Beale AFB, CA
Beale is home of the 9th Reconnaissance Wing, and is also considered by many to be one of the show places of the United States Air Force. A base steeped in history, it is in the forefront of the Air Force's future in high technology. Beale is located in northern California about 10 miles east of the towns of Marysville and Yuba City and about 40 miles north of Sacramento, the state capital. Beale is a large base in terms of land and has five gates providing access on all sides of the base. Visitors enter the base through a main gate that local merchants, individuals and the Beale Military Liaison Committee donated $100,000 to construct. The base, covering nearly 23,000 acres, is home for approximately 4,000 military personnel.
Beale Air Force Base spans 23,000 acres of rolling hills in northern California. The base's natural resources are as rich as its significant cultural and historical heritage. Native Americans lived on this land; the mortar bowls they carved into the bedrock lie embedded in a shallow stream. German prisoners of war were held captive on the base during World War II; a block of barred prison cells still stands at the base, and the drawings of the POWs remain vivid on the walls of the prison cells. To preserve these and other historic areas, the base proudly maintains 38 Native American sites, 45 homestead sites, and 41 World War II sites.
Although Beale AFB enjoys a wealth of historical significance and natural beauty, the results of poor environmental practices in the past are evident in some places. Rusted 55-gallon drums fill a trench located near Best Slough, a waterway that flows into the Bear River. The trench is found in a riparian preservation area that is hidden away from most base activity. The drums were discovered in 1985, but their exact origin remains unknown, and the environmental damage inflicted by the drums is decades old. Long-emptied, the drums serve as a reminder of the consequences of irresponsible environmental practices on future generations.
Today, the 9th Reconnaissance Wing at the base achieves its mission in harmony with historical and environmental preservation efforts. Dozens of cattle graze on base lands because of a successful partnership between Beale AFB and local cattle ranchers. A flock of wild turkeys emerges from a field of brush and slowly walks, undisturbed, alongside a bubbling stream.
Unlike most Air Force bases, which since the birth of the Air Force in September 1947 have carried the name of famous aviators, Beale AFB honors the man who founded the Army Camel corps and who was one of California's largest landholders. Camp Beale opened in October 1942 as a training site for the 13th Armored and the 81st and 96th Infantry Divisions. During World War II, Camp Beale’s 86,000 acres were home for more than 60,000 soldiers, a prisoner-of-war encampment and a 1000-bed hospital. In 1948, the camp transferred from the Army to the Air Force.
The Air Force conducted bombardier and navigator training at Beale and, in 1951, reactivated the Beale Bombing and Gunnery Range for aviation engineer training. The base has been under several commands including: Air Training Command, Continental Air Command, Aviation Engineer Force, Strategic Air Command and, on June 1, 1992, the newly created Air Combat Command.
The U-2 began flying for the Air Force in 1956.
In May 1959, Colonel Paul K. Carlton assumed command of the recently activated 4126th Strategic Wing. The first two KC-135s arrived two months later on July 7, 1959. On Jan. 18, 1960, the 31st Bombardment Squadron with its B-52s arrived at Beale to become part of the wing. The 14th Air Division moved to Beale from Travis Air Force Base one week later. On Feb. 1, 1963, SAC redesignated the 4126th as the 456th Strategic Aerospace Wing. SAC used a variety of Air Force bases for dispersal. The 456th Bombardment Wing at Beale AFB deployed Detachment 1 to Hill AFB, which was activated 01 January 1973 and discontinued 01 July 1975. A $2 million dollar alert facility large enough to accommodate seven aircraft was constructed. The first of four B-52s assigned there arrived on 28 December 1973.
On Sept. 30, 1975, the 456th Bombardment Wing inactivated, and the 17th Bombardment Wing activated in its place. On Sept. 30, 1976, the 17th inactivated, and the 100th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., became the 100th Air Refueling Wing and moved to Beale. Many of the people and the tankers that had been part of the 17th now became members of the 100th. The 17th Wing’s B-52s moved to other bases. The 100th ARW stayed at Beale until March 15, 1983, when the Air Force inactivated the wing and consolidated its refueling mission and assets into the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing.
From 1959 until 1965, Beale was support base for three Titan I missile sites near Lincoln, Chico and the Sutter Buttes. On January 30, 1959, the Air Force announced plans to conduct surveys in the vicinity of Beale to determine the feasibility for missile bases. Site investigations, topographic explorations, and surveys were performed by the Corps of Engineers Sacramento District. On September 17, Col. Paul Calton, Commander of Beale's 4126th Strategic Wing, announced that the base would be the fifth Titan I missile installation. Three complexes with three weapons each (3 x 3) were located 25 miles southwest, 37 miles west, and 71 miles northwest of Beale near the respective communities of Lincoln, Live Oak, and Chico. The Corps of Engineers also oversaw the construction at Beale AFB of mechanical, pneudraulics, cryogenic, propulsion, and liquid oxygen shops to support the nine deployed and one spare missile assigned.
Bids were opened on January 12, 1960, in the Empire Room of Sacramento's Hotel Senator. Peter Kiewit Sons' Company won the contract to build the silos after submitting a low bid of approximately $30.2 million. Before the job was completed, some 400 modifications to the original plans boosted construction costs to over $40 million. Construction began on January 22, 1960. More than 600,000 cubic yards of rock and earth had to be excavated and reused as backfill. By the time the project was completed, each of the three complexes had received 32,000 cubic yards of concrete, 90 miles of cables, 300 tons of piping, and 1,800 separate supply items. Supervision of the construction initially fell on the Sacramento District; however, this responsibility was shifted on November 1, 1960, to CEBMCO.
There were six wild-cat work stoppages; only one caused an appreciable delay. In the wake of earlier labor strife at other missile sites, the Federal Government established Missile Site Relations Committees for each project. At Beale this mechanism contributed to successful management-labor relations and allowed construction to forge ahead. In addition to good labor relations, the Beale project enjoyed a good safety record. There was only one accident-related fatality.
The first missile was moved to the 4A complex at Lincoln on February 28,1962, where workers encountered some difficulty placing the missile in the silo. Follow-on missile installations went smoothly and the last missile was lowered into Chico complex 4C on April 20, 1962.
On May 16, 1964, Defense Secretary McNamara directed the accelerated phaseout of the Atlas and Titan I ICBMs. On January 4, 1965, the first Beale Titan I was taken off alert status. Within 3 months, the 851st Strategic Missile Squadron would be deactivated.
On July 1, 1979, the 7th Missile Warning Squadron brought the Phased Array Warning System (PAVE PAWS) radar site to Beale. This
10-story structure can detect possible attack by sea-launched ballistic missiles. The 7th Missile Warning Squadron operates a PAVE PAWS phased array radar situated on the outskirts of Beale AFB in south central California. The radar is primarily used to detect submarine launched ballistic missiles. Mock missile attacks, site emergencies and equipment failures keep the Canadian and American crew busy. A routine training session can become a lesson in the unexpected. When the Beale radar picks up a disintegrating spacecraft, usually there's a warning. Once or twice a year, when the system is being used for training, it goes to an operational display over the Pacific, tracking a satellite which is breaking up with pieces all over the place. Following appropriate procedures, the crew runs tests to ensure the pieces are from the same object, providing no-notice training.
On Oct. 15, 1964, the Department of Defense announced that Beale would be the home of the new, supersonic reconnaissance aircraft, the SR-71 Blackbird. The 4200th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing activated on Jan. 1, 1965. The new wing received its first aircraft, a T-38 Talon, on July 8, 1965. The first SR-71 did not arrive until Jan. 7, 1966. On June 25, the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, that began as the 9th Observation Group in 1922, and its 1st Strategic Reconnaissance Squadron activated as the 1st Aero Squadron in 1913, replaced the 4200th. The first U-2 arrived from Davis-Monthan on July 12, 1976. Until Jan. 26, 1990, when budget restrictions forced the retirement of the SR-71, Beale was the home of two of the world’s most unique aircraft.
On Sept. 1, 1991, the 14th Air Division inactivated, and the 2nd Air Force, with a lineage stretching back to World War II, activated at Beale. Second Air Force inactivated on July 1, 1993, and activated at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., that same day. In July 1994, the 350th Air Refueling Squadron transferred from Beale to McConnell Air Force Base, Kan., taking the last of the KC-135Q tankers with it. Tankers returned in 1998 when the 940th Air Refueling Wing, an Air Force Reserve unit, transferred to Beale. Then, under BRAC 2005, the KC-135 tanker airplanes were realigned. So today Beale AFB is the home for the U-2 reconnaissance aircraft and the T-38 jet trainer.
Also, in 1994, Congress directed the reactivation of three SR-71s and their return to operational status by Sept. 1, 1995. The aircraft were maintained at Beale’s Detachment 2 at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif.
Secretary of Defense Recommendations: Realign Beale Air Force Base, CA. The 940th Air Refueling Wing (AFR) will realign its KC-135R tanker aircraft while its
expeditionary combat support (ECS) elements will remain in place. Beale's KC-135R aircraft will be distributed to the Air
National Guard at Selfridge ANGB, MI (four aircraft) and 134th Air Refueling Wing (ANG), McGhee-Tyson Airport Air
Guard Station, TN (four aircraft). Realign Selfridge Air Reserve Base, MI. The 927th Air Refueling Wing (AFR) at Selfridge
will distribute its eight KC-135 aircraft to the 127th Wing (ANG) at Selfridge. The 127th Wing will retire its 15 F-16 aircraft
and eight C-130E aircraft, and will convert to A-10 and KC-135R aircraft.
Secretary of Defense Justification: This recommendation capitalizes on Beale's (7-C2ISR and 33-UAV) high military value and emerging Global Hawk
unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) mission. Realigning KC-135 force structure enables Beale to have one primary operational
flying mission-manned and unmanned high altitude reconnaissance-balances the Reserve and Air National Guard KC-135
force structure, and retains reserve component manpower and experience for the new Global Hawk mission. The receiver
locations for Beale's tankers--Selfridge (57) and McGhee-Tyson (74)-each have above average military value for reserve
component bases in the tanker mission.
Beale's more modern KC-135R aircraft will replace the older, higher maintenance KC-135E models at McGhee-Tyson and
help increase the new ANG tanker mission at Selfridge to an effective size of 12 aircraft. The resulting KC-135R increase at
Selfridge and McGhee-Tyson increases the tanker force structure into squadron sizes that are more operationally effective.
As a reserve component base, Selfridge ANGB has above average military value as both a tanker installation (57) and fighter
installation (70) as rated for those respective mission areas. This recommendation streamlines operations at Selfridge ANGB
by realigning the Reserve air refueling mission, currently operating as a tenant unit, and divesting the ANG wing of its
retiring force structure. The ANG wing's older, less capable C-130E and F-16 aircraft will retire and be replaced with Reserve
KC-135R aircraft from Selfridge and Beale, and 15 A-10 aircraft realigned by the recommended closures of W.K. Kellogg
Airport Air Guard Station, MI, and NAS Willow Grove, PA. Reorganizing the flying operations under one component
(ANG) will maximize organizational effectiveness and allow the installation to accommodate two effectively sized squadrons.
The 927th Air Refueling Wing will realign to associate with the 6th Air Mobility Wing at MacDill Air Force Base, FL, to
capture reserve experience in the region and enhance that unit's capability.
Community Concerns: The Beale, CA, community supported DoD's recommendation to focus the base on one primary operational flying mission
(UAVs). They raised concerns about the lack of specific information as to when and how the emerging UAV mission would
unfold. They felt that recruiting and retention could be difficult during the temporary period between departure of the
tanker mission and arrival of the new Global Hawk mission. Experienced and skilled reservists may leave the wing without a
clear sense of the new mission's opportunities.
Commission Findings: The Commission found realigning the 940th Air Refueling Wing and associating it with the 9th Reconnaissance Wing
would, in fact capitalize on Beale's high Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) Mission Compatibility Index (MCI) score and
emerging Global Hawk mission. The Commission additionally found that the projected savings from this recommendation
were modest and the primary aim of this recommendation was to realign the force structure and to maximize organizational
effectiveness at Selfridge, MI. Further, this recommendation enables conversion of Selfridge ANGB from F-16s to A-10s, in line with the Department's intent to retire older F-16s while maintaining a flying mission, and retaining skilled Airmen, in
the Michigan area.
Commission Recommendations: The Commission found that the Secretary of Defense deviated substantially from final selection criteria 1 and 3, as well as from the Force Structure Plan. Therefore, the Commission recommends the following:
Realign Beale Air Force Base, CA. Distribute the 940th Air Refueling Wing's (AFR) KC-135R/T aircraft to meet the
Primary Aircraft Authorizations (PAA) requirements established by the Base Closure and Realignment recommendations of
the Secretary of Defense, as amended by the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission. The 940th Air Refueling
Wing's Expeditionary Combat Support (ECS) elements will remain in place.
Establish 12 PAA KC-135R/T aircraft at the 134th Air Refueling Wing (ANG), McGhee-Tyson Airport Air Guard Station,
Tennessee. The KC-135E aircraft assigned to the 134th Air Refueling Wing will be transferred to the Aerospace
Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC) at Davis-Monthan AFB, AZ, for appropriate disposal as economically
The Commission found that this change and the recommendation as amended are consistent with the final selection criteria
and the Force Structure Plan. The full text of this and all Commission recommendations can be found in Appendix Q.
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