509th Bomber Wing
The 509th Bomb Wing (509 BW) is a direct descendant organization of the World War II 509th Composite Group (509th CG). The 509th CG had a single mission: to drop the atomic bomb. The group made history on 6 August 1945, when the B-29 Superfortress, “Enola Gay,” piloted by Col Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. The B-29 “Bockscar,” piloted by Maj Charles Sweeney flew over the Japanese mainland on 9 August 1945 and dropped the second atomic bomb on Nagasaki.
509th Bomber Wing moved its people and equipment to Pease AFB, Portsmouth, NH. in August 1958. There, the wing continued to function as an integral part of SAC.
By 1965, its B-47s for was scheduled for retirement. Unfortunately, this retirement also included the 509th.
Fate intervened, however, as SAC decided to keep the 509th alive and equipped it with B-52s and KC-135s. Thus, the wing received its first B-52 and KC-135 in March 1966.
509th Bomber Wing association with the B-52 included two major deployments to Andersen AFB, Guam, as part of the now famous Vietnam War Arc Light missions. In April 1968 and again in April 1969, the wing began six-month ventures in the Western Pacific.
General Dynamics F-111A
During the last deployment, SAC informed the 509th that the wing would swap its B-52s for F-111A’s.
Originally known as the TFX (Tactical Fighter “X”), the F-111 was conceived to meet a U.S. Air Force requirement for a new tactical fighter-bomber. In 1960 the Department of Defense combined the USAF’s requirement with a Navy need for a new air superiority fighter.
The USAF’s F-111A first flew in December 1964, and the first production models were delivered to the USAF in 1967. Meanwhile, the Navy’s F-111B program was canceled. In all, 566 F-111s of all series were built; 159 of them were F-111As. Although the F-111 was unofficially referred to as the Aardvark, it did not receive the name officially until it was retired in 1996.
Accordingly, the wing began receiving the formidable fighter-bomber in December 1970. Over the next two decades, little changed for the 509th BW as it became SAC’s fighter-bomber experts.
However, a decision by the Department of Defense in 1988 to close * 17 Air Force Bases created major changes for the famous 509th. Headquarters SAC decreed that the 509th would not inactivate but transfer to Whiteman AFB to become the first B-2 Stealth bomber unit. As such, the wing moved to Whiteman on Sept. 30, 1990, without people and equipment.
The B-2 Stealth
The current 509th Bomber Wing also led the way for America’s first military response following the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington D.C. on 11 September 2001.
B-2 bombers were the first U.S. aircraft to enter Afghan airspace in October 2001. Paving the way for other coalition aircraft to engage Taliban and Al Qaeda forces.
During this operation, the aircraft flew roundtrip from Missouri, logging combat missions in excess of 40 hours – the longest on record.
* The United States Department of Defense released the 1988 Base Realignment and Closure Commission preliminary list, It recommended closing 17 major United States military bases.
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