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509TH BOMB WING|
Printable Fact Sheet
The 509th Bomb Wing is part of Air Force Global Strike Command as well as the host wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri. The bomb wing and its fleet of B-2 Spirit bombers serve as part of the Air Force's conventional and strategic combat force. The men and women of the wing are capable of flying anywhere around the world from home station and delivering a wide range of precision-guided munitions.
The bomb wing and its various mission partners employs 7,600 active duty military members and civilians, Guardsmen and Reservists, including nearly 3,750 personnel that belong to Air Force Global Strike Command.
Organizations and Functions
The bomb wing manages the 509th Operations Group, 509th Maintenance Group, 509th Mission Support Group and 509th Medical Group, which handle various aspects of the wing's mission. As the host unit at Whiteman, the 509th BW also controls the special staff functions of the inspector general, wing plans, the chaplain, staff judge advocate, arms control, command post, public affairs, history and safety. The 509th Comptroller Squadron also reports directly to the 509th BW commander.
The 509th Bomb Wing, one of the most famous wings in the Air Force, traces its historical roots back to its World War II ancestor, the 509th Composite Group. The Army Air Forces (AAF) formed the Group with one mission in mind: to drop the atomic bomb. It was activated on December 17, 1944 at Wendover Field, Utah under the command of Col Paul W. Tibbets, Jr.
The Group made history when, on August 6, 1945, the B-29 Enola Gay piloted by Tibbets took off from Tinian in the Northern Marianas Islands, flew to Japan, and dropped the world's first atomic bomb (Little Boy) on Hiroshima. On August 9, 1945, the Group once again visited the Japanese mainland, and Bockscar dropped a second atomic weapon (Fat Man) on the city of Nagasaki. Within days of the nuclear strikes, the Japanese sued for peace, ending the most devastating war in world history.
Upon returning to the United States in late 1945, the Group settled into Roswell Army Air Base, New Mexico, where it became the core of the newly formed Strategic Air Command. In May of 1946, the 509th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) again traveled to the Pacific where it participated in the Operation Crossroads nuclear tests. On July 1, 1946 "Dave's Dream" dropped the Able atomic bomb on an armada of 73 obsolete naval vessels moored off the Bikini Atoll.
On November 17, 1947, SAC activated the 509th Bombardment Wing (Very Heavy) at Roswell (renamed Walker Air Force Base in 1948), and assigned the 509th Bombardment Group to the wing. The wing's mission was to carry out strategic (and if necessary, nuclear) bombing missions using their B-29s. For a brief time in 1947 and 1948, the 509th also included F-51 Mustangs and F-84 Thunderjets from the attached 33d Fighter Group as escorts for the 509th's bombers. In addition to being the first (and for two years, the only) nuclear trained and capable unit, the wing played a major role in developing another new concept that would prove vital to strategic deterrence and the projection of American airpower. From July-September in 1948, General Curtis Lemay attached one of the first two Air Refueling Squadrons (also christened the 509th) to the wing. The 509th was integral in developing air refueling tactics and procedures, during tests with the Refueling Squadron's KB-29M tankers. In 1948, the wing also re-designated as the 509th Bombardment Wing (Medium).
In June 1950, the wing began receiving B-50D Superfortresses. In 1952, the 509th Air Refueling Squadron was assigned to the wing, and in 1954, the KC-97 tanker replaced its aging KB-29s. The wing entered a new age in June 1955, when it received the first all-jet bomber, the Boeing B-47E Stratojet. In the tense Cold War days of the early 1950's the wing deployed three times to England and twice to Guam for show of force and deterrence missions.
In August 1958, the 509th moved to Pease AFB, New Hampshire. There, the wing continued to function as an integral part of SAC, maintaining its strategic nuclear alert mission. In 1965, the wing's last KC-97 was transferred and SAC scheduled all B-47s in the United States Air Force for retirement. The following year, the wing was re-designated as the 509th Bombardment Wing (Heavy) and equipped with B-52 Stratofortress bombers and KC-135 Stratotanker refueling aircraft.
In addition to sending squadron-level and smaller packages of tankers, bombers, crews and/or support personnel to augment the American war effort in Vietnam during the 10 years from 1966 to 1975, the wing participated in two major deployments to Andersen AFB, Guam (wing tankers also operated from other Pacific bases). From there, they flew Arc Light missions against enemy base camps, troop concentrations, and supply lines. In April 1968, and again in April 1969, the wing began these six-month ventures, where almost all of its B-52 force, much of its tanker fleet, and over 1400 operations, maintenance, and support personnel were deployed. During the 1968 deployment, 509th personnel generated over 2000 combat sorties and released over 60,000 tons of bombs. During the last deployment, SAC informed the 509th it would soon receive FB-111A fighter-bombers. Accordingly, in late 1969, the 509th gave up its B-52s, and again re-designated as the 509th Bombardment Wing (Medium).
After a year of performing refueling operations and FB-111 ground training, the 509th began receiving the new fighter-bombers in December 1970. Over the next two decades, the 509 BMW excelled in its mission of providing top-notch nuclear alert forces, as demonstrated by winning the SAC Bombing and navigation competition and the Fairchild Trophy in 1979, 1981, 1982, and 1983. However, a decision by the Department of Defense in 1988 to close Pease would change that status quo. That year, Congressman Ike Skelton announced the B-2 Advanced Technology Bomber would be based at Whiteman AFB, Missouri, and the 509th Bombardment Wing would become the USAF's first B-2 Spirit wing. On September 30, 1990, Headquarters SAC inactivated the 509th and transferred the temporarily non-operational wing to its new home at Whiteman.
On September 30, 1990 the wing went back to its old designation as the 509th Bombardment Wing (Heavy), and On September 1, 1991, SAC changed the wing's name to its current designation, the 509th Bomb Wing. Another change occurred on June 1, 1992, when the Air Force disestablished SAC and the 509th became part of the newly created Air Combat Command (ACC).
On April 1, 1993, the Air Force returned the 509th to operational status and personnel and equipment were again officially allocated to the wing. The wing grew still further on July 1, 1993, when it accepted host responsibilities for Whiteman from the 351st Missile Wing. Finally, on December 17, 1993, the first operational B-2, named The Spirit of Missouri, touched down on the Whiteman runway. Not only did the date mark the 90th anniversary of the first powered flight by the Wright brothers, it also fell on the 509th Composite Group's 49th anniversary.
Over the next few years, the 509th continued welcoming B-2s into its inventory, and eventually would operate as many as 21 of the high-technology bombers. On April 1, 1997, the wing achieved Initial Operational Capability.
Throughout its history at Whiteman, the B-2 has always been at the forefront of America's national defense. The inaugural B-2 combat missions were flown on the first night of Operation Allied Force, March 24, 1999. The Spirit of Mississippi and the Spirit of Pennsylvania not only were the first B-2's in combat, but were also the first aircraft to employ JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munition), the Air Force's newest GPS-assisted weapon. The B-2s combination of its unique survivability and amazing bombing accuracy truly marked the first time when the fundamental calculus of air combat changed from the number of sorties required to destroy a target, to the number of targets that could be destroyed by a single sortie. In all, during 78 days of Allied Force missions against Serbia, 47 B-2 combat sorties were launched from and recovered at Whiteman. The missions dropped 652 JDAMs and four GBU-37s on the highest value and most-heavily defended targets. The round-trip missions lasted 28 to 32 hours. Amazingly, the B-2s flew less than 1 percent of the combat sorties but dropped 11 percent of the total bombs.
On October 5, 2001, two 509 BW B-2s departed Whiteman and flew combat missions in support of Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF), America's response to the terrorist attacks on September 11th. Two B-2s launched from Whiteman and flew sorties lasting 43.5 and 43.2 hours long, respectively. After each aircraft dropped bombs in Afghanistan, the crews went on to land at a forward operating location. There, they conducted engine running crew changes and returned to Whiteman on 8 October 2001, following sorties lasting 29.6 and 29.3 hours, respectively. A few days later in the campaign, The Spirit of America, flying a similar flight profile, accomplished the longest combat sortie (44.3 hours) in the history of the USAF, to date. In all, the wing flew six combat sorties and released 64 JDAMs.
March 21, 2003, was the first night of Operation Iraqi Freedom. For the first time in history, B-2s flew from two different locations and struck targets in the same AOR. Whiteman launched one three-ship armada, while from a forward operating location, the 393d Expeditionary Bomb Squadron generated a second three-ship package. Together, the six crews destroyed 92 targets in the opening hours of the "Shock and Awe" air campaign. During the course of the campaign against Saddam Hussein's forces, 41 509th B-2 sorties dropped more than 1.5 million pounds of ordinance and destroyed more than 600 high-value and heavily defended targets.
On Feb. 1, 2010, the 509th Bomb Wing at Whiteman AFB became part of the newly created Air Force Global Strike Command. In addition, since its move from Saint Louis in October 2008 and its accompanying transition from an F-15 to a B-2 unit, the Air National Guard's 131st Bomb Wing (131 BW) has been increasingly integrated into all phases of the 509th Bomb Wing mission. The partnership is now recognized as a model of Total Force Integration concept and most major operations, inspections, evaluations and competitions are conducted as part of a combined 509th/131st Team.
The wing's pre-eminent role in the projection of American military power was again demonstrated in March of 2011, when B-2s from Whiteman (including crewmen from the 131 BW) struck targets in Libya as part of Operation Odyssey Dawn. The 25-hour missions employed 45 JDAMs against hardened aircraft shelters, destroying the aircraft inside and preventing Muammar Qaddafi from using them against his own citizens.
The 509th received numerous awards in recognition of its outstanding performance. The 509th /131st Team won the Fairchild Trophies recognizing the Best Bomb Wing in the AFGSC Global Strike Challenge Competition in 2010, 2012, and 2014. In 2013, the 509th also earned the AFGSC Castle Trophy as Outstanding Bomb Wing as well as the USSTRATCOM Omaha Trophy in the Strategic Aircraft Operations Category (the wing previously won the Omaha Trophy in 2006).
Thus, the 509th Bomb Wing, with its long and illustrious past, continues to beckon others to 'Follow Us' as it continues to prove its famed World War II slogan, 'None Finer than a 509'er!'
(Current as of October 2015)
Air Force Global Strike Command, Public Affairs Office; 245 Davis Avenue East, Suite 198; Barksdale AFB, LA 71110; DSN 781-1305 or 318-456-7844; e-mail: email@example.com