In 1953, Loring AFB was activated and occupied approximately 8,900 acres. This base was home to a series of state-of-the-art bombers and support aircraft. Loring AFB was officially deactivated on September 30, 1994.
Originally constructed to accommodate B-36 bombers, Loring AFB was sited to take advantage of Maine's proximity to Europe and the Soviet Union. Situated at the tip of the 600 mile New England promontory, Loring AFB is the closest continental US (CONUS) base to virtually every potential conflict area east of the United States. Loring AFB straddled the primary great circle route for the entire eastern half of the United States to Europe, the Soviet Union, the Middle East, and the Persian Gulf. As the `last stop' along that route, Loring AFB was ideally situated to provide tanker support in both wartime and peacetime operations.
Loring AFB was the closest base in the continental United States to the Soviet Union east of the Urals, to Europe and to the Middle East. Loring was a megabase, with enormous capacity, second in all of SAC. It had two runways, and only two other SAC bases had two runways. It had the largest capacity for weapon storage and for fuel storage in all of SAC. It had the most operational flexibility or the greatest expansion for the future beyond the turn of the century of the three SAC bases in the Northeast.
Loring AFB lies approximately 2 miles northwest of the town of Limestone, 8 miles northeast of Caribou, and 5 miles west of the Canadian border at New Brunswick, Canada. The land surrounding the base is primarily rural and agricultural. The topography of the base is gently rolling, with several brooks running through the terrain. The main base elevations range from 746 feet above mean sea level on the main runway to approximately 570 feet above mean sea level on the southwestern portion of the base.
Loring AFB was built in the 1950's to accommodate 100 B-36 bombers. At Loring in May 1948, SAC had anticipated 10 thin-shell hangars, built one after the other-an arrangement that would have accommodated 20 B-36s, two per maintenance hangar. By August 1950, the Loring construction program did not specify the projected number of hangars, but instead recorded that 10 additional B-36s required hangars at an overall estimated facilities cost of five million dollars. While what is immediately noticeable is the 50% reduction in number of bombers to be in maintenance at any one time, what is also pertinent is the lack of enumeration for the planned hangars.
The 42d Bombardment Wing (Heavy) was established on 25 February 1953, assigned to Strategic Air Command (SAC) at Limestone (later Loring) AFB, Maine, flying the B-36 Peacemaker bomber. The first Boeing B-52C Stratofortress assigned to the wing arrived at Loring on 16 June 1956. The 42nd Bomb Wing at Loring AFB deployed Detachment 1 to McGuire AFB from 01 January 1970 through early 1975 [possibly only with KC-135s].
At 14,300 acres, Loring AFB was the 2nd largest base in SAC. There is ample space to accommodate any number of new missions and there is no threat of encroachment from the surrounding community. Loring's ramps, parking areas, weapons storage, and fuel storage capacities all far exceed current requirements. Loring AFB's overall capacity ranked second among all 21 SAC bases. This capacity, coupled with Loring AFB's strategic location, provides defense planners with unparalleled flexibility for future expansion. Loring AFB is one of only three (3) SAC bases which have two fully capable runways. The second runway was completed in 1985. Loring AFB's ramp space exceeds 1.1 million square yards. It ranks 2nd among all SAC bases in total ramp space and 1st in excess ramp space. Loring AFB's weapons storage capacity is 10,247,882 NEW (Net Explosive Weight)--the highest in all of SAC. Plattsburgh AFB, NY had less than 28% of Loring AFB's weapons storage capacity. Further, Loring AFB has one of two fully capable conventional weapons storage facilities in CONUS maintained by SAC. This facility represents a significant warfighting capability. Loring AFB ranked 1st in all of SAC in fuel storage capacity (9,193,374 gallons). The nearest SAC base to Loring AFB, Plattsburgh AFB, NY, had less than 35% of Loring AFB's fuel storage capacity.
Loring's air space was unencumbered, in contrast to every other SAC base in the Northeast. CERT (Conventional Enhanced Release Training) is a bombing range located adjacent to the runway on which B-52's can drop practice ordnance. Loring AFB was one of only four (4) SAC bases that had a CERT. A major Low Level training area entry point lies just 165 miles from Loring AFB. This area contains several alternative routes and training opportunities, and provides varied training options throughout the year. The preponderance of bombing and navigation training is accomplished during Low Level flight activity.
While Loring AFB's location was ideal for wartime, it had the disadvantage of being far from the western Strategic Training Route Complex (STRC), and the Nevada and Utah bombing ranges--the only U.S. ranges where B-52's may drop live munitions. Since SAC training requirements only require crews to drop ordnance on these ranges twice a year, this is a relatively minor inconvenience. Far more frequent training is conducted in the Low Level route structure adjacent to Loring AFB and on the CERT which is located at Loring AFB. Furthermore, since all eastern based B-52's must fly several hours to reach the STRC and live bombing ranges this problem is not unique to Loring AFB.
Loring AFB was first targeted for closure in 1976. The Air Force's primary rationale at that time was the poor condition of Loring AFB's facilities. In 1976 it was estimated that Loring AFB needed up to $300 million in facilities' improvements. Between 1976 and 1979 considerable debate took place over the strategic importance of Loring AFB resulting in a reversal of the Air Force decision to close the base. When the decision to keep Loring AFB open was made in 1979, the Congress committed itself to upgrading the base facilities. Since 1981, nearly $300 million in military construction and operations and maintenance (O&M) funds have been spent to upgrade the facilities at Loring AFB.
Because of its geostrategic location, Loring AFB played a pivotal role in the conduct of Desert Shield/Desert Storm, and in the return of US forces from the Persian Gulf. During the contingency, Loring AFB bombers fought from forward bases, and some Loring AFB tankers supported the effort from forward bases. Tankers operating from Loring AFB served as force multipliers by refueling bombers, transports and fighters transiting the North Atlantic to the Persian Gulf. Loring AFB also provided a last-chance opportunity for maintenance, crew rest or ground refueling before crossing the ocean.
During the return of personnel and equipment from Desert Storm, Loring AFB's location again advantaged the effort. Tankers from the base were vital to the safe transit of the Atlantic, and permitted many aircraft to proceed non-stop to their destinations. As the nation's most northeastern military facility, Loring AFB also played a vital role for many aircraft that could not safely continue to their destinations. Numerous transport, fighter and bomber aircraft returning from the Persian Gulf landed at Loring AFB for maintenance, ground refueling, or personnel services.
Between August 2, 1990 and May 10, 1991 more than 1,700 aircraft in transit to or from Desert Shield/Desert Storm made technical or refueling stops at Loring AFB. These included C-141, C-5, C-130, C-21, A-4, A-10, Boeing 707, F-16, F/A-18, F-111, P-3, TR-1, U-2, B-52, KC-10, KC-135, E-3A, EA-6B, and E-8A aircraft.
In 1991 the Secretary of Defense, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of the Air Force, identified six Strategic Air Command (SAC) bases for closure. Loring Air Force Base, in Limestone Maine, was one of the six bases on the closure list.
The last B-52G departed the base on 16 November 1993. Likewise, the final KC-135R left on 2 March 1994. Loring closed on 30 September 1994.
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