28th Bomb Wing
In March 1999, the Air Force announced that the 28th Bomb Wing would be a lead unit for the new Expeditionary Air Force concept. This represents a fundamental change in the way the Air Force will fight a war. Expeditionary Aerospace forces (EAF) will respond quickly to worldwide crises while reducing the operations tempo for Air Force personnel.
In 2005, however, the DoD recommended to distribute the 28th's B1's to the 7th Bomber Wing at Dyess AFB as part of a larger recommendation that would close Ellsworth AFB.
The 28th Bomb Wing, deployed as the 28th Air Expeditionary Wing, supported flight operations over Afghanistan. The 28th Aerospace Expeditionary Wing wrote a new chapter in airpower history during Operation Enduring Freedom.
A B-1B assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth Air Force Base, SD, crashed into the Indian Ocean on December 12, 2002. As of late September 2002, the cause of the crash remained unkown. An Air Combat Command Accident Investigation Board report stated that aircraft malfunctions affecting the reliability of the pilots' attitude information might have made it difficult for the pilots to maintain control of the aircraft. The four-member crew ejected and sustained minor injuries. A Navy rescue team found them. The aircraft, which was destroyed on impact with the ocean and sank, was not found. At the time of the crash, the aircraft was temporarily assigned to the 34th Expeditionary Bomb Squadron to fly combat missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom.
In December 2001, the commander of the Air Force's bomber fleet visited an Operation Enduring Freedom location to assess the bombers' performance and the people behind their success. Lt. Gen. Thomas J. Keck, the 8th Air Force commander from Barksdale Air Force Base, La., who was overseeing the warfighting capability and the operational readiness of the nation's B-52 Stratofortress, B-1B Lancer, and B-2 Spirit bombers, toured the flightline, operations and maintenance centers, munitions depot, and "Tent City" to meet the people who make up the wing. He also met with the Naval Support Facility command staff, the 28th Air Expeditionary Wing's host, as well as the crew of the USS Russell destroyer, who rescued a B-1 crew from the Indian Ocean after their aircraft experienced problems and they were forced to eject.
In May 2002 Brig. Gen. Edward Rice Jr. won the 2002 Moller Trophy as the top wing commander in Air Combat Command. General Rice commanded the 28th Bomb Wing, Ellsworth AFB, S.D., from May 2000 through April 2002. General Rice's leadership as the 28th Air Expeditionary Wing commander during Operation Enduring Freedom and his role as an Air Force ambassador both in political and civilian arenas were also lauded by ACC officials.
The history of the 28th Bomb Wing began with the 28 Bombardment Group (28 BG), the wing's primary operational element when the War Department first organized the wing in 1947. On 22 December 1939, the US Army Air Corps originally constituted the 28th Composite Group. Two months later the group saw its first active duty as the 28th Bombardment Group (Composite), assigned to March Field, California. After a short stint at Moffett Field, California, the group moved to Elmendorf Field, Alaska, where its assigned squadrons operated primarily from bases in the Aleutian Islands. They flew various aircraft including the B-17 Flying Fortress, B-18 Bolo, B-24 Liberator, B-25 Mitchell, B-26 Marauder, and P-38 Lightening, and compiled an impressive combat record against the enemy in the Northern Pacific.
In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to close Ellsworth AFB, SD. The 24 B-1 aircraft assigned to the 28th Bomb Wing would be distributed to the 7th Bomb Wing, Dyess Air Force Base, TX. This recommendation would consolidate the B-1 fleet at one installation to achieve operational efficiencies. Ellsworth (39) ranked lower in military value for the bomber mission than Dyess (20).
After the war, the group inactivated temporarily before coming back as the 28th Bombardment Group (Heavy) to work for the new Strategic Air Command (SAC). This time the group's assigned squadrons flew the B-29 Superfortress while they conducted six months of post-war arctic operations in Alaska. In May 1947, the group and its subordinate units relocated to Rapid City Army Air Field (later Ellsworth AFB) and awaited the activation of the new headquarters to which they would soon be assigned: the 28th Bombardment Wing. Two 28 Composite Group B-24 Liberator's land after a mission in the Aleutian Islands When operations resumed in 1947, the primary unit assigned to Rapid City Air Force Base was the new 28th Bombardment Wing (BMW) flying the B-29 Superfortress.
The 28th Bomb Wing was established on 28 July 1947 under the "Hobson Plan", which was designed to streamline the peacetime forces after WWII. The wing existed only on paper until 15 August 1947 when SAC organized it under the 15th Air Force. Upon its activation, the wing included the 28 Bombardment Group (Heavy), 28th Airdrome Group (now Support Group), 28th Maintenance and Supply Group (Now Logistics Group), 28th Station Medical Group, and the 612th Army Air Forces Band.
On 12 July 1948, in its first of many name changes, SAC activated the organization as the 28th Bombardment Wing, Medium. Just one week later, the wing deployed the entire 28th Bombardment Group and its 77th, 717th, and 718th Bombardment Squadrons (BS) to England for a 90 day B-29 show-of-force mission during the Soviet blockade of Berlin. The wing flew the B-29 until 1950 and maintained proficiency in heavy global bombardment.
In May 1949, in preparation for the huge B-36 Peacemaker, the wing's name changed to the 28th Bombardment Wing, Heavy. Shortly after additional runway improvements, in July 1949, the 28 BMW began conversion from B-29s to the huge B-36 Peacemaker. In April 1950 the Air Staff reassigned the base from 15th Air Force to 8th Air Force.
By 1950 the wing had gradually transitioned out of the Superfortress and into the Peacemaker. With the change in aircraft also came a modified mission: global strategic reconnaissance with bombardment as a secondary tasking. The wing's name changed again in April 1950, this time to the 28th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Heavy. Meanwhile intermediate command assignments changed from the 15th to the 8th Air Force. In May 1951 the wing flew a record setting B-36 training mission lasting 41 hours without refueling. In June 1952, SAC inactivated the old 28th BG and assigned its squadrons directly under the 28 BW.
In March 1953 an RB-36 and its entire crew of 23 crashed in Newfoundland while returning from a routine exercise in Europe. On 13 June 1953, President Dwight D. Eisenhower made a personal visit to dedicate the base in memory of Brig Gen Richard E. Ellsworth, commander of the 28th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, who lost his life in that accident.
Although the wing's aerial reconnaissance capability lasted until September 1958, by April 1955 the Air Force had already changed the wing back to its former status as the 28th Bombardment Wing, Heavy, under the 15th Air Force (later attached to the 3rd Air Division), which specialized almost exclusively in ordnance delivery. Headquarters Strategic Air Command (SAC) reassigned the 28 BMW from 8th Air Force back to 15th Air Force in October 1955. Approximately one year later, SAC set plans in motion to replace the 28th's B-36s with the new all-jet B-52 Stratofortress. The last B-36 left Ellsworth on 29 May 1957 and the first B-52 arrived sixteen days later. In 1958 all base units came under the command of the 821st Strategic Aerospace Division, headquartered at Ellsworth.
The 28 BW started replacing its B-36s with the new all-jet B-52 Stratofortress in 1957. In September 1958, a pair of the wing's new B-52s set two world speed records over a closed course without payload, while simultaneously setting a record for jet closed course distance without refueling. In February 1959 the wing gained its first KC-135 Stratotanker along with the new 928th Air Refueling Squadron (AREFS). This unit provided in-flight refueling for long-range sorties during lengthy continental US or overseas deployments. The 717th and 718th Bombardment Squadrons inactivated in February 1960. In October of that same year the 28th AREFS succeeded the 928 AREFS, which inactivated. In 1961 the 28 BW began flying airborne indoctrination sorties for SAC. From December 1960-January 1962 the wing even controlled a non-equipped Titan ICBM unit, the 850th Strategic Missile Squadron. The 97th AREFS and its KC-97 Stratofreighters also joined the wing from July 1962-March 1964. In 1965, the wing gained the new EC-135 post attack command and control systems (PACCS) aircraft to perform airborne launch control functions for USAF Minuteman (and later Peacekeeper) missile wings.
In March 1966 the 28 BW sent its first B-52s to Southeast Asia. Some of these planes flew the first Arc Light bombing missions over Vietnam. Wing bombers earned the distinction of flying both the 1,000th and 5,000th B-52 sortie against the enemy in this theater. The wing's extensive involvement in Southeast Asian combat (flying both bombers and tankers) continued for nine years. In December 1972, Capt John D. Mize, 77 BS, was the first person in SAC to receive an Air Force Cross for heroism for his efforts to save the lives of his crewmen after a surface to air missile (SAM) attack during a Linebacker II mission over Hanoi.
The wing's hardware improvements and organizational changes continued. In April 1970 the 4th Airborne Command and Control Squadron (ACCS) joined the 28 BW. The 4 ACCS flew specially modified EC-135 electronic aircraft, and gave the 28 BW a unique position within the Air Force. The 4 ACCS was one of three Strategic Air Command (SAC) flying command post squadrons and one of two squadrons to incorporate systems for an airborne command control center for airborne missile launch control. In June of 1971 the wing's intermediate headquarters changed to the 821st Air (later Strategic Aerospace) Division. On 15 January 1973, headquarters again changed to the 4th Strategic Missile (later 4th Air) Division. The 37th Bomb Squadron joined the 28 BW from July 1977 to October 1982.
In 1982 the 28 BW assumed the bomber role in the Strategic Projection Force and maintained readiness for global conventional operations with specially-modified B-52s. The B-52 mission expanded in 1984 to include sea reconnaissance, surveillance, and conventional operations from forward bases overseas. The wing tested this latter capability during its first deployment to Egypt during Bright Star '85. Also during this year, upgraded KC-135R tankers replaced the wing's older "A" models. In March 1986, thirty years of B-52 service came to an end for the 28 BW as the last B-52H departed in preparation for the arrival of the new B-1B Lancer.
In 1986 the 28 BMW made extensive preparations to phase out the aging B-52 fleet and become the new home for the advanced B-1B Lancer. Contractors completed new unaccompanied enlisted dormitories in March, a new security police group headquarters in October, and gave Ellsworth's 13,497 foot runway a much-needed facelift. In addition, they completed new aircraft maintenance facilities for the complex new bird. In January 1987, the wing received the first of 35 B-1B bombers.
The 37 BS returned to operational duty with the 28 BW in January 1987, just in time to join the 77 BS in training on the new bombers. The first B-1B arrived on 21 January 1987. In July 1988 the 57th Air Division became the wing's new higher headquarters. In 1989 the wing's B-1Bs earned the Fairchild Trophy, Crumm Linebacker Trophy, Eaker Trophy, and the Omaha Trophy for superior bomber operations and the most outstanding wing in SAC. The wing also provided tanker support for Operation Just Cause, December 1989-January 1990.
In July 1990 the Strategic Warfare Center became the latest of the wing's intermediate headquarters. In September 1990 the 28 BW earned the Sweeny Trophy. Adding to its extensive combat experience, the wing deployed both tanker and airborne command post aircraft to Operation's Desert Sheild/Desert Storm from August 1990-March 1991. In June 1991, the wing also received the Hoban Trophy.
On 1 September 1991 SAC redesignated the 28 BW as the 28th Wing, and once again assigned it directly under Eighth Air Force, and as part of the new objective wing organization, reactivated the old 28 BG under the new name of the 28th Operations Group. The 28th Wing also regained host wing responsibilities for Ellsworth AFB from the 44th Missile Wing.
On 28 September 1991 the Secretary of Defense ordered B-1Bs and tankers off alert. The 4 ACCS continued to maintain an alert crew until May 1992. On 1 June 1992, simultaneously, SAC inactivated, Air Combat Command activated, the 28th Wing changed names to the 28th Bomb Wing, and the 28 AREFS became a geographically separated unit assigned to Malmstrom AFB, Montana. In September 1992 the 4 ACCS also inactivated, having effectively worked themselves out of a job by helping America's deterrent resolve win the Cold War. Also during this year the wing won its second Eaker Trophy.
In 1993 the 28 BW continued to adapt to meet new defense demands in light of the world's changing threats. The wing's versatile B-1Bs were the first in ACC to transition from their former strategic role to an all-conventional mission. The 28th's operational squadrons could conceivably touch anywhere in the world to meet national defense needs. Ellsworth tested this concept in 1993 and early 1994 during such events as: "Team Spirit" (the first B-1Bs ever to land in Korea); "Global Power" (various long-duration, round trip sorties flown from Ellsworth to bomb training ranges in another continent.); and "Bright Star" (the wing's second but the B-1Bs first visit to a major JCS exercise in Southwest Asia).
From June through December 1994, 28 BW B-1Bs participated in a Congressionally directed operational readiness assessment known locally as "Dakota Challenge." This test, conducted exclusively by the 28 BW, proved the B-1B to be a versatile and reliable weapon system; the mainstay of America's heavy bomber fleet for years to come.
On 31 March 1995, the 77 BS--a unit that had served under the wing since 1948--inactivated. It's B-1Bs became part of ACC's reconstitution reserve. This action freed funds to allow the Air Force to develop new precision-guided munitions, which will benefit our country's defense for years to come. The Air Force announced in early 1996 that the 77 BS would once again activate under the 28 BW on 1 April 1997. In November 1998, they received the first Block D upgraded B-1B in the USAF inventory. The Block D upgrade brings the capability for the B-1 to drop the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), which is a global positioning system (GPS) guided munition. (These are the upgrades that were paid for with the funds that were freed during the 77 BS's inactivation).
One B-1B from the 28th Bomb Wing departed for Southwest Asia 18 December 1997 to support the president's request for additional bomber forces in the Operation Desert Fox theater of operation. The 7th Bomb Wing at Dyess Air Force Base also launched a B-1B Dec. 18. This brings the total number of B-1Bs in theater to six -- three from Ellsworth and three from Dyess. B-1Bs from both bases saw their first combat action in air raids over Iraq 17 December 1997. Details on the number of B-1Bs used and battle damage assessment information is not being released; however, the the missions were characterized as "very successful."
In December 1998, 28 BW deployed aircraft, which flew under the flag of the 28th Air Expeditionary Group in Operation Desert Fox, were the first B-1s to drop bombs on an enemy target.
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