UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


3rd Wing [3rd WG]

The 3rd Wing is the host unit for Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. It is the largest and principal organization in Eleventh Air Force.

Its mission is to support and defend U.S. interests in the region and around the world by providing units who are ready for worldwide air power projection and a base that is capable of meeting PACOM's theater staging and throughput requirements.

Elmendorf AFB lost one squadron of F-15C air superiority aircraft and one squadron of F-15E air-to-ground aircraft as a result of BRAC decisions. Since World War II, Elmendorf AFB has provided an advanced location on U.S. soil for projection of U.S. global interests. Elmendorf AFB has F-15C and F-15E missions with the organizational structure and basic infrastructure communication links to support fighter aircraft. Elmendorf is the only remaining base from those originally evaluated which meets the needs for an F-22A Operational Wing. Of the original bases with F-15C operational air superiority aircraft, missions, and training airspace, Elmendorf AFB is the only base which meets the original selection criteria for an Operational Wing beddown, meets national needs for location, and has the capacity to beddown the Second F-22A Operational Wing.

The Air Force decided to establish (beddown) the Second Operational Wing of F-22A Raptors at Elmendorf Air Force Base (AFB), Alaska to support the F-22A program. The purpose of the Elmendorf AFB-based F-22A Operational Wing is to have national assets positioned to rapidly respond to the directives of the President and Secretary of Defense and to provide the Air Force with the capability to meet mission responsibilities that include rapid worldwide deployment. The Elmendorf AFB beddown would involve basing 36 F-22A Primary Aircraft Inventory (PAI) and 4 Backup Aircraft Inventory (BAI); constructing new facilities, modifying existing Elmendorf AFB facilities; changing personnel; and conducting flight training operations in existing Alaskan Special Use Airspace (SUA).

Elmendorf was proud to be the home of two new F-22 squadrons (totaling 40 aircraft). The 3rd Wing at Elmendorf Air Force Base activated the 525th Fighter Squadron during a ceremony at the base 29 October 2007. The second active-duty F-22 Raptor squadron took its place in wing history nearly three months after the aircraft officially landed on base. With the unfurling of the 525th Tactical Fighter Squadron flag, the 525th became active again after 15 years. The 525th Fighter Squadron had 20 aircraft assigned when it became fully operational by the end of 2008.

The 525th FS's legacy began in February 1942 as the 309th Bombardment Squadron (Light) to support allied forces in the European theater of operations during World War II. Nearly 18 months after activation, the unit saw its first combat in Sicily. In August 1943, the 309th BS was redesignated as the 525th Fighter-Bomber Squadron. Since then, the 525th received several designations: fighter squadron from 1944-1950, fighter-bomber squadron again from 1950-1954, fighter-interceptor squadron from 1954-1969 and tactical fighter squadron from 1969 until being inactivated in 1992.

In 2007, following the 2006 decision to beddown the second F-22 operational wing at Elmendorf AFB, 42 of the 60 F-15 primary aircraft assigned to then Elmendorf AFB were replaced by 36 F-22 primary and four backup aircraft. Subsequently, the remaining F-15C squadron of 18 primary aircraft was reassigned from Elmendorf AFB, leaving what is now JBER with 36 F-22 primary aircraft. The Proposed Action is to beddown six additional primary and one backup F-22 aircraft; conduct flying sorties at the base with F-22s operating with approximately 25 percent of departures from the cross-wind runway; train in existing Alaskan airspace; and implement personnel changes to conform to the F-22 Wing requirements. The additional F-22s would result in two squadrons each with 21 primary and two backup F-22 aircraft, and one attrition reserve aircraft, for a total of 47 F-22 aircraft.

The existing F-22 operational wing at JBER consists of two squadrons of 18 primary aircraft each, plus a total of three backup aircraft. With the proposed plus-up, each of the two F-22 squadrons at JBER would be composed of 21 primary aircraft plus two backup aircraft. The two-squadron F-22 operational wing would include 42 primary aircraft, four backup aircraft, and one attrition reserve aircraft for a total of 47 aircraft.

The wing trains and equips an Air Expeditionary Force lead wing comprised of 6,700 personnel and as of 2005 was able to deploy 42 F-15C, 21 F-15E, 2 E-3B, 18 C-130H, and 3 C-12F/J anywhere in the world. The 3rd Wing also provides air superiority, surveillance, tactical airlift, and agile combat support forces for global deployment, while maintaining the installation for critical force-staging and throughput operations in support of worldwide contingencies. The wing also provides medical care for all forces in Alaska.

Operating just across the Bering Strait - a mere 44 miles from the former Soviet Union - the 3rd Wing provides air superiority and defense for Alaska with F-15C aircraft. The wing supports the Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region mission and flexible alert concept by deploying aircraft and crews to Galena and King Salmon airports periodically. These forward operating bases allow the F-15s a quicker response time on identifying aircraft approaching North American airspace. At Elmendorf, the aircraft stand alert 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

In addition, the 3rd Wing supports Pacific Air Forces in the Pacific Command area of responsibility. This mission includes the wing's F-15E "Strike" Eagle aircraft, which fly long-range interdiction.

With its C-130H Hercules and C-12 aircraft, the wing also provides airlift in support of two major missions: airborne training for the Army's 6th Infantry Division (Light) and airlift support for Eleventh Air Force, including logistical support, fighter deployment support, resupply of remote long-range radar sites and special assignment airlift missions for Alaskan and Canadian Distant Early Warning stations.

The major operational components of the wing include three fighter squadrons, the 12th "Dirty Dozen," 19th "Gamecocks," and the 90th "Pair-o-Dice;" one airlift squadron, the 517th "Firebirds;" and one airborne air control squadron, the 962nd. The fighter units are trained to actively engage and destroy enemy air forces in either an offensive or defensive capacity.

The newest fighter squadron is the 12th, which came to Elmendorf from Kadena Air Base, Japan, in April 2000. The 90th joined the wing in May 1991, along with the 517th Airlift Squadron in April 1992, and the 962nd AACS in October 1992.

The 3rd Tactical Fighter Wing moved to Elmendorf from Clark Air Base December 19, 1991. In the move, the 3rd was redesignated the 3rd Wing, an objective wing in which group commanders are responsible for specific functional missions.

The 3rd Operations Group is primarily responsible for the flying mission of the wing. It includes the 12th, 19th, and 90th Fighter Squadrons, 517th Airlift Squadron, 962nd Airborne Air Control Squadron, an operations support squadron and a standardization and evaluation component.

The 3rd Logistics Group provides direct support to the flying mission through the maintenance, supply, transportation, contracting and logistics support squadrons.

The 3rd Support Group provides a variety of support functions to the 3rd Wing, plus more than 25 associate units and civilian agencies throughout the state. Within the group are the mission support, security police, services, communications, comptroller and civil engineer squadrons.

The 3rd Medical Group is the first medical center to be organized as an objective hospital. In addition to the care they provide in house, they also serve aeromedical evacuation patients and are responsible for the wartime manning and deployment of two air transportable hospitals. The group consists of aerospace medicine, dental, medical support, and medical operations squadrons.

The 3rd Wing, in one form or another, has served the United States on a continuing basis since its activation as the U.S. Army Surveillance Group on 1 July 1919. Including squadrons active in World War I (the 19th and 90th Fighter Squadrons) the wing and its organizations have participated in virtually every major U.S. conflict of the 20th century. The U.S. Army Air Service emerged from World War I with three distinct missions, pursuit, bomber, and attack/observation. These organizations became today's 1st Fighter Wing, 2nd Bomb Wing, and 3rd Wing.

As the first organized attack group to form within the Army Air Service, the 3rd Attack Group was instrumental in developing close air support doctrine in the inter-war period. The group pioneered dive bombing, skip-bombing, and parafrag attacks in the 1920s--the earliest forms of precision guided attack from aircraft--and put this work to good use in World War II. Notable alumni include the immortal Hoyt Vandenberg, Jimmy Doolittle, Lewis Brereton, Richard Ellis, John "Jock" Henebry, Paul I. "Pappy" Gunn, and Nathan Twining. As an attack bomber group during World War II and the Korean War, the wing was honored by the selfless service of two posthumous Medal of Honor recipients, Maj Raymond H. Wilkins and Capt John S. Walmsley.

Nicknamed the "Grim Reapers," the group forged a peerless record in World War II, and emerged as the most highly decorated unit in the Pacific Theater. Under the inspired engineering improvisations of Maj Paul "Pappy" Gunn, the 3rd Group converted conventional medium bombers into fearsome, deck-level commerce raiders that struck terror wherever the group appeared in combat. In attacks on Japanese freighters and troop transports in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea, 3-4 March 1943, the 3rd Attack Group's aircraft scored one of the most decisive aerial victories of all time sinking at least 12 Japanese ships on the way to relieve beleaguered New Guinea garrisons. From that time forward, the 3rd Wing has never ceded air supremacy in its operations.

After the formal independence of the United States Air Force, 18 September, 1947, groups were realigned into a new wing structure; the 3rd Attack Group became the 3rd Bombardment Wing (Light, Attack). Flying A-26 Invaders, the 3rd Wing participated from the first bombing sortie to the very last during the Korean War. The first Americans to lose their lives during the Korean War, 1Lt Remer L. Harding and SSgt William Goodwin, were assigned to the 13th Bomb Squadron, 3rd Bombardment Wing when they lost their lives 28 June 1950 returning from a sortie on the Korean Peninsula. In recognition of the wing's distinguished service, the 3rd Bombardment Wing was granted the privilege of conducting the last bombing mission over North Korea minutes before implementation of the ceasefire of 27 July 1953.

After the Korean War, the wing transitioned to B-57 jets in 1955-56. The wing stood nuclear alert in Japan and Korea for 10 years during the height of the Cold War. As the conflict in Southeast Asia escalated in 1964, the 3rd Wing transformed into a light attack unit flying primarily F-100 Supersabres along with other attack aircraft from Bien Hoa AB, South Vietnam. From 1965-1970, the wing flew thousands of sorties in support of allied forces, and conducted the combat acceptance testing of the A-37 Dragonfly--as it had done with the A-2, A-3, A-8, A-12, A-17, A-18, A-20 and A-26 in previous years.

After its withdrawal from Southeast Asia in 1971, the wing transitioned to F-4 Phantoms and moved to Kunsan, Korea, scene of much of its success during the Korean War. By 1975, the wing moved to Clark AB, Republic of the Philippines, helping that nation transform into a stable democracy. The Wing deployed six F-4Es to Turkey for Operation Desert Storm in early 1991 where they flew some of that aircraft's last combat sorties. The wing remained at Clark AB, though treaty negotiations with the Philippines broke down, and it was decided to move the 3rd Wing beginning in 1992-93. The Mt Pinatubo eruption in June 1991 changed these plans and forced the wing's hasty relocation to Elmendorf on 19 December 1991.

The wing has won five Distinguished Unit Citations, two Presidential Unit Citations, twelve Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards (three with the combat "V" device), 33 campaign and service streamers, and four foreign government citations.

In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to realign Elmendorf AFB by distributing 24 of 42 of the 3d Wing's assigned F-15C/D aircraft to the 1st Fighter Wing, Langley Air Force Base, VA. This recommendation would also distribute a portion of the F-15C/Ds at Elmendorf Air Force Base (36-fighter) to Langley Air Force Base (2-fighter). Elmendorf would retain one squadron (18 aircraft) for air sovereignty missions and would distribute the remaining 24 F-15Cs to Langley Air Force Base.

DoD also recommended to realign Elmendorf Air Force Base. The 366th Fighter Wing, Mountain Home Air Force Base, ID, would receive F-15E aircraft from the 3d Wing, Elmendorf Air Force Base, AK (18 aircraft), and attrition reserve (three aircraft).

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 21-01-2016 18:07:20 ZULU