remained airborne for 18 hours 10 minutes while averaging an airspeed of 620 mph over 11,000 miles. This was apparently the longest-lasting single flight ever by a B-58. The 43d received deliveries of new aircraft from Convair throughout the year, the last being in December 1960.
From March 1960 to July 1961, the 43d operated a combat-crew training school for B-58 aircrews, and, from July 1962 until late 1969 it served as one of two SAC B-58 wings with a strategic-bombardment mission. During the 1960s the wing established world-flight speed records in the B-58, beginning on 12 January 1961, when it set six international speed and payload records on a single flight, five of which were held by the Soviet Union. Three of these records lasted only two days, when they were broken by another 43d Hustler, which flew over a 1,000 km closed course with a payload of 2,000 kg at an average speed of 1284.73 mph, simultaneously breaking the 1,000 kg and no payload records.[a 4] The crew on the second flight was awarded the Thompson Trophy. On 29 May 1961, a wing B-58 flew from New York to Paris in 3 hours, 14 minutes, and 45 seconds, establishing a new transatlantic speed record of 1,089.36 mph, earning the crew the MacKay Trophy. On 5 March 1962, a wing B-58 flew from Los Angeles to New York at an average speed of 1,214.65 mph. It flew from Los Angeles to New York and back in 4 hours, 41 minutes, and 15 seconds. This earned the crew another MacKay Trophy and the Bendix Trophy. The wing, which had been prevented from being declared combat-ready by the B-58’s teething problems, was finally declared as such in August 1962. In response to the Cuban Missile Crisis, the wing was placed on alert in October 1962.
By the mid-1960s, the B-58 had become a fairly effective weapons system. By the end of 1962, USAF crews had made over 10,500 flights and loges 53,00 hours (1150 of them supersonic, including 375 at Mach 2). Initially, all B-58 training was conducted by the 43d’s combat-crew training school. From 1960 through 1964, this unit fulfilled the requirements of both its parent 43d Bomb Wing and the second B-58 wing, the 305th Bomb Wing. In August 1964, the 305th activated its own CCTS. The wing also controlled an air-refueling squadron from August 1964.
The active service life of the B-58 was destined to be rather short. Phaseout of the B-58 fleet was ordered by Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara in December 1965, since it was felt that the high-altitude performance of the B-58 could no longer guarantee success against increasingly sophisticated Soviet air defenses. Although SAC had never been happy with the relatively limited range of the B-58 and felt that the Air Force, through congressional pressure, had forced the B-58 on them, the aircraft had gone through a long gestation period during which lots of bugs had been wrung out of the system, and it was now thought to be a valuable and effective weapons system. Consequently, SAC pressed the Defense Department for the retention of the B-58, at least until 1974. However, the decision of 1965 was to stand.
Another factor was the B-58’s relatively high cost as compared to the B-52 and B-47. The unit cost of the B-58 was 33.5-million dollars as compared to nine-million for the B-52 and three-million for the B-47. In addition, the B-58 was quite costly to maintain. The cost of maintaining and operating two B-58 wings equaled the cost of maintaining six B-52 wings.
The first B-58 to go to the “boneyard” was 59-2446 which flew to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on 5 November 1969. Once underway, the B-58 retirement program moved relatively rapidly. The retirement was completed on 16 January 1970.
3960th Strategic Wing
Once their B-58s were in storage, the 43d BW was temporarily inactivated, but was immediately reactivated with the assets of the 3960th Strategic Wing (SW) at Andersen Air Force Base on Guam. The 3960th SW had been established at Andersen as the 3960th Air Base Wing when the base transferred from Pacific Air Forces to SAC on 1 April 1955.
The 3960th supported SAC Boeing B-47 Stratojet REFLEX deployments to Andersen over the years the wing designation[a 5] and its mission changed to supporting deployed Boeing B-52 Stratofortress aircraft forming the Andersen Task Force, Provisional.
On 1 April 1965 the wing once again was redesignated the 3960th Strategic Wing and its mission changed to support B-52 elements from SAC CONUS-based units engaged in combat operations over Southeast Asia on a daily basis during the Vietnam War as the 320th Bombardment Wing from Mather Air Force Base California and the 454th Bombardment Wing at Columbus AFB, Mississippi
Operations at Andersen Air Force Base
In 1970, in order to retain the lineage of the 43d Bomb Wing, Headquarters SAC received authority from Headquarters USAF to discontinue its MAJCON 3960th SW and activate a regular AFCON wing which was inactive at the time which could carry a lineage and history of the mission at Anderson.
On 1 April 1970, the 3960th SW was discontinued and replaced by the 43d Bomb Wing, which became the 43d Strategic Wing. In July, it also assumed resources and mission of the Bombardment Wing, Provisional, 4133d, which had operational control over B-52s striking targets in Southeast Asia. The 43d employed attached aircraft and aircrews of other SAC units that were deployed from bases in the United States to participate in Operation Arc Light combat missions in Southeast Asia from 1 July to mid-August 1970, and again from February 1972 to August 1973.
Following the end of combat operations, the 43d provided routing training and ground alert with B-52 and KC-135 aircraft, the latter provided by other SAC units on loan. During 1975 the wing provided logistical and medical support to thousands of Vietnamese refugees evacuated from their homeland and located temporarily at Guam awaiting resettlement in the United States.
Post Vietnam era The wing trained to remain proficient in strategic and conventional warfare capabilities. Beginning in 1974 it controlled TDY tankers and crews participating in the Pacific (formerly Andersen) Tanker Task Force that supported SAC operations in the western Pacific. In July 1986 the 43d activated the 65th Strategic Squadron to control the TDY air refueling forces.
Modern era Since 1990 the 43d has been inactivated, redesignated and activated on several occasions. In 1989 Andersen AFB was transferred from the Strategic Air Command to Pacific Air Forces. The PACAF 633rd Air Base Wing was activated on 1 October 1989, which led to the inactivation of the 43d Bombardment Wing on 30 September 1990.
The wing was redesignated as the 43d Air Refueling Wing, and activated, on 1 June 1992 at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Montana where it conducted refueling operations under Air Combat Command (ACC) before being moved to MacDill Air Force Base, Florida when flight operations ended at Malmstrom.
At MacDill it was redesignated as a group (43d Air Refueling Group) and operated until 1 October 1996 when it was inactivated and replaced by the 6th Air Refueling Wing when Air Mobility Command assumed the air-refueling mission from ACC.
It was brought back into active service in 1997 when the unit was redesignated as the 43d Airlift Wing on 31 March and activated on 1 April 1997 at Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina under Air Mobility Command.
Crews and aircraft deployed to Europe and Southwest Asia for expeditionary rotations and contingency operations such as the enforcement of no-fly zones over Iraq. It also took part in humanitarian airlift operations and training exercises, often with U.S. Army airborne organizations stationed at nearby Fort Bragg, North Carolina. After terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001, elements deployed in support of the Global War on Terror.
The wing was inactivated on 1 March 2011, and, its 43d Operations Group redesignated as the 43d Airlift Group.