4404th Wing (Provisional)
Effective 1 December 1998, the 4404th Wing (Provisional) at Prince Sultan Air Base, Saudi Arabia was inactivated and the US Air Force activated the 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing. The 363rd Air Expeditionary Wing became the wing hosting all units deployed to Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, as well as and Al Jabber in Kuwait. In addition, the the 4404th Wing's subordinate units were inactivated and new units activated in their place. The sole exceptions to these changes were Headquarters, 9th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force - Southwest Asia and the 9th Air Expeditionary Group.
The 4404th Wing (Provisional) was the air component responsible for enforcing the no-fly zone over southern Iraq. The Wing was headquartered at Dhahran, Saudi Arabia. The Wing was also responsible for operations at other sites in the Arabian Gulf region, including Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait. More than 5,000 airmen made up the Wing, which reported to Joint Task Force - Southwest Asia, a component of United States Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida. Following the Wing's activation in 1992, it had employed at least 16 different types of aircraft. By the late 1990s, the wing employed a diversified fleet consisting of F-15C, F-15E, F-16, KC-135, KC-10, RC-135, E-3, U-2, C-130, HC-130, and C-21 aircraft which provide fighter, electronic combat, reconnaissance, command and control, air refueling, search and rescue, and cargo/troop transport capabilities.
The mission of the 4404th Wing (Provisional) was to "...serve as the front line defense against possible Iraqi aggression. To enforce UN Security Council Resolutions 687, 688, and 949 and protect US forces stationed in Kuwait, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia." The 4404th Wing (Provisional) consisted of 6 provisional groups and had over 5,000 personnel assigned at 9 locations in 3 countries. From the start of Operation Southern Watch, the Wing was structured and manned to carry out a temporary mission, insuring that Iraq complied with the post-Operation Desert Storm United Nations sanctions. It was manned primarily by airmen who rotate on temporary duty assignments.
Although the 4404th Wing (Provisional) activated under Air Combat Command (ACC) on 2 June, 1992, on 13 March 1991 Headquarters, Tactical Air Command (TAC) activated the 4404th Tactical Fighter Wing (Provisional) at Al Kharj Air Base, Saudi Arabia. The original assets of the 4404th Tactical Fighter Wing came from the 4th Tactical Fighter (Provisional), which had operated during the first Gulf War. In June 1992, the Wing relocated to King Abdul Aziz Air Base, Dahran, where it was officially activated as the 4404th Wing (Provisional) on 2 August 1991. After a terrorist truck bomb killed 19 airmen at Dhahran, the Wing was ordered to move to a safer location within the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. Prince Sultan (also known as Al Kharj) Air Base was chosen as the relocation site.
Except for a brief period during Operation Vigilant Warrior in 1994, when its strength peaked at over 7,000 airmen, the 4404th Wing (Provisional) was consistently manned at minimum levels. This policy was intended to reduce the visibility of US forces in Saudi Arabia, limit exposure to risk, reduce the impact on Air Force units worldwide from whom the airmen were assigned, and insure that they were fully committed during their short tours of duty. This manning provided little flexibility to respond to changes in threat or mission requirements.
In the Air Force at the time, operational organizations deployed as units with existing chains of command, while the majority of support personnel, to include Air Force Security Police, rotated as individuals. Air Force flying squadrons were assigned as units to the 4404th Wing (Provisional) on 15-, 30-, 45-, 60-, and 90-day rotations depending on the type unit.
Forces making up the Air Expeditionary Force III rotation that deployed to Qatar from July through August 1996 were under the operational control of the 4404th Wing (Provisional), under the tactical control of either the Commander, Joint Task Force-Southwest Asia or the Commander, Joint Task Force-Rugged Nautilus, but for force protection were under US Liaison Office, Qatar which did not have the command authority to direct force protection actions.
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