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509th Bomb Wing

509th Bomb Wing Patch

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The 509th Bomb Wing is part of Air Force Global Strike Command as well as the host wing at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo. 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 includes a total force of approximately 5,500 military members as well as 2,800 civilian employees.

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

History highlights
The wings history dates back to its World War II ancestor, the 509th Composite Group. During the hectic days of that bygone era, the Army Air Forces formed the group with only one mission in mind: to drop the atomic bomb. Led by Col. Paul W. Tibbets Jr., the group trained hard for its unique task.

On Aug. 6, 1945, the 509th fulfilled its destiny when the B-29 "Enola Gay" piloted by Colonel Tibbets dropped the first atomic bomb and destroyed Hiroshima, Japan. On Aug. 9, 1945, the group once again visited the Japanese mainland and unleashed the atomic inferno on another city, Nagasaki. Within days, the Japanese sued for peace and World War II ended.

Upon returning to the United States in late 1945, the group settled into Roswell Army Air Base, N.M. Shortly afterward, it became the core of the newly created Strategic Air Command. In August 1946, the now-called 509th Bombardment Group again traveled to the Pacific where it participated in Operation Crossroads. During this special maneuver, the group dropped an atomic bomb on an armada of obsolete and captured naval vessels moored off the Bikini Atoll.

On Nov. 17, 1947, SAC activated the 509th Bombardment Wing at Roswell and assigned the group to the wing. Within five years, however, the Air Force inactivated the 509 BG while turning over the lineage and honors of the group to the wing.

The wing pioneered a new concept in July 1948 when it received the 509th Air Refueling Squadron, one of the first two such units ever created, and its air refueling KB-29Ms. With the addition of tankers, the 509th's bombers could reach virtually any point on earth.

The dawning of a new decade brought more changes to the wing. In June 1950, it began receiving B-50s. In January 1954, the KC-97 aerial tanker replaced the aging KB-29Ms. The wing entered the jet age in June 1955 when it received the first all-jet bomber: the B-47.

The wing also received a new home toward the end of the 1950s when it moved its people and equipment to Pease AFB, N.H., in August 1958. There, the wing continued to function as an integral part of SAC. By 1965, SAC scheduled the B-47s 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.

The wing's 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.

During the last deployment, SAC informed the 509th that the wing would swap its B-52s for FB-111As. 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 Pease 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. That same day also saw most of the wing's squadrons inactivated.

This took place since the wing was expected to remain non-operational until the arrival of the first B-2 drew nearer. While the wing waited for that date, several more changes occurred. On Sept. 1, 1991, SAC changed the wing's name to 509th Bomb Wing. A second change occurred on June 1, 1992, when the Air Force disestablished SAC. Concurrently, the 509th became part of the newly created Air Combat Command.

The wing's hibernation at Whiteman lasted more than two years. However, on April 1, 1993, the Air Force returned the 509th to operational status as people were again assigned to the wing. The wing grew larger on July 1, 1993, when it accepted host responsibilities for Whiteman from the 351st Missile Wing.

On July 20, 1993, the 509th took another important step when it received its first fixed-wing aircraft in almost three years: a T-38 complete with a B-2-style paint job. After this, the wing's attentions turned to the arrival of the first B-2.

For the next several months, this passion consumed all 509ers. Finally, on Dec. 17, 1993, the first operational bomber, 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 49th anniversary of the original activation of the 509th Composite Group. As more B-2s arrive at Whiteman, the 509th continues to pioneer the operation of this unique aircraft.

Some significant firsts associated with the B-2 include:
-- The first operational delivery of munitions by the Spirit of California on Sept. 23, 1994;
-- First B-2 appearance at a Red Flag exercise on Jan. 20, 1995;
-- First B-2 flight to Europe by the Spirit of Missouri, June 10-11 1995;
-- The first B-2 mission over the Pacific by the Spirit of Kansas, on Sept. 1, 1995; and
-- The longest B-2 flight to date by the Spirit of Washington, a 25-hour, non-stop, round-trip flight to Santiago, Chile, on March 10, 1996.
-- Three B-2s successfully executed the first live drops of the GAM on Oct. 8, 1996, at the Nellis range complex. The bombers scored 16 kills with 16 munitions.
-- The first operational combat mission was flown on the first night of Operation Allied Force, March 24, 1999.
-- The first operational combat mission was flown on the first night of Operation Allied Force, March 24, 1999.
-- During Operation Allied Force the B-2s flew less than 1 percent of the combat sorties but dropped 11 percent of the total bombs.

On Feb. 1, 2010, the bomb wing officially transferred from Air Combat Command to the Air Force's newest major command focused on the nation's nuclear enterprise, Air Force Global Strike Command.

Current as of July 2010