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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

RAF Molesworth, UK

The tri-base area constituting the 423d Air Base Squadron is composed of RAF Alconbury, RAF Molesworth and RAF Upwood, United Kingdom. RAF Molesworth is located 14 miles west of RAF Alconbury and 11 miles northwest of Huntingdon. The 423 ABS command section and orderly room are based here, as well as the JAC, Defense Reutilization and Marketing Office (DRMO), National Imaging and Mapping Agency (NIMA), and other organizational units.

The USECOM Joint Analysis Center (JAC) mission is to analyze, process and produce fused intelligence information for the United States and NATO. The area of responsibility consists of more than 77 countries across Europe, Africa and the Middle East. It supports mission planning and operations by US, Allied and NATO commanders during peace, crisis and war.

RAF Molesworth was established as a bomber base for the Royal Air Force and it was first occupied by the Royal Australian Air Force equipped with Wellington IV aircraft. In February 1942, Gen Ira Eaker and four US staff members inspected Molesworth for possible American use. Later that year, the airfield was extended to accommodate US heavy bomber aircraft. In June, the first American bomber unit, the 15th Bombardment Squadron, arrived. The squadron's operations also marked the beginning of American daylight raids over occupied Europe. The 15th transferred from Molesworth and was replaced by the 303d Bombardment Group in September 1942. The 303d flew B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft from the base until 1945. In July of that year, the RAF regained possession of Molesworth until 1946 when the airfield was closed down.

Molesworth reopened in July 1951 for US Air Force use. The runway was extended again, and facilities were modernized before flying commenced in February 1954, with the arrival of the 582d Air Resupply Group the B-29 Super Fortress, C-119 Fairchild Flying Boxcar transport, and SA-16 Grumman Albatross search amphibian aircraft were based at RAF Molesworth to support special operations. The 482d Troop Carrier Squadron replaced the 582d in October 1956. The 482d flew SA-16 and C-54 Douglas Skymaster cargo transport aircraft until aircraft until May 1957.

In February 1985, after nearly 20 years of relative inactivity except for its use as a military family housing annex, USAFE UK Redistribution and Marketing Center, and the 7650th Aeronautical Chart and Information Squadron, the base reverted to the Royal Air Force.

In 1979, NATO ministers decided to deploy the USAF Gryphon BGM-109G Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) and the US Army's Pershing II missiles to counter the growing Soviet SS-20 intermediate range ballistic missile threat. American GLCMs were deployed in U.S. Air Force units on six missile operating bases in five Western European nations: the United Kingdom, Italy, Belgium, West Germany, and the Netherlands.

RAF Greenham Common and RAF Molesworth were selected as the beddown sites for the GLCM in the UK. Preparation began for the ground launched cruise missile mission, and new facility construction began in September 1985. The 303d Tactical Missile Wing was activated on 12 Dec 86 at RAF Molesworth. In June 1987, Headquarters USAFE delegated tactical control of Third Air Force units to the Third Air Force commander.

The 303d Tactical Missile Wing's mission changed significantly after the United States and the Soviet Union agreed to limit Intermediate- range missiles in 1988 under the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces Treaty. When the INF Treaty was signed in December 1987, the US Air Force had just begun the deployment of INF GLCM missiles at Molesworth. Eighteen missiles and six launchers were listed in the treaty's Memorandum of Understanding and had been inspected during baseline. Following that period, the Molesworth GLCMs were withdrawn from the force, prepared for shipping, and transported to the United States for elimination at Davis-Monthan AFB in Arizona. At the same time, the Air Force prepared the site at Molesworth to be closed out in accordance with the provisions of the treaty. The first removal of operation cruise missile treaty-limited items from Western Europe occurred Sept 8, 1988. Following the formal closeout declaration in December 1988, Soviet INF inspectors arrived at Molesworth on January 19, 1989, for the closeout inspection.

With the signing of the INF Treaty in December 1987, GLCMs deployed to RAF Molesworth were removed to the U.S. and the 303rd TMW inactivated Jan. 30, 1989. The last GLCMs at RAF Greenham Common were removed in March 1991, and the 501st TMW inactivated June 4, 1991.

Some of the facilities at RAF Molesworth covered under the treaty remained subject to Soviet inspection until 2001.

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