Spangdahlem Air Base

Spangdahlem Air Base

Infobox Military Structure
name=Spangdahlem Air Base
partof=United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE)
location= Located near Trier, Germany

Airman watching over the main gate at Spangdahlem

Location In Germany
type=Air Force Base
used=September 1, 1952 - present
controlledby=United States Air Force
garrison=Third Air Force
commanders=Colonel Lee T. Wight []

Infobox Airport
name = Spangdahlem Air Base
nativename =
nativename-a =
nativename-r =

image-width =
caption =
type = Military
owner =
operator = United States Air Force
city-served =
location =
elevation-f = 1197
elevation-m = 365
coordinates = Coord|49|59|0|N|6|41|0|E|type:airport_region:US|display=inline,title
website =
metric-elev =
metric-rwy =
r1-number = 05/23
r1-length-f = 10,007
r1-length-m = 3,050
r1-surface = Asphalt
stat-year =
stat1-header =
stat1-data =
stat2-header =
stat2-data =
footnotes =

Spangdahlem Air Base is a United States Air Force base located near the small German town of Spangdahlem, near the city of Trier.


Spangdahlem is home of the 52d Fighter Wing which maintains, deploys and employs Lockheed Martin Block 50 F-16CJ and Republic A/OA-10 aircraft and TPS-75 radar systems in support of NATO and the national defense directives. Operational squadrons of the 52d Operations Group (Tail Code: SP) are:

* 22d Fighter Squadron, F-16CJ
* 23d Fighter Squadron, F-16CJ
* 81st Fighter Squadron, A/OA-10

The wing supports the Supreme Allied Commander Europe with mission-ready personnel and systems providing expeditionary air power. The wing also supports contingencies and operations other than war.

The commander of the 52d Fighter Wing is [ Colonel Lee T. Wight]

Air Mobility Command

In addition Air Mobility Command supports cargo and passenger traffic as part of its airlift mission. With the closure of Rhein-Main Air Base in 2005, the Rhein-Main Transition Program was initiated to transfer all its former transport capacities to Ramstein Air Base (70%) and Spangdahlem AB (30%).

The Air Mobility Command 726th Air Mobility Squadron at Spangdahlem supports cargo and passenger traffic as part of its airlift mission, providing command and control, maintenance and aerial port capability to all AMC aircraft transiting their ramp.

The 726th AMS utilizes various aircraft maintenance equipment, de-icers, mission vehicles and aircraft loaders. The squadron is capable of handling every type of aircraft in the AMC inventory, from C-17s and C-5s to KC-10s and KC-135s.

In November 2005 the first C-17 Globemaster III aircraft arrived at Spangdahlem.


Spangdahlem Air Base has been a military presence in Germany for over five decades. With the creation of NATO in response to Cold War tensions in Europe, USAFE wanted its vulnerable fighter units in West Germany moved west of the Rhein River to provide greater air defense warning time. France agreed to provide air base sites within their zone of occupation in the Rheinland-Palatinate as part of the NATO expansion program. The base was constructed between 1951 and 1953 at a cost of roughly $27,000,000 using French and German contractors, working under the supervision of a French government agency.

The initial USAF military presence began on 1 September 1952 with the arrival of the 7352d Air Base Squadron on 1 September 1952 from Fürstenfeldbruck Air Base near Munich. The mission of the 7532d ABS was to prepare the facility for an operational wing.

10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing

On 10 May 1953 the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing was reassigned to Spangdahlem AB from Toul-Rosieres Air Base, France. The base population at this time totaled slightly more than 1,900 personnel. Operational squadrons of the 10th TRW were:

* 1st Tactical Reconnaissance RB-26C, RB-57A
* 38th Tactical Reconnaissance RF-80A, RF-80F

Upon its arrival at Spangdahlem AB, the 10 TRW operated Lockheed RF-80A Shooting Star for daylight aerial recon and the Douglas RB-26C Invader for night recon missions. The RB-26s were replaced in October 1954 by Martin RB-57A Canberras and the RF-80s in July 1955 by Republic Aviation RF-84F Thunderjets.

In 1957 the RB-57s and RF-84s were transferred to Chateauroux-Deols Air Depot and the 1st and 38th were re-equipped with the Douglas RB-66 Destroyer. Three additional squadrons, the 19th and 30th (8 January 1958) and 42d Tactical Reconnaissance (8 December 1957) were assigned to the 10th TRW from the 66th TRW,(Sembach AB), flying variants of the RB-66.

* 19th Tactical Reconnaissance RB/EB-66
* 30th Tactical Reconnaissance RB-66B
* 42d Tactical Reconnaissance RB/WB-66

The 19th TRS operated from RAF Sculthorpe England during 1958, moving to Spangdahlem in 1959. The 42d TRS flew from RAF Chelveston and remained there as a detachment of the 10th TRW.

On 25 August 1959, the 10 TRW ended its six-year stay at Spangdahlem and moved to RAF Alconbury, England.

49th Tactical Fighter Wing

On 25 August 1959, the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing moved to Spangdahlem AB from Etain-Rouvres Air Base, France, and assumed host unit duties. In 1957, the French Government decreed that all nuclear weapons and delivery aircraft had to be removed from French soil. As a result, the nuclear-capable North American F-100C/D Super Sabresof the 49th TFW had to be removed from France.

Squadrons of the 49th TFW at Spangdahlem were:

* 7th Tactical Fighter (blue)
* 8th Tactical Fighter (yellow)
* 9th Tactical Fighter (red)

The 49 TFW flew F-100s until 1961 when it converted to the Republic F-105D/F Thunderchief, commonly known as the "Thud". The 49th TFW was only the third USAF unit to operate the F-105.

The 49th received two Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards for F-105 operations at Spangdahlem. On 9 March 1967, the Wing began receiving the McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom II.

The 49 TFW remained at Spangdahlem AB until 1 July 1968 when it relocated to Holloman Air Force Base, New Mexico, to serve as the US Air Force’s first dual-based, NATO-committed wing.

The 38th TRS was never equipped with RB-66B models. When the 10th TRW re-equipped with the RB-66 the 38th TRS and the 32nd TRS moved away from Spangdahlem (to France I believe) and re-equipped with RF-101s. The 1st TRS, 19th TRS, 30th TRS, and the 42nd TRS remained at Sangdahlem until their move to England. The 1st TAC, 19th TAC, and 30th TAC flew the RB-66B and the 42nd TAC flew the RB-66C and WB-66D. This movement of squadrons came about due to the introduction of AFM 66-1 combined maintenance concept. It was decided to keep aircraft of one general type in the same units for maintenance and supply considerations. Fighter units got the RF-101 and bomber units got the RB-66 and these units combined accordingly. I was assigned to Spang from 1956, 1957, & 1958 originally to the 1st TAC then to the 10th Field Maintenance Sqdn. when combined maintenance concept took effect. I was there for the transition from RB-57s to RB-66s.T.Cress T/SGT retired...

7149th/36th Tactical Fighter Wing

With the departure of the 49th TFW, the 7149th Air Base Group was activated to serve as a caretaker unit for a number of support organizations that remained behind after the departure of the 49 TFW. Although it did not have any assigned aircraft, the 7149 TFW would have served as a nucleus on which to build if the 49 TFW had been ordered to return to Europe to bolster NATO air forces.

On 1 January 1969, the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing, located at nearby Bitburg Air Base, assumed operational control of Spangdahlem, becoming a dual-based wing. Squadrons from the 39th TFW assigned to Spangdahlem were:

* 23d Tactical Fighter (F-4D, Tail Code: BS, red striped tail stripe)
* Det. 1, 39th Tactical Electronic Warfare (EB-66C, Tail Code: BV, green tail stripe)

The 23d carried out tactical fighter training missions, while the 39th TEWS was a deployed squadron from Shaw AFB, South Carolina to conduct electronic warfare missions and train tactical reconnaissance and electronic warfare crews in Europe.

52d Tactical Fighter Wing

On 31 December 1971 the 52d Tactical Fighter Wing was transferred without personnel or equipment from Suffolk County AFB, New York to Spangdahlem. Upon activation in Germany, the 52d TFW was transferred the two squadrons which the 36th TFW had located at Spangdahlem:

* 23d Tactical Fighter (F-4D, Tail Code: SP, blue tail stripe)
* Det. 1, 39th Tactical Electronic Warfare (EB-66, Tail Code: SP, yellow tail stripe)

The 39th TEWS returned to Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina on 1 January 1973. In turn, it was replaced in the electronic warfare role by the 81st Tactical Fighter Squadron, flying the McDonnell Douglas EF-4C Phantom II, being transferred to Spangdahlem from Zweibrücken Air Base, Germany under project "Battle Creek" , on 15 January 1973.

The 52 TFW gained its third fighter squadron with the activation of the 480th Tactical Fighter Squadron on 15 November 1976. On 1 January 1977, the 52d TFW had the following operational squadrons:

* 23d Tactical Fighter (F-4D Black tail stripe, Code: SP)
* 81st Tactical Fighter (EF-4C Yellow tail stripe, Code: SP)
* 480th Tactical Fighter (F-4D Red tail stripe, Code: SP)

In 1979, the more capable Wild Weasel F-4G had replaced the EF-4Cs of the 81st TFS, and in 1980/81 the F-4E replaced the F-4Ds of the 23d and 480th.

When becoming operational in November 1983, the 52d TFW became the first and only all-defense suppression wing outside of the United States. Under this configuration, each of the wing’s three fighter squadrons flew a mixture of E and G model F-4 fighters. The airplanes were paired into Wild Weasel hunter/killer teams capable of locating and destroying enemy radar-guided, surface-to-air threats in any weather.

In April 1987, the 52d began changing with the times and replaced its aging Phantoms with Block 30/32 F-16C/D Fighting Falcons for the 23d and 480th TFSs. These were later replaced with Block 50 versions beginning in 1993. The last USAF operational model F-4E Phantom II aircraft departed Spangdahlem AB in December 1987.

In late 1990, the 81st TFS reorganized to exclusively fly the F-4G, then deployed 24 aircraft to Shaika Isa Air Base, Bahrain for Operation Desert Storm combat operations.

52d Fighter Wing

On 1 October 1991, the 52 TFW was redesignated the 52d Fighter Wing as part of a sweeping, Air Force-wide restructure.

The 510th Fighter Squadron was moved to Spangdahlem with the closure of RAF Bentwaters England on 4 January 1993 as the lone A-10 Thunderbolt II squadron in USAFE. Also in early 1993, the 81st FS was reorganized to fly a mixture of F-4Gs and Block 30 F-16C/Ds. The F-4Gs were withdrawn and sent to AMARC in February 1994

With the withdrawal of the Phantoms, the 510th Fighter Squadron was replaced by the 81st FS being transferred to Ramstein Air Base and absorbing the F-16 assets of the 512th FS there.

Also during February 1994, the 53rd Fighter Squadron relocated to Spangdahlem from Bitburg after its closure with F-15C/Ds. The 480th FS was also inactivated during October 1994, being replaced by the 22d Fighter Squadron from Bitburg. The 606th Air Control Squadron was also assigned to the 52d Fighter Wing but remained at Bitburg until September 1995 before moving to Spangdahlem.

After the restructuring and the closure of Bitburg and transfer of 36th FW squadrons to Spangdahlem , the operational squadrons of the 52d Fighter Wing were:

* 23d Fighter (F-16CJ/D Blue tail stripe, Code: SP)
* 22d Fighter (F-16CJ/D Red tail stripe, Code: SP)
* 53d Fighter (F-15C/D Yellow and black tail stripe (Tiger stripes), Code: SP)
* 81st Fighter (OA/A-10A Yellow tail stripe, Code: SP)

The 52d made history in 1997 with its first-ever deployment to a former Warsaw Pact nation. In September the 52d participated in EAGLE’S TALON-97, the first bilateral exercise involving US and Polish Air Forces. Units from the 52d deployed under the air expeditionary force (AEF) doctrine and formed the 52d Combined Air and Space Expeditionary Wing, operating out of Powidz AB, Krzesiny AB, and Poznan, Poland.

During the second quarter of FY 99, the 52d witnessed the inactivation of the 53rd Fighter Squadron. The 53rd had called Spangdahlem Air Base home since February 1994 when the squadron moved from Bitburg Air Base. As the squadron prepared for its inactivation in March 1999, all of the F-15s were transferred to the 1st FW at Langley AFB, Virginia, or to the 48th FW at RAF Lakenheath, United Kingdom.

ee also

* United States Air Forces in Europe
* United States Air Force In Germany


* Donald, David, "Century Jets - USAF Frontline Fighters of the Cold War.", 1995
* Endicott, Judy G., "USAF Active Flying, Space, and Missile Squadrons as of 1 October 1995". Office of Air Force History
* Fletcher, Harry R., "Air Force Bases Volume II, Active Air Force Bases outside the United States of America on 17 September 1982", Office of Air Force History, 1989
* Maurer Maurer, "Air Force Combat Units Of World War II", Office of Air Force History, 1983
* Martin, Patrick, "Tail Code: The Complete History Of USAF Tactical Aircraft Tail Code Markings", 1994
* Ravenstein, Charles A., "Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977", Office of Air Force History, 1984
* Rogers, Brian, "United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978", 2005
* [ USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present]

External links

* [ Spangdahlem Air Base official website]
* [ Spangdahlem (source of history)]

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