McConnell Air Force Base has been home to an Air Force Materiel Center, the 350th Air Combat Crew Training Wing and the Strategic Air Command and Tactical Air Command wings. The 381st Strategic Missile Wing operated 18 Titan ICBM sites from 1960 to 1986. Air refueling operations began in 1971. In the mid-1980's, the base was selected to receive KC-135 and B-1B aircraft. Currently the Kansas Air National Guard flies 10 B-1B Lancers out of McConnell. The 22nd Air Refueling Wing, under Air Mobility Command, currently operates 48 KC-135 Stratotankers, supporting worldwide aerial refueling and airlift operations. This provides Global Reach for troops, equipment and supplies, and supports global contingency and conventional operations.
McConnell's history began in October 1924, when Wichita hosted more than 100,000 people for the National Air Congress. The event was used by city planners to raise funds for a proposed Wichita Municipal Airport. The event was a success and ground-breaking ceremonies for the airport were held on Jun 28, 1929. In August 1941, the Kansas Air National Guard was activated as the first military unit assigned to the Wichita airport. This was the start of a cooperative relationship between the people of Wichita and military aviation.
Military presence at the airport consisted primarily of aircraft material and procurement operations until June 4, 1951 when the 3520th Combat Crew Training Wing was activated there to conduct B-47 combat crew training. The Air Force sought to make the airport a permanent military installation, and the city of Wichita was awarded $9.4 million to build a new airfield, later to become known as Mid-Continent Airport.
The Wichita Municipal Airport changed its name to Wichita Air Force Base on May 15, 1953. The base was renamed McConnell Air Force Base on April 12, 1954 in honor of two of the three flying McConnell brothers of World War II. The brothers, Fred and Thomas, (surviving brother Edwin) were Wichita natives and gained fame as the "three of a kind."
Air Training Command was host at the base from 1951 through 1958, when the Strategic Air Command took over.
Besides hosting bombers, McConnell spent a quarter century supporting 18 Titan II missile silos of the 381st Strategic Missile Wing that were planted in the surrounding region. As with Titan II projects at Davis-Monthan, Arizona, and Little Rock, Arkansas, the construction at McConnell used a three-phase approach designed to cut down additional expenses caused by "concurrency." Using this approach, 18 silos were constructed, forming a rough horseshoe around Wichita with the open end pointing slightly to the west of north. Launcher locations for the 532nd Strategic Missile Squadron included Wellington (2), Conway Springs, Viola, Norwich, Rago, Murdock, Kingman, and Mount Vernon. The 533rd Strategic Missile Squadron would have responsibility for silos at Potwin, El Dorado, Leon (3), Smileyville, Rock, Winfield, and Oxford. Additional support facilities were constructed on base.
On December 10, 1960, the Corps of Engineers notified the joint venture of Fuller- Webb-Hardeman that its bid of nearly $30.8 million had earned them the contract for Phase I. The Corps of Engineers Ballistic Missile Construction Office (CEBMCO) considered the performance of the contractors in their site excavation work to be above average. Despite weather problems and some major modifications, the joint venture completed their phase 6 days before the original deadline of February 15, 1962.
On June 26, 1961, CEBMCO notified the joint venture of Martin K. Eby, Incorporated and Associates that their bid of nearly $37.6 million had earned their selection as the contractor team for Phase II portion, which entailed installation of mechanical, electrical, water, and other systems at the semi-completed sites. Work began on Phase HA on December 4, 1961, and finished 12 months later. Phase III involved systems contractor Martin Company and the Site Activation Task Force (SATAF) who completed the final preparations needed before turning the silos over to Strategic Air Command.
Through all three phrases a noteworthy safety program kept fatalities to just one over a timespan in which over nine million man-hours were worked. At the peak of the program, approximately 2,200 workers were on the job. Timing helped in the recruitment of experienced workers who had recently finished work at Atlas sites at Schilling and Forbes AFBs. A proactive missile site labor relations committee stemmed management-labor difficulties.
The crew spent most of their 24 hour alert in the control center. Missile and site operations were directed from Level 2. Living quarters (bedroom, kitchen, bathroom) were on Level 1, the upper level. Level 3 contained all of the telephone, radio, power supply and battery equipment needed to run the control center and missile operations. The Entry Portal was used for access to the underground portions of the complex. Three flight of stairs starting with an entrapment area were here. A tv camera gave the crew a view of the entrapment area. As personnel came in, this is where they gave either their Entry Code or the Duress code depending on the situation. They were required to be locked alone in this area as they gave the code. This would isolate them from any 'intruder' trying to gain entry. The Silo section contained the airconditioning, water storage, standby power generation and propellant transfer equipment. Even though the site was underground it was necessary to cool and dry the air all year around. The Missile Silo required the temperature to be kept within an exact range to insure the volume of the popellants.
On October 2, 1981, Deputy Secretary of Defense Frank l? Carlucci ordered the inactivation of the Titan II weapon system. For McConnell, the end began on July 2, 1984, when Launch Complex 533-8 was removed from alert status. On August 8, 1986, the 381st Strategic Missile Wing became the second Titan II wing to be deactivated.
From 1963 through 1972, McConnell served as a Tactical Air Command base with the 381st Strategic Missile Wing as its major tenant. TAC units operating at McConnell during this period included: the 388th Tactical Fighter Wing, flying F-105s.
Host unit responsibilities again transferred to SAC on Dec. 1, 1972. At that time, the 384th Air Refueling Wing arrived at McConnell, including first the 91st Air Refueling Squadron, which began air refueling operations in June 1971, and later the 384th Air Refueling Squadron, which began its KC-135A operations in September 1973.
McConnell's role in support of the nation's strategic defense continued. In June 1983, Air Force officials selected McConnell to be one of the future homes for the B-1B Lancer bomber.
Meanwhile, the first KC-135R, a re-engined, quieter, more fuel-efficient version of the "Stratotanker," was received by the 384th Air Refueling Wing on July 1984. The 384th Air Refueling Wing became the host wing on June 5, 1985. By Aug. 5, 1985, McConnell became the only Air Force base to be equipped completely with R-model aircraft for its refueling operations. The 381st Strategic Missile Wing ended Titan II operations and was inactivated on Aug. 8,1986.
The base took its first steps back toward bomber operations after nearly a quarter century with the redesignation of the 384th Air Refueling Wing as the 384th Bombardment Wing (Heavy) on July 1, 1987. The new wing became one of only four B-1B units in the Air Force with the arrival of its first Lancer bomber on Jan. 4, 1988.
On April 26,1991, a tornado touched down on McConnell, leaving a trail of devastation as it traveled southwest to northeast across the base. Nine major facilities on the main base were totally destroyed, including the hospital and most of the base's Services facilities.
The base housing complex lost 102 units in the storm and ten other facilities received minor damage. There were no deaths and only 16 injuries on base. This was attributed to advance warning from McConnell's weather forecasters.
The period following the tornado was a tumultuous one for McConnell. Between the $55 Million provided by Congress to rebuild tornado-stricken facilities, and previously scheduled construction projects, the pace of construction at the base was a whirlwind of its own.
A sparkling new lodging facility opened for business in May 1993. A skills development center, which includes the auto hobby and arts and crafts activities, came on line in October 1993. In January 1994, 102 new housing units were dedicated and opened. Then, in March 1994, the base unveiled and opened a $17 million Medical Treatment Facility replacing the hospital lost in 1991's tornado. Finally, the gem of the tornado rebuilding, the $15.4 million "Emerald City" was opened in August 1994. This prototype facility combines many of the services whose facilities were lost in the tornado including the officer and enlisted lounges and dining rooms, fitness center, bowling alley and pool.
The period from 1992-1994 marked a time of major change in the way McConnell looked, and changes in mission operations. As the Air Force joined its sister services in drawing down both its forces and infrastructure, the Congressional Base Commission and DoD announced a series of changes which would come to impact McConnell and underscore its continued key role in the nation's defense.
On September 18, 1991 the President ordered SAC's strategic forces, including McConnell's B-1Bs, to stand down from alert status-a move which reflected the end of the Cold War and the changing international climate. Then, in June 1992, the Air Force realigned SAC, TAC and Military Airlift Command into two-Air Combat Command and Air Mobility Command. McConnell's 384th Bombardment Wing was renamed the 384th Bomb Wing, and the unit assumed a conventional bombing role along with its strategic mission. McConnell's host command became Air Combat Command.
In October 1993, the Air Force announced the 384th Bomb Wing would inactivate, become the 384th Bomb Group for 10 months beginning Jan. 1, 1994, and begin to transfer its conventional B-1B mission to the Kansas Air National Guard unit at McConnell, the 184th Fighter Group. This KSANG unit, which became the 184th Bomb Group on July 1, 1994, is the first Air National Guard unit ever to be assigned a heavy bomber mission.
In January 1994, AMC was assigned as McConnell's host major command. The 22nd Air Refueling Wing was announced as McConnell's new host unit, and the buildup of the wing's four KC-135R tanker squadrons began. By October 1994, the 22nd became one of only three Air Force core tanker wings.
Secretary of Defense Recommendations: In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to realign March Air Reserve Base, CA. The 163d Air Refueling Wing (ANG) would distribute its nine KC-135R aircraft to the 22d Air Refueling Wing, McConnell Air Force Base, KS (one aircraft) and several other bases.
DoD also recommended to realign Robins Air Force Base, GA, by distributing the 19th Air Refueling Group's KC- 135R aircraft to the 22nd Air Refueling Wing, McConnell Air Force Base (nine aircraft), and to backup aircraft inventory (three aircraft).
In another Recommendation, DoD recommended to realign McConnell Air National Guard (ANG) Base by relocating the 184th Air Refueling Wing (ANG) nine KC-135R aircraft to the 190th Air Refueling Wing at Forbes Field AGS, KS, which would retire its eight assigned KC-135E aircraft. The 184th Air Refueling Wing 's operations and maintenance manpower would transfer with the aircraft to Forbes, while the wing's expeditionary combat support (ECS) elements would remain at McConnell. In the same recommendation, DoD recommended to to realign Grand Forks Air Force Base (AFB), ND. It would distribute the 319th Air Refueling Wing's KC-135R aircraft to the 22d Air Refueling Wing, McConnell AFB, KS (eight aircraft), which associated with the 931st Air Refueling Group (AFR).
In another Recommendation, DoD would realign Lackland AFB, TX. It would relocate the Standard Air Munitions Package (STAMP)/Standard Tank, Rack, Adaptor, and Pylon Packages (STRAPP) function from Lackland Air Force Base, Medina Annex to McConnell AFB, KS, and transfer the mission to the Air National Guard.
Secretary of Defense Justification: McConnell AFB would be increased in operational capability with the additional aircraft because of their proximity to air refueling missions.
This second recommendation would realign active duty KC-135R aircraft from Robins (18) to McConnell (15), a base higher in military value for the tanker mission and with available capacity to receive the additional aircraft at no cost. This consolidation would increase McConnell's active duty tanker squadrons to optimum size.
In the third recommendation, aircraft would be moved to McConnel from Grand Forks because it had scored higher in military value. Additional aircraft at McConnell would capitalize on available excess capacity at no cost and optimize three squadrons for greater total wing capability. Realigning ANG KC-135R aircraft from McConnell to Forbes (35) would replace aging, higher maintenance KC-135E aircraft with newer models while retaining the experienced personnel from one of the highest-ranking reserve component tanker bases.
McConnell Air Force Base has co-located munitions storage and hot-cargo handling capability on the base, enhancing out-load effectiveness with little projected interference on existing missions. The base had sufficient 1.1 net explosive weight munitions storage capacity in existing structures that supported a former bomb wing mission, and ANG personnel at McConnell currently perform a function similar to the active duty STAMP mission. Because of this existing capability, mission conversion would be expected to require fewer additional full-time ANG personnel at McConnell than active duty personnel at Medina.
Community Concerns: There were no formal expressions from the community.
Commission Findings: With regard to McConnell Air National Guard Base, KS, the Commission found the Secretary of Defense's intent and concept of redistributing the Air National Guard operated KC-135s was supportable.
The Commission established Air National Guard KC-135 wings at: Scott AFB, Illinois, Seymour-Johnson AFB, North Carolina, MacDill AFB, Florida, Hickam AFB, Hawaii, McConnell AFB, Kansas, and Forbes Field, Kansas. This recommendation is consistent with the Commission's Air National Guard Laydown plan.
The Commission found that the military construction costs to realign the Standard Air Munitions Package (STAMP) and Standard Tank, Rack, Adaptor, and Pylon Package (STRAPP) at McConnell Air Force Base, KS were understated. Given this oversight, some critical military construction requirements might not be identified; and associated funding not programmed sufficiently to accommodate the storage of munitions at McConnell Air Force Base. The Commission also found an oversight in the recommendation that identified the departure of munitions personnel at Lackland Medina Annex in fiscal year 2007, yet the munitions stockpile is scheduled to be transported in fiscal year 2008. These concerns were identified to DoD who assured the Commission that adequate personnel would remain at Lackland Medina Annex until the mission was transferred. DoD also assured the Commission that any military construction shortfalls not identified would be resolved during site surveys at McConnell Air Force Base. Based on these assurances and the need to resolve the safety and security issues of transporting munitions over local and interstate highways at Lackland Medina as quickly as possible, the Commission concurred with this recommendation.
Commission Recommendations: Establish the following KC-135R/T PAA: The 22d Air Refueling Wing, McConnell AFB, KS (48 PAA KC-135R/T), which currently associates with the 931st Air Refueling Group (AFR).
Realign McConnell Air National Guard Base by distributing the 184th Air Refueling Wing's (ANG) nine KC-135R/T aircraft to meet the PAA requirements established by the Base Closure and Realignment recommendations of the Secretary of Defense, as amended by the Base Closure and Realignment Commission. Establish 12 Primary Aircraft Authorization KC-135R/T aircraft at the 190th Air Refueling Wing, Forbes Field AGS, KS. The 184th Air Refueling Wing KC-135E aircraft will be transferred to the AMARC at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ, for appropriate disposal as economically unserviceable aircraft.
The Commission found the Secretary's fourth recommendation consistent with the final selection criteria and the Force Structure Plan. Therefore, the Commission approves the recommendation of the Secretary.
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