UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!

Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

Barksdale AFB
32°30'N 93°40'W

Barksdale Air Force Base is headquarters for Air Force Global Strike Command, 2nd Bomb Wing, Eighth Air Force and the Air Force Reserve Command's 307th Wing. Air Force Global Strike Command controls the service's strategic missile and B-2, B-52 and B-1 assets, while 2d Bomb Wing provides global combat capability and trains all B-52 combat crews. Barksdale AFB is located in Bossier Parish, in the northwest corner of Louisiana just 18 miles east of the Texas border and 70 miles south of Arkansas. Interstate 20 goes right by the base, and Interstate 49 ends 8 miles from the base, near Bossier City.

Named after aviation pioneer Lt. Eugene Hoy Barksdale, the 22,000-acre base once was the world's largest airfield. Barksdale AFB is noteworthy in aviation history for its pioneering efforts in all forms of military transport and flight. It housed many different bombardment groups, Air Force divisions and flight schools. The base rose to prominence during the Cold War, becoming a Strategic Air Command (SAC) base. The resident and employee population at Barksdale AFB totals nearly 9800 individuals. There are also over 15,000 military family members living on and off base and an estimated 60,000 retirees and their family members in surrounding communities.

Beginning in 1931 construction of the airfield introduced dramatic and significant changes to the cotton plantation area. It took about 150 men and 350 mules to grade and build its landing field, plowing under 1,400 acres of cotton land. The 1940s at Barksdale saw the training of bomber crews instead of the pursuit and fighter crews as in the previous decade. Barksdale Field was renamed Barksdale Air Force Base in 1948. During 1949, Barksdale was the home of the first wing of the Air Force's first all-jet strategic reconnaissance/bomber aircraft, the North American RB-45 "Tornado," and also was home to the 2nd Air Force headquarters, bringing Barksdale into the Strategic Air Command. The Boeing B-47 "Stratojet" and Boeing KC-97 "Stratofreighter" also were assigned here during the mid-50s, with the 301st Bomb Wing.

In March 1958 the first of the base's Boeing B-52 "Stratofortresses" and Boeing KC-135 "Stratotankers" were assigned. The World War I-famous 2nd Bomb Wing transferred to Barksdale on April 1, 1963, from Hunter Field, Ga. From then into the 1970s, 2nd Bomb Wing prepared for the day when it would deploy to Southeast Asia for "Arc Light" and "Young Tiger" missions. >From 1972 through 1973 almost all of the wing's resources were deployed overseas for operations over Vietnam. All aircraft and crews returned in January and October of 1973.

A dispersal program by 2nd Bomb Wing at Barksdale AFB included deployment of Detachment 2 to Amarillo Air Terminal (formerly Amarillo AFB) and Detachment 3 to Clinton-Sherman Industrial Air Park (formerly Clinton-Sherman AFB). Both detachments were active from around 1969 until 30 March 1975 when they were inactivated.

Eight B-52 aircraft and more than 70 people deployed to RAF Fairford, England in support of NATO operations to end the crisis in Kosovo. While deployed to RAF Fairford, the B-52s and B-1s flew more than 270 combat sorties, releasing more than 11,000 weapons in more than 2,000 flight hours since March 24, 1999.

The headquarters 8th Air Force building, now home to Air Force Global Strike Command, was damaged by a fire of unknown origins in the early morning March 12, 2002. Barksdale and Bossier City firefighters and emergency services teams responded to the fire. The first members of the Barksdale response team arrived on scene shortly after 2:30 a.m. and were joined later by the Bossier City Fire Department. Almost 70 people battled the fire until about 1:30 p.m., when base officials determined it was contained.

Barksdale AFB gained an Air Force Reserve Command role in 1963 when the 917th Wing took over the south end of the BAFB campus, first operating C-124 cargo transport aircraft, later transitioning to A-37 Dragonfly attack aircraft and finally to the A-10 ground attack fighter. The major squadron to operate the fighters was the 47th Fighter Squadron, the ultimate successor to the 47th Pursuit Squadron that, stationed at Wheeler Field in Hawaii, had managed to send up a handful of pilots to combat Japanese pilots attacking Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.

In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to realign Eielson Air Force Base, AK. Some of the 354th Fighter Wing's assigned A-10 aircraft (located at Eielson AFB) would be distributed to the 917th Wing at Barksdale Air Force Base (three aircraft). This recommendation was made because, although a base with high military value, Eielson was an expensive base to maintain.

In another Recommendation, DoD recommended to realign NAS New Orleans ARS, LA. It would distribute the 926th Fighter Wing's A-10 aircraft to the 442d Fighter Wing (AFR), Whiteman AFB, MO (nine aircraft), and the 917th Wing (AFR) at Barksdale AFB (six aircraft). Both Whiteman (28) and Barksdale (33) bases had a higher military value for the A-10 operational mission than New Orleans (49). These realignments would bring the units at Whiteman and Barksdale to optimal size. Additionally, the Barksdale A-10 unit would provide close air support to the U.S. Army's Joint Readiness Training Center, one of the nation's premier joint training opportunities. Finally, realigning these A-10s to reserve units would help keep the active/Air National Guard/Air Force Reserve force structure mix constant.

However, later Air Force realignments would move the A-10 squadron and mission from Barksdale, splitting its force and sending aircraft to Davis-Monthan AFB in Tucson, AZ, and Whiteman AFB, Mo., and reassigning the 47th Fighter Squadron to Davis-Monthan effective September 2013.

The 917th Wing also cased its flags and was replaced by the 307th Bomb Wing, which was reactivated at Barksdale on 1 Jan 2011 with the 93rd and 343rd Bomb Squadrons.

The 343rd Bomb Squadron officially reactivated on April 1, 2010 under the 917th Wing, at Barksdale Air Force Base, La. A classic associate unit with the 2nd Bomb Wing, it provides an avenue for Reserve aircrew to season, upgrade and fill B-52 FTU flight instructor positions. Its association is to maintain and/or increase CAF support for Air Expeditionary Force and Global Deterrence Force rotations through Nuclear and Conventional Methods. On 1 January 2011, with the deactivation of the 917th Wing and reactivation of the 307th Bomb Wing, the 343rd realigned under Air Force Global Strike Command.

On 9 July 2011, the 707th Maintenance Squadron activated to support the 343rd Bomb Squadron. During the Air Force Global Strike Command's Global Strike Challenge in November 2011, the 307th Bomb Wing was awarded the General Curtis LeMay Trophy for best bomber operations Wing in the Air Force. On 4 June 2012, the 707th Maintenance Squadron reached a milestone with the certification of its first nuclear and conventional load crew on the B-52H Stratofortress.

In the 1990s, changing infrastructure and manpower assignments resulted in the nuclear Weapon Storage Area at Barksdale realigning as a conventional Munitions Storage Area, with the strategic assets storage and maintenance mission concentrated at Barksdale's sibling B-52 facility at Minot AFB, ND.

On 29 August 2007, six AGM-129 ACM cruise missiles from Barksdale, flown to Minot to have their W80-1 variable-yield nuclear warheads removed, were mistakenly reloaded and returned to Barksdale. The missiles and nuclear warheads remained slung on the aircraft 36 hours, all of that time unprotected by mandatory security precautions for nuclear weapons, until weapons maintenance personnel at Barksdale noticed the warheads and reported them to proper authorities.

The incident, called a Bent Spear, was reported to top military and civilian authorities up to and including the White House and Executive Branch. Resulting Department of Defense and Air Force investigations, concluded 19 October 2007, found that nuclear weapons handling standards and procedures had not been followed. Pursuant separate investigations by the Defense Science Board and the Air Force determined that changes were necessary in the procedures and processes for handling nuclear weapons within the Department of Defense. Based on this and several other incidents involving strategic weapons components, Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff of the Air Force General T. Michael Moseley on 5 June 2008 were forced to resign.

In October 2008, the Air Force announced the creation of Air Force Global Strike Command to control all of the service's nuclear bombers, missiles and personnel.

Barksdale, near one of the nation’s major data transmission lines along Interstate 20 and also to the LONI (Louisiana Optical Network Initiative), also served as the womb for the Air Force's nascent Cybercommand. This was the brainchild of Eighth Air Force commander LTG Robert J. Elder, but came to fruition under MG William Lord, with Provisional Air Force Cybercommand standing up at the base in early 2008. However, with the June 2008 resignation of Secretary of the Air Force Michael Wynne and Chief of Staff of the Air Force General T. Michael Moseley, AF Cybercommand's major boosters, plans to create a separate cyber warfare command at Barksdale were shelved. The mission was relegated to 24th Air Force and seconded to the creation of the new U.S. Cyber Command that was created in June 2009 at the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters in Fort George G. Meade, MD.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 13-03-2017 14:08:43 ZULU