Spokane / Fairchild
Air Force Base
| Fairchild Air Force Base is located
12 miles west of the city of Spokane, Washington adjacent to US Highway 2 and 3
miles north of Interstate 90. The base is at an elevation of 2,463 feet above
sea level and covers approximately 4,300 acres of high plains characteristic of
Eastern Washington. Fairchild originated as the Spokane Army Air Depot in 1942
and was turned over to the United States Air Force (Strategic Air Command) in
1947. The base is currently shared with the Washington Air National Guard and
several tenant organizations. Several facilities administered by the base are
located in the surrounding area off the main base. Fairchild AFB has been an important part of the Inland Empire since 1942.
Construction crews poured the foundations for the first buildings of the Spokane
Army Air Depot on March 2, 1942.
Two cities in western Washington, Seattle and Everett, also sought to have
the base built in their communities. The competition was keen, but Spokane won
out in the end for several reasons. The War Department felt that Spokane offered
better weather conditions than the western competitors, as well as something
they could not offer: 300 miles and a mountain range as a natural barrier to
possible Japanese attack. As an added incentive to the War Department, many Spokane businesses and
public-minded citizens donated money to purchase the land for the base. At a
cost of more than $125,000, these people bought 1,400 acres and presented the
title to the War Department in January 1942. That year the government designated
$14 million to purchase more land and begin construction on a new Spokane Army
Air Depot. From 1943 until 1946, the base served as a repair depot for damaged aircraft
returning from the Pacific Theater.
In 1947, the base was transferred to the Strategic Air Command and assigned
to 15th Air Force. The same year, the 92nd and 98th.
Bomb Groups arrived. Both
units flew the most advanced bomber of their day, the B-29. Just a year later,
the base received the second of its three official names: Spokane Air Force
With the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, both groups deployed to Japan and
Okinawa. After only a few months, General Douglas MacArthur released the 92nd to
return to the states while the 98th remained in the Far East. The 98th was
reassigned to Nebraska after the conflict. Upon its return to Fairchild, the
92nd was redesignated the 92nd Bombardment Wing (Heavy).
The base took its current name in November 1950, in memory of the late Air
Force Vice Chief of Staff General Muir S. Fairchild, a native of Bellingham,
Wash. The general entered service as a sergeant with the Washington National
Guard in June 1916 and died while on duty in the Pentagon in March 1950. The
formal dedication ceremony was held on July 20, 1951 to coincide with the
arrival of the wing's first B-36. About this time, the 111th Reconnaissance Wing (Air National Guard) was
activated at Fairchild. Later, this unit was redesignated the 99th Bombardment
Wing and transferred to Westover AFB, Mass.
In October 1953, the Air Depot facility was deactivated. By 1956, the wing
had begun a conversion that brought the B-52 Stratofortress and later, the
KC-135 Stratotanker to Fairchild. In 1961, the 92nd became the first aerospace
wing in the nation with the acquisition of the Atlas intercontinental ballistic
missile. With the new role and the addition of missiles, the 92nd Bomb Wing was
redesignated the 92nd Strategic Aerospace Wing. However, the designation
remained longer than the missiles, as the Atlas missiles were removed in 1965.
On March 1, 1966, the 3636th Combat Crew Training Group was activated at
Fairchild. In 1971, it became a wing and assumed control over all Air Force
The 92nd deployed a total of 560 personnel to Desert Shield and Desert Storm
from August 1990 to March 1991. The 43rd and 92nd Air Refueling Squadrons flew a
combined total of 4,004 hours, 721 sorties, and off loaded a total of 22.5
million pounds of fuel to such receiver aircraft as the A-6, A-10, B-52, C-5,
EA-6, EC-130, F-4, F-111, F-117A, KC-10, and Tornado in support of Operations
Desert Express, Desert Shield, Desert Storm, Desert Calm, and Provide Comfort.
The two squadrons' crews and aircraft also flew 200 combat sorties.
On September 1, 1991, under Air Force reorganization the 92nd Bombardment
Wing (Heavy) was redesignated the 92nd Wing, emphasizing a dual bombing and
refueling role. On March 1, 1992 the Fairchild Air Force Base and the Inland Empire community
celebrated a golden anniversary. Fifty years as partners in the Northwest.
In June 1992 the wing became part of the newly formed Air Combat Command and
was redesignated the 92nd Bomb Wing. As Strategic Air Command (SAC) finished up
46 years of service to the nation, Fairchild bomber and tanker crews took top
honors at Proud Shield '92. This was SAC's final Bombing/Navigation Competition.
The wing won the Fairchild Trophy for best bomber/tanker team as well as the
Saunders Trophy for the tanker unit attaining the most points on all competition
December 7, 1993 marked the beginning of perhaps the largest change and
transition in the history of Fairchild and the 92nd Bomb Wing when the first
B-52 left Fairchild to be turned over to another unit. The 92nd Bomb Wing's
B-52s had been assigned to ACC, while the KC-135s were assigned to AMC and
designated the 453rd Operations Group. During the spring of 1994, B-52s were
transferred to other units and flown to other bases with the last bomber leaving
May 25, 1994. The bomber mission of the 92nd had ended after 52 years, giving
over to the new refueling mission on July 1, 1994.
On July 1, 1994, the 92nd Bomb Wing was redesignated the 92nd Air Refueling
Wing, and Fairchild AFB was transferred from Air Combat Command (ACC) to Air
Mobility Command (AMC), in a ceremony marking the creation of the largest air
refueling wing in the Air Force. Dubbed as the new “tanker hub of the Northwest,” the wing is capable of
maintaining an air bridge across the nation and the world in support of US and
allied forces. Fairchild currently has more than 60 active duty and Air National
Guard KC-135 aircraft assigned. These aircraft and the dedicated members of Team
Fairchild continue to actively support missions in Southwest Asia and throughout