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A mechanic of the 380th Expeditionary Aircraft Maintenance Squadron working on one of the 380th's KC-135 Stratotankers
The 380th Air Expeditionary Wing (380 AEW) is a United States Air Force wing located at Al Dhafra AB, United Arab Emiratesmarker. About 1,200 active duty military members, Reserve, and Air National Guard personnel make up the Wing. Aircraft assigned: KC-10A Extenders, U-2 Dragon Ladies, E-3 AWACS and RQ-4 Global Hawk. Its mission is air refueling and reconnaissance.


Associate units include the 363d Training Group.



  • Constituted as 380th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on October 28, 1942
Activated on November 3, 1942
Inactivated on February 20, 1946
  • Redesignated 380th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy). Allotted to the reserve
Activated in the US on June 16, 1947
Redesignated 380th Bombardment Group (Medium) in June 1949
Ordered to active duty on May 1, 1951
Inactivated on May 16, 1951.
  • Established as 380th Bombardment Wing, Medium, on March 23, 1953
Activated on July 11, 1955
380th Bombardment Group assigned as subordinate unit to Wing, July 11, 1955.
Redesignated: 380th Strategic Aerospace Wing on September 15, 1964
Redesignated: 380th Bombardment Wing, Medium, on July 1, 1972
Inactivated on: September 30, 1995.
Redesignated: 380th Air Expeditionary Wing, converted to provisional status, and activated: 4 December 2001


IV Bomber Command, November 3, 1942 – April 17, 1943
V Bomber Command, May 1943 – February 20, 1946
: Attached to: Royal Australian Air Force, May 1943 – February 20, 1945
Eighth Air Force, July 11, 1955
: 820th Air Division, February 1, 1956
:: Attached to 7th Air Division, April 3 – July 3, 1957
: 817th Air Division, June 25, 1965
: 45th Air Division, July 1, 1968
: 817th Air Division, July 2, 1969 – March 31, 1970

Second Air Force
: 817th Air Division, March 31, 1970
: 45th Air Division, June 30, 1971 – January 1, 1975
Eighth Air Force
: 45th Air Division, January 1, 1975–March 29, 1989
Eighth Air Force, March 29, 1989 – June 1, 1992
Eighth Air Force, June 1, 1992 – September 30, 1995


  • 26th Air Refueling Squadron: August 7, 1957 – July 31, 1959
  • 310th Air Refueling Squadron: January 25, 1967 – September 30, 1995
  • 380th Air Refueling Squadron: August 16, 1956 – April 1961; September 15, 1964 – September 30, 1995
  • 528th Bombardment Squadron: November 3, 1942 – February 20, 1946; June 16, 1947 – May 16, 1951; July 11, 1955 – December 14, 1965 and January 6, 1971 – September 30, 1995
  • 529th Bombardment Squadron: November 3, 1942 – February 20, 1946; June 16, 1947 – June 27, 1949; July 11, 1955 – June 25, 1966 and January 6, 1971 – September 30, 1995
  • 530th Bombardment Squadron: November 3, 1942 – February 20, 1946; June 16, 1947 – June 27, 1949; July 11, 1955 – June 25, 1966
  • 531st Bombardment Squadron: November 3, 1942 – February 20, 1946; June 16, 1947 – June 27, 1949; May 1, 1959 – January 1, 1962
  • 556th Strategic Missile Squadron: September 15, 1964 – June 25, 1965


Aircraft and missile operated

  • RQ-4 (January 2002 – Present)
  • U-2 (January 2002 – Present)
  • KC-10A (January 2002 – Present)
  • KC-135A/E/Q/R (July 10, 1991 – September 30, 1995; January 2002 – Present)
  • FB-111A (1971 – July 10, 1991)
  • B-52G (1966–1971)
  • KC-135A/Q (1964–1995)
  • EB-47 (1962–1964)
  • KC-97G (1956–1961)
  • B-47E (July 1, 1955 – June 25, 1965)
  • E-3/C (January 2002 - Present)

World War II

The history of the 380th dates back to October 28, 1942 when the unit was established. The 380th Bombardment Group (Heavy) was activated on November 3, 1942 at Davis-Monthan Fieldmarker, Tucson, Arizona. Originally, the 380th BMG consisted of four bombardment squadrons, the 528th, 529th, 530th, and 531st. Shortly after being activated, the group moved to Biggs Fieldmarker, El Paso, Texas where it underwent extensive combat training. After completing training, the 380th BMG moved to Lowry Fieldmarker, Denver, Colorado to undergo final combat training.

In early May 1943, the Group arrived in Fenton Airfieldmarker, Northern Territorymarker of Australia in the RAAF's North West Area of operation where it was assigned to 5th Air Force, V Bomber Command. Later moving to RAAF Base Darwinmarker, the Group was placed under Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) command, the only B-24 Liberator unit attached to the RAAF. The 380th was assigned to train RAAF personnel on the B-24 and to secure Australia's safety against a threatened Japanese invasion along its northern coast. Upon its arrival in Australia, the 380th BMG immediately began combat operations.

During April and May 1944, the 380th engaged in the most intensive and sustained operations since arrival in the southwest Pacific, neutralizing the rear bases through which the Japanese might reinforce their air force in the Wakdemarker-Hollandiamarker area of the Dutch East Indiesmarker. From the end of May 1944 until it moved to Murtha Field, San Jose, Mindoromarker, Philippinesmarker in February 1945, the 380th BMG concentrated on neutralizing enemy bases, installations and industrial compounds in the southern and central East Indies. In April 1945, Far East Air Force relieved the 380th of its ground support commitments in the Philippines. During the month, the Group flew the first heavy bomber strikes against targets in Chinamarker and French Indochina. In June 1945, the 380th was placed under the operational control of the 13th Air Force for pre-invasion attacks against Labuanmarker and on the oil refineries at Balikpapanmarker in Borneomarker. For nearly two weeks, the Group's Liberators kept these targets under a state of aerial siege. After the Borneo raids, the 380th flew its last combat missions to Taiwanmarker.

After the cessation of hostilities, the 380th moved to Okinawamarker and flew reconnaissance patrols over the Japanese islands. The group ferried released prisoners of war to Manilamarker. On October 18, 1945, the unit was transferred to the 7th Air Force in the Philippines, where it moved to Clark Fieldmarker on Luzonmarker, and participated in the Sunset Project, the return of B-24s and their crews to the United States. Although some aircraft and crews were flown back to the United States, most of the aircraft from deactivating units were simply scrapped at Clark and personnel were returned via Navy ships from Manilamarker.

The 380th Bomb Group was inactivated at Clark Field on February 20, 1946.

Cold War

The 380th Bombardment group remained inactive from February 20, 1946 until its redesignation from Heavy to Very Heavy on May 13, 1947. On May 29, 1947, the Group was activated at MacDill Fieldmarker, near Tampa, Floridamarker, as a B-29 Superfortress reserve unit under the 49th Air Division. The group remained an inactive reserve unit until being called to active duty on May 1, 1951 during the Korean War. Fifteen days later on May 16, 1951, after the personnel had been processed for active duty and transferred to other units for service in Koreamarker, the Group was deactivated.

B-47 era

B-47Es on the flightline
The 380th Bombardment Wing (Medium) was established at Plattsburgh Air Force Basemarker, near Plattsburgh, New Yorkmarker on July 11, 1955 and assigned to Strategic Air Command (SAC) Eighth Air Force. For the next 40 years, the 380th was a front line SAC bombardment Wing during the Cold War.

Along with the wing's activation, the 528th, 529th and 530th Bombardment Squadrons were also activated. During July and August, the personnel assigned to the Wing arrived at Plattsburgh. In December 1955, the first Boeing B-47 Stratojet medium bomber was assigned to the Wing but instead of being flown to Plattsburgh AFB, was delivered to Pinecastle AFBmarker, Floridamarker, as Det 1, 380th BMW because of the delays in completing the base facilities at Plattsburgh.

Major Harold L. Neal piloted the first flight of a B-47 by a 380th's crew on January 27, 1956 at Pinecastle. For the next several months, training continued while additional B-47s were assigned to the Wing. By the end of January 1956, 16 B-47s were assigned to the wing and increased to 30 by the end of April. The first B-47E arrived on March 21, 1956 piloted by Brigadier General Kenneth O. Sanborn, first commander of the 820th Air Division, also headquartered at Plattsburgh AFB, but temporarily assigned to Pinecastle. The aircraft was christened "City of Plattsburgh" the next day. By June 1956, the runway and essential facilities were completed at Plattsburgh and the wing and Air Division moved its aircraft and headquarters to the newly constructed base from Florida. In September 1956, the 380th Air Refueling Squadron, flying the Boeing KC-97 Stratotanker, was transferred to Plattsburgh AFB from Sheppard AFB, Texasmarker. The Wing was declared combat ready on October 1, 1956.

In April 1957, the 380th deployed to RAF Brize Nortonmarker, Englandmarker for a three month period as part of a SAC Reflex Deployment. During this deployment, Wing's B-47 inaugurated the "Three Capitals" air race. The occasion was the Paris Air Showmarker held at Le Bourget Fieldmarker in Parismarker, Francemarker. On May 28, 1957, three B-47s from the 380th BW took off from Brize Norton and flew over Le Bourget to start the race. The objective of the race was to fly from Paris to Madridmarker to Romemarker and back to Paris, and the prize was the General Electric Trophy. A B-47E from the 529th BS won the 2,346 statute miles race in 4 hours 12 minutes and 7 seconds, with an average speed of 558 miles per hour. The aircraft, commanded by Capt. Robert E. Sheridan was piloted by 1stLt. J.L. Mombrea with Capt. Frank R. Beadle as Observer.

On July 18, 1957, the Wing suffered its first peacetime major accident. A KC-97G from the 380th ARS with a crew of eight exploded and crashed into Lake Champlainmarker when 2 of the 4 engines failed 3 minutes after take-off from Plattsburgh AFB at 9:28 p.m. During February 1959, the Wing gained both the 820th Air Base Group and the 4020th USAF Hospital. Both of these units had previously been assigned to the 820th Air Division, located at Plattsburgh AFB. The 531st BS was activated and assigned to the 380th in May 1959. Later that year, on August 7, another unit was attached to the Wing from the 820th AD, the 26th Air Refueling Squadron. The 531st was deactivated on January 1, 1962.

Between July 20, 1962 and December 24, 1964, the 380th also flew EB-47 assigned to the 4365th Post Attack Command and Control Squadron. On January 15, 1962, the Wing suffered its second aircraft lost when a B-47E assigned to the 529th BS on a routine training flight making bomb runs over Ft Drum crashed on the southeast slope of Wright's Peak (a mountain top 60 miles south of Plattsburgh AFB). The wreckage was discovered on the 21st by a group of US Army pilot from Ft Devens, Mass. Later that same year, on October 22, 1962, the Wing responded to the Cuban Missile Crisis by deploying eight of its B-47s to a dispersal base. These aircraft and personnel stayed at the dispersal base until November 25, 1962 with the remaining aircraft and personnel on alert at Plattsburgh AFB.

On September 15, 1964, the 380th Bombardment Wing was redesignated the 380th Strategic Aerospace Wing (Heavy) and was composed of three B-47 squadrons (528th, 529th and 530th), the 380th Air Refueling Squadron, the 556th Strategic Missile Squadron, the 380th Combat Support Group and the 820th Medical Group. On September 18, the Wing received its first KC-135A flown by Col. Harold J. Whiteman,the Wing Commander and a four-man crew composed of Maj. Creston Fowler (commander), Capt. Robert J. Svoboda (co-pilot), Capt. Robert D. Smith (navigator) and TSgt. Roy W. Rebstock (boomer). The aircraft was christened the same day, "Spirit of the North Country" by Mrs Gladys Ellison. Mrs Ellison's husband was SMSgt. Guin B. Ellison, Maintenance Supervisor of the Year for the 380th.

September 1965 saw one of the Wing's B-47s, "Pride of the Adirondacks" departing Plattsburgh AFB for SAC's 14th Bombing and Navigation competition at Fairchild AFBmarker, Washingtonmarker. Six days later, that same aircraft returned to Plattsburgh being hailed as the "World's Best B-47" after having won top honors among all SAC B-47 units in 3 of 4 competition areas for the B-47s. "Pride of the Adirondacks" was commanded by Maj. Charles W. Patrick with Capt. John V. Wilcox for co-pilot and Maj. Robert A. Wickland as navigator. The crew won 'Best B-47 Crew, Bombing', 'Best B-47 Crew, Combined' and 'Best B-47 Unit'. Within three weeks of that triumph, the first B-47 departed for storage at Davis-Monthan AFBmarker, Arizonamarker as part of an accelerated phase-out of the type. On December 14, a ceremony was held as the final three B-47s departed Plattsburgh AFB for the Arizona's storage facility. "Pride of the Adirondacks" was preserved and put on display at the entrance of the base on February 8, 1966.

Atlas missiles

During 1961 and 1962, the physical appearance of the area surrounding Plattsburgh AFB underwent changes as construction began on 12 "Atlas F" missile sites. The sites were built within a 50 miles radius of the base and were completed in 1963. The squadron was equipped with 13 missiles, allowing each silo to have its Atlas missile with one left for spare. When one missile in a silo was scheduled for maintenance, the spare missile kept at PAFB was sent to replace it. This allowed the 380th to maintain 12 ready to launch missiles seven days a week. All sites were in New York state except for two located on the other side of Lake Champlain in Vermont. The 556th Strategic Missile Squadron became completely operational on September 15, 1964. This was the last Atlas squadron to be accepted and the only Intercontinental Ballistic Missile base east of the Mississippi River. The 556th's last operational day was April 30, 1965 with the Squadron's inactivation on June 25, 1965.

B-52 era

B-52G on the flightline
To replace the B-47s, the Wing was assigned the B-52G "Stratofortress" bomber and received its first aircraft christened "Champlain Lady" on June 19, 1966. After the arrival of the new type, another new unit was assigned to the Wing on January 25, 1967, the 310th Air Refueling squadron. On January 21, 1968, tragedy struck again the 380th Strategic Aerospace Wing when B-52G 58-0188, crashed near Thule Air Basemarker in Greenlandmarker while on a Chrome Dome mission. The aircraft was flown by a crew from the 528th BS and was carrying four hydrogen bombs when it crashed into an ice covered bay at the western tip of Greenland. The crew of seven was composed of Capt. John Baug (commander), Capt. Leonard Svitenko (co-pilot), Maj. Frank Hopkins (radar navigator), Capt. Curtis Criss (navigator), Capt. Richard Max (electronic warfare), SSgt. Calvin Snapp (gunner) and Maj. Alfred J. D'amario (safety officer from Wing HQ). Sadly, Capt. Svitenko was killed during the crash.

The Wing's involvement in the Vietnam War was one of temporary duty assignments. Tanker and bomber crews of the 380th were temporarily assigned to the Pacific theater in support of B-52 "Arc Light" missions and KC-135 "Young Tiger" operations. The KC-135 crews and aircraft supported Southeast Asia operations from October 1966 until 1973. The B-52 crews served from 1968 until 1970.

FB-111 era

General Dynamics FB-111A (S/N 68-272) of the 380th SAW, taken February 24, 1973
The stay of the B-52s assigned to the 380th was destined to be short. In 1968, plans were initiated to bring the Air Force's newest strategic aircraft to Plattsburgh AFB, the General Dynamics FB-111A. The FB-111A was the all-weather strategic bombing version of the F-111, intended as an interim successor to the B-52 and B-58 of the Strategic Air Command. On October 8, 1969, the FB-111A entered service with the 4007th Combat Crew Training Squadron of the 340th Bomb Group at Carswell AFBmarker, Texasmarker. Even though the FB-111A was officially declared operational, it had yet to reach the combat forces. After reaching operational capability, the 4007th CCTS relocated to Plattsburg and became part of the 380th Strategic Aerospace Wing.

By the end of 1970, B-52s were transferred to Fairchild AFBmarker, Washingtonmarker and the last B-52G left Plattsburgh AFB on January 5, 1971. Construction requirements for the new FB-111A were completed in 1969. Col. G.R. Abendhoff, 380th BW's commander, piloted the first FB-111A to the base during Open house ceremonies on July 17, 1971. On July 1, 1972, the 380th Strategic Aerospace Wing (Heavy) was redesignated the 380th Bombardment Wing (Medium). During the 1974 Strategic Air Command's bombing and navigation competition, the FB-111 and KC-135 crews from the 380th combined their effort with the support personnel to prove to be "The best of the best". The 380th BW was the first Wing equipped with the FB-111A to win the competition and would dominate again in the years to come.

1980 began with a new challenge for the Wing after being named the official military support installation for the 1980 Winter Olympics at Lake Placid, New Yorkmarker. The 380th coordinated helicopter rescue mission conducted by the 38th Air Rescue and Recovery Squadron (a Plattsburgh AFB tenant unit later designated the 40th ARRS).

In 1982, the first reunion of the surviving members of the World War II 380th Bombardment Group which formed the 380th Bombardment Group Association was held. The second reunion took place at Plattsburgh AFB in September 1983 and on this occasion, dedication of the Plattsburgh Military Museum was one of the highlights of the reunion. 1984 started with a fitting tribute to both the 380th Bombardment Wing and the 380th Bombardment Group. The 380th BG was inactivated and consolidated with the 380th BW by order of the Secretary of the Air Force on January 31, 1984.

As the year progressed, the 380th once again proved itself worthy of its motto, "Best of the Best", as it achieved an unprecedented fifth Fairchild Trophy at the annual SAC Bombing and Navigation Competition. In addition to winning the Fairchild, which established a record of five trophies for one unit, the Wing captured its second Saunders Trophy for the best air refueling unit and the "Best FB-111 Crew Award". In 1985, the 380th BW received the pinnacle award for SAC Wings. The Omaha Trophy for the best overall SAC wing for the 1984 calendar year was awarded to the Wing on July 11.

During the summer of 1988, a full complement of the 380th BW deployed for the first time since World War II. Over 300 men and women deployed to a forward operating base in support of "Mighty Warrior 88", an SAC wide exercise held to better enable the various SAC wings to carry out their respective missions under austere conditions.

As the Rockwell B-1B Lancer came into service, the FB-111A became redundant to SAC needs, and starting in 1988 most FB-111As began a conversion into a ground attack configuration (F-111G - less their nuclear delivery capability). As the aircraft were converted, they were reassigned to Tactical Air Command training units operating out of Cannon AFBmarker in New Mexicomarker.

Post Cold War

Boeing KC-135
In September 1990, crews from both Air Refueling Squadrons combined with personnel from other units to form the 1703rd Air Refueling Wing (Provisional) in Saudi Arabia, supporting Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

On July 10, 1991, Strategic Air Command and the 380th Bomber Wing said goodbye to the FB-111A when the last 4 operational aircraft left Plattsburgh AFB for their final flight to preservation in Museums. The 380th BW was redesignated the 380th Air Refueling Wing a few days earlier on July 1, 1991. The mission of the 380th ARW was to provide worldwide air refueling with its KC-135A/Q Stratotanker and served as host to the Tanker Task Force operation. The 380th ARW Tanker Task Force was responsible for supporting most of the transoceanic operations on the East Coast.

The wing was absorbed by Fifteenth Air Force, Air Mobility Command, on June 1, 1992 with the inactivation of SAC. As a result of the 1993 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC), Plattsburgh AFB was closed on September 30, 1995 and the 380th ARW was inactivated.

Global War on Terrorism

New facilities being constructed, February 2006

The 380th Air Expeditionary Wing was reactivated at Al Dhafra AB in the UAEmarker in January 2002 to support the War in Afghanistan. The wing participates in Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF).

See also




  • Fain, James E.(ed.). The History of the 380th Bomb Group (H), AAF, Affectionately Known as the Flying Circus, November 1942 - September 1945. New York: Commandy-Roth Co., 1946.
  • Horton, Glenn R., Jr. The Best in the Southwest: The 380th Bomb Group in World War II. Savage, Minnesota: Mosie Publications, 1995.
  • Horton, Glenn R., and Glenn R. Horton, Jr. King of the Heavies. 1983.
  • Lloyd, A. A Cold War Legacy: A Tribute to the Strategic Air Command, 1946–1992. Pictorial Histories Publishing Co: Missoula, Montana, 1999. ISBN 1-57510-052-5.
  • Menzel, George H. Portrait of a Flying Lady: The Stories of those she flew with in battle. Paducah, Kentucky: Turner Publications, 1994.

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