401st Air Expeditionary Wing

401st Air Expeditionary Wing

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= 401st Air Expeditionary Wing

caption= 401st Air Expeditionary Wing emblem
dates= 1943 -Present
country= United States
branch= United States Air Force
type= Air Expeditionary
role= Combat Support
motto= CAELUM ARENA NOSTRA - "The Sky is Our Arena"
notable_commanders= Wilbur L. Creech

The United States Air Force's 401st Air Expeditionary Wing is an Air Expeditionary unit of the United States Air Forces in Europe's Sixteenth Air Force active from 1943-1994 and then active in 2001 and 2003 as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In April 2003, the Wing ran KC-135 operations from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus, as revealed in a November 2003 accident investigation report. [ [http://www.trackpads.com/forum/air-force/497-gear-up-oops.html Gear up? Oops! - Trackpads Community ] ]


* 401st Bombardment Group (Heavy) (1943-1945)
* 401st Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) (1947-1949)
* 401st Bombardment Group (Medium) (1949-1951)
* 401st Tactical Fighter Wing (1959-1991)
* 401st Fighter Wing (1991-1994)
* 401st Air Expeditionary Wing (2001-?)

Bases Assigned

United States Army Air Forces
* Ephrata AAB, Washington (1943)
* Geiger Field, Washington (1943)
* Great Falls AAB, Montana (1943)
* RAF Deenethorpe, England (1943-1945)
* Sioux Falls AAF, South Dakota (1945)
United States Air Force
* Strategic Air Command
** Brooks AFB, Texas, (1947-1949)
** Biggs AFB, Texas, (1949-1951)
* Tactical Air Command
** England AFB, Louisiana, (1959-1966)
* United States Air Forces in Europe
** Torrejon Air Base Spain (1966-1992)
** Aviano Air Base Italy (1992-1994)
** Bourgas / Sarafovo, Bulgaria (2001-Present)***
** RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus (Operation Iraqi Freedom, circa March 2003)
** Det 1, 401st AEW - Tuzla AB, Bosnia and Herzegovina (2001-present)Note: ***Unconfirmed Location

Aircraft Operated

* Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress
* Boeing B-29 Superfortress
* North American F-100 Super Sabre
* McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II
* General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon


World War II

The United States Army Air Forces 401st Bombardment Group (Heavy) was activated on 1 April 1943 at Ephrata AAB, Washington. The group was equipped with the B-17 Flying Fortress. It trained for combat at various airfields in the United States before being deployed to the Eighth Air Force at RAF Deenethorpe England in November 1943. The 401st was assigned to the 94th Combat Bombardment Wing of the 1st Bombardment Division. Its tail code was Triangle-S.

The group consisted of the following operational squadrons:

* 612th Bomb Squadron (SC)
* 613th Bomb Squadron (IN)
* 614th Bomb Squadron (IW)
* 615th Bomb Squadron (IY)The 401st BG operated chiefly against strategic targets, bombing industries, submarine facilities, shipyards, missile sites, marshalling yards, and airfields; beginning in October 1944, concentrated on oil reserves. The Group received a Distinguished Unit Citation for striking telling blows against German aircraft production on 11 January and 20 February 1944.

In addition to strategic missions, group operations included attacks on transportation, airfields, and fortifications prior to the Normandy invasion and on D-Day, June 1944; support for ground operations during the breakthrough at Saint-Lô in July, the siege of Brest in August, and the airborne attack on Holland in September 1944.

The Group flew missions against enemy forces during the Battle of the Bulge, December 1944 - January 1945, by assaulting transportation targets and communications centers in the battle area; and support for the airborne attack across the Rhine in March 1945.

The worst accident occurred in December 1943 when a Fortress which failed to get off the ground careered over farmland and came to rest after crashing into a cottage on the edge of Deenethorpe village. The surviving members of the crew just had time to evacuate the wreckage and warn the villagers of the imminent explosion of the bomb load before it detonated damaging many houses in the village. The blast was felt in Kettering nine miles away

After V-E Day, the group departed from Deenethorpe in August 1945 and returned to Sioux Falls AAF where the unit was deactivated, personnel demobilized and B-17 aircraft sent to storage.

The group had flown 255 combat missions from Deenethorpe airfield.

Cold War

Strategic Air Command

During the early years of the Cold War the unit was redesignated as the 401st Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) and was allotted to the USAF reserve. It was activated on 26 June 1947 by Strategic Air Command at Brooks AFB, Texas, being equipped with the Boeing B-29 Superfortress. The 401st was redesignated the 401st Bombardment Group (Medium) in June 1949 and transferred to Biggs AFB, Texas when the Convair B-36 Peacekeeper entered the inventory. The unit was inactivated on 25 June 1951 when the B-29 was phased out of SAC.

Tactical Air Command

The 401st Tactical Fighter Wing was activated on 1 April 1959 at England AFB Louisiana from the personnel assets of the deactivating 366th TFW. It was equipped with the North American F-100 "Super Sabre" aircraft. The honors, lineage and history of the USAAF/USAF 401st Bombardment Group was bestowed on the wing upon activation.

Three tactical fighter squadrons (612th, 613th, 614th) were redesignated from former 366th TFW units.

The 401st TFW Participated in numerous firepower demonstrations, tactical exercises and maneuvers in the United States and overseas, and deployed its tactical squadrons to bases in Europe and the Middle East in support of NATO. Deployed to Homestead AFB, Florida during Cuban Missile Crisis (1962) as tactical airstrike unit.

From February 1964 to November 1965, wing squadron deployments shifted to the Far East and Southeast Asia in support of operations in that area, then returned to support operations in Europe-Middle East.

The 401st wing designation along with 613th TFS was reassigned to USAFE at Torrejon Air Base, Spain on 27 April 1966. The 612th and 614th TFS were reassigned to Phan Rang AB and Phu Cat AB, South Vietnam respectively.

United States Air Forces in Europe

Prior to 1966, Torrejon AB hosted TDY squadrons of tactical aircraft rotating from CONUS TAC bases which would perform 30-day rotations to Aviano Air Base Italy and Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. With the USAFE takeover of the base, Tactical Air Command transferred the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing from England Air Force Base Louisiana to USAFE on a permanent basis to Torrejon on 27 April to perform host functions at the base and to support the rotational TDY duty to Italy and Turkey for NATO alerts.

The 401st TFW's initial operational squadrons at Torrejon were:

* 307th Tactical Fighter (1966 - 1971) (Tail Code: TJ)
* 353d Tactical Fighter (1966 - 1971) (Tail Code: TK)
* 613th Tactical Fighter (1966 - 1993) (Yellow/Black Tails, Tail Code: TL)

401st TFW squadrons flew the North American F-100D/F Super Sabre.

Due to the demands of the Vietnam War, the 401st had deployed two of its three permanently assigned fighter squadrons (612th, 614th) to South Vietnamese bases (Phan Rang AB, Phu Cat AB). To provide the 401st a full operational capability at Torrejon, aircraft and personnel were transferred on a permanent basis to the 401st TFW from Homestead AFB, Florida (307th TFS) and Myrtle Beach AFB South Carolina (353d TFS). In 1970 the 401st TFW upgraded to the McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II. In September 1973, an equipment change to the F-4C model took place, then in 1978 to the F-4D.
Pastro, TX. (Photo taken at Ramstein Air Base, West Germany] As a result of the withdrawal of USAF forces in South Vietnam, in 1972 the 307th and 353d fighter squadrons were returned to their home bases, and the 612th and 614th TFSs were assigned to Torrejon. Also in 1972, squadron tail codes were eliminated and "TJ" became the tail code for all 401st TFW aircraft. In 1983 the 401st upgraded to the General Dynamics Block 15 F-16A/B Fighting Falcon. Operational squadrons were:

* 612th Tactical Fighter Squadron (blue tail stripe)
* 613th Tactical Fighter Squadron (yellow tail stripe)
* 614th Tactical Fighter Squadron (red tail stripe)

The F-16s were upgraded to the Block 30 F-16C/D in July 1988.

In January 1988, Spain and the United States announced jointly that agreement had been reached in principle on a new base agreement with an initial term of eight years. The agreement essentially meeting the conditions demanded by Spain that the USAF withdraw from the base. The F-16 aircraft were to be removed from Torrejon by mid-1991 which would end the USAFE usefulness of the facility. It was expected that this step would reduce the number of United States personnel in Spain by nearly one-half.

Implementation of this agreement was delayed by the 1990/91 crisis in Kuwait, when the 401st TFW was one of the first American fighter wings to respond, deploying forward to its wartime bases at Aviano and Incirlik Turkey. However, after the 1991 cease-fire in Iraq, plans proceeded to close Torrejon Air Base.

On 1 October 1991 the wing was redesignated the 401st Fighter Wing.

On 28 June, the 613th TFS was deactivated and its aircraft sent to Air National Guard squadrons in the United States. The 612th FS deactivated on 1 October, and the 614th FS on 1 January 1992.

In accordance with the 1988 agreement, the USAF portion of the base was returned to the Spanish government on 21 May 1992, with the 401st Fighter Wing being transferred to Aviano Air Base Italy without personnel or equipment.

The tenure of the 401st FW at Aviano AB was brief, as a result of Hurricane Andrew destroying Homestead AFB, Florida in August 1992. The 31st Fighter Wing at Homestead was transferred by Air Combat Command to Aviano on 1 April 1994, taking over the assets of the 401st Fighter Wing and deactivating the unit in place.

Post Cold War

The 401st Air Expeditionary Group (note: Group, not Wing) was activated in 2001 by USAFE to perform combat support duties as part of the Global War on Terrorism. Detachment 1 was located at Tuzla Air Base, Bosnia and Herzegovina. [ [http://www.tfeagle.army.mil/units/Eagle/eabg/ Task Force Eagle- Multinational Division- North (Eagle Base) in Bosnia ] ] At the beginning of Operation Iraqi Freedom, Globalsecurity.org guessed that the Wing might be operating from Souda Bay, Crete, but actually the Wing was running KC-135 operations from RAF Akrotiri, Cyprus.

In June 2003 the 401st Air Expeditionary Wing was reactivated at Aviano Air Base, Italy, replacing the 16th AEW, deactivating so as to eliminiate an overlap in heraldry with the 16th SOW at Hurlburt Field, Florida. [ [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/library/news/2003/06/mil-030616-usafe01.htm Aviano AEW gets new designation, new commander ] ]


* 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
* Freeman, Roger A., "Airfields Of The Eighth, Then And Now", 1978
* Maurer Maurer, "Air Force Combat Units Of World War II", Office of Air Force History, 1983
* Mueller, Robert, Air Force Bases Volume I, Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982, Office of Air Force History, 1989
* 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
* [http://home.att.net/~jbaugher/usafserials.html USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers--1908 to present]
* [http://www.controltowers.co.uk/D/Deenethorpe.htm www.controltowers.co.uk Deenethorpe]
* [http://mighty8thaf.preller.us/php/1Unit.php?Unitkey=401 mighty8thaf.preller.us Deenethorpe]
* [http://www.globalsecurity.org/military/ops/iraq_orbat_air.htm 2003 US Forces Order of Battle - Globalsecurity.org]

External links

* [http://www.airtoaircombat.com/background.asp?bg=43&id=8 F-16 Distribution - Air-to-Air-Combat.com]
* [http://home.att.net/~jbaugher1/f4_10.html F-4D Distribution - Joe Baugher's Page]
* [http://www.tfeagle.army.mil/units/Eagle/eabg/ Task Force Eagle Units]

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