|SAC Bases: Smokey
Hill / Schilling
||44th Bomb Squadron
| Schilling Air Force Base in Salina, Kansas
is most famous as the home of the 310th Strategic Bombardment Wing, which
later became the 310th Strategic Aerospace Wing. It flew B-47s until
ceasing operations in 1965. A portion of the property once occupied by the
base has been partly transferred to the Salina Airport Authority (SAA) through a base
redevelopment plan and is operated as the Salina Municipal Airport.
The Army Air Force acquired the land in 1943. It
consisted of 2,600 acres, southwest of the Salina.
Construction Smoky Hill Army Airfield required 7,000. In September
1943 the 20th Bomber Command and the 58th Bomber Wing moved to Smoky Hill
Army Airfield, and they were later joined by the 73d Bomb Wing. The
B-17's were eventually replaced with B-29's and the base was used as a
processing and staging area for heavy bombardment units going overseas.
| Aircraft primarily from Smoky Hill Army Air Field used
the air space above the ground for gunnery practice, shooting at targets
towed behind other planes. A clearance certificate dated 16 September 1947
stated, "all decontamination at Smoky Hill ATA Gunnery Range, Kansas, has
been completed..." Several locals have found .50 caliber shells, bullets,
and cartridges, and 20mm casings and cartridges; although all
documentation found states that only .50 caliber machine guns were used
over the site. Apparently, the 20mm was a British round which was being
tested on this range. Also found by local fossil hunters, have been cannon
ball fragments dating back to the 1800's. Many .50 caliber and a few
British 20mm cartridges, shells and links have been found throughout the
area by farmers and fossil hunters. The remoteness, current use and the
ammunition items involved present very little hazard to the public.
The 301st Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy, was established on
October 15, 1947 and organized November 5, 1947 at Smoky Hills Air Field.
On March of 1948, the 97th Bomb Wing moved to Smoky Hill AFB and was
attached to the 301st Bomb Wing for three months additional training. On
May 16th, it moved to Biggs AFB, Texas. The 301st moved to Barksdale AFB,
Louisiana on Nov 7, 1949. Both wings flew B-29s.
The 22nd Bombardment Group (Very
Heavy), equipped with the B-29 Superfortresses, moved from Kadena Air Base
Okinawa to Smoky Hill AFB, in May 1948. The 22nd Bombardment Wing shared
its commander with the 301st Bombardment Wing until the 22nd moved to
March AFB on 09 May 1949. The name of the base was changed to Smoky Hill
Air Force Base in January of 1948. The Defense Department deactivated the
base in August of 1949, with the 301st being relocated to another Air
1951 the Department of Defense reopened the base as a prestigious
Strategic Air Command Base. By 1952 the B-29s of the Strategic Command had
again begun to operate from Smoky Hill, and Strategic Air Command's 802nd
Air Division was formed in May of that year. And by early 1954 802d Air
Division was at Smoky Hill. The 40th Bombardment Wing, initially equipped
with B-29s, received sleek new jets to replace the obsolete B-29s in 1954.
During its first flight on 17 December 1954 -- 51 years to the day after
the Wright Brothers flew for the first time at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina,
the 1000th Boeing-Wichita B-47 took off, bound for Smoky Hill. In Salina,
home of the 802nd Air Division, Number 1000 was christened the "City of
Salina." By 1955 the Wing had completed conversion to B-47s, and was
flying KC-97 tankers. In 1955 the base was named a "Golden Anniversary of
Flight Base" primarily as a result of good base-community relations. The
310th Bombardment Wing at Smoky Hill Air Force Base won top honors in
SAC's 1956 bombing evaluation exercises.
On 16 March 1957 Smoky Hill Air Force Base was
redesignated Schilling Air Force Base. Colonel David Schilling was a
fighter pilot with 23 kills against the German Luftwaffe. More than any
other American officer he was responsible for the development of aerial
refueling techniques for fighter aircraft. He was killed in an automobile
accident near Mildenhall, England on 14 August 1956.
In 1959, the Department of Defense began a major
renovation of the base and also began construction of the 12 silo
intercontinental ballistic missile complex. During the next year, millions
of dollars were spent preparing the runways and taxiways for the next
generation of bombers and tankers, namely the B-52 and KC-135. Overall
spending at the base during this era amounted to $250 million. The
45th Bombardment Squadron at Schilling transferred to Forbes Air Force
Base, Kansas in June 1960. Beginning in August 1960 the Site Activation
Task Force at Schilling Air Force Base, constructed and turned over to the
Strategic Air Command the first operational Atlas F hardened silo missile
squadron. Schilling was turned over to SACís 550th Strategic Missile
Squadron on 7-8 September 1962. Originally there were to be
nine Atlas silos located around Schilling; however, the number increased
to a dozen individual sites located at or near Bennington, Abilene,
Chapman, Charton, McPherson, Mitchell, Kanopolis, Wilson, Beverly, Tescott,
Glasco, and Minneapolis.
| A joint venture of Utah-Manhattan-Sundt earned
the nine-silo contract with a bid of $17.2 million. This group also
received a $6.2 million contract to build the three additional
lift-launcher silos. As with Atlas construction projects at other sites,
major design changes doubled the final cost of the project. Part of the
cause of the cost-overrun was attributed to the contractor teamís failure
to anticipate the governmentís demands for rigid standards and exacting
performance. In addition, high water tables at some of the excavation
sites raised pumping costs.
During construction, safety was a continual
problem. On several occasions the Corps Engineer warned the contractor
that his safety program was faltering. Five fatalities and numerous
injuries marred the construction effort. An analysis of the project
written after project completion blamed inexperience within the regional
Corps of Engineers District Office for many of the construction problems.
With the decision to consolidate ballistic missile construction within the
Los Angeles-based CEBMCO, management was streamlined. CEBMCO took charge
of project management in October 1960.
The activation of the 550th Strategic Missile
Squadron along with a sister squadron at Lincoln, Nebraska, on April 1,
1961, marked the first standing up of Atlas F units. In June 1962, the
first operational sites for the Atlas F ICBMs were accepted by SAC and in
September the squadron was declared operational. In the following month
during the Cuban missile crisis, the 550th received orders to maintain all
12 missiles on alert status.
In the wake of Defense Secretary McNamaraís May 1964
directive accelerating the deactivation of the first generation ICBMs, SAC
inactivated the squadron in June 1965. With the closing of Schilling AFB,
responsibility for the sites passed to F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming, in July
1967. The sites were disposed of in March 1971.
On 19 November 1964, the Department of Defense
announced that Schilling along with 574 other bases around the world would
be closed. At this time the base was home to approximately 5,090 men.
Within the next six months, all planes and men were relocated, including
the Atlas F ICBM Squadron, and the base was closed on 30 June 1965.
The City of Salina worked hard at formulating a
plan that would lessen the economic blow to the community of the closed
base. The newly created Schilling Development Council announced plans for
an airport-education-industry complex to replace the military operations.
Special enabling legislation allowed the City to acquire, own, maintain,
operate, improve and dispense with portions of the base. By May of 1965
the Salina Airport Authority had been created and the conversion of
Schilling Air Force Base to the Salina Municipal Airport and Salina
Airport Industrial Center began.
As with many formerly used defense sites, communities are
anxious to redevelop the land. An obstacle often faced by communities is
existing contamination of the property. At Schilling, contamination
associated with USTs needed to be addressed. To eliminate risks posed by
underground storage tanks (UST) and to meet a need to expand onto the
property, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers (COE) used an informal
partnering approach to accelerate the cleanup at the former Shilling Air
Force Base.The initial phase of the investigation revealed that the
project involved much more than a "routine tank pull." The work involved
is quite complex because it requires removing 36 large, 50,000-gallon USTs
at an active airport, all of which must be conducted in strict accordance
with Federal Aviation Administration regulations. Partnering allowed the
COE to substantially reduce costs and surpass its environmental
restoration schedule by one and a half years.
In 1973, the Kansas Air National Guard assumed all operating
and maintenance authority for the the 34,000 acre Smoky Hill Air National
Guard (ANG) Range. The Range, which is maintained and operated by
personnel of the 184th Bomb Group, Kansas Air National Guard, is located
ten miles south of Salina Kansas, in the rolling grasslands of the Smoky
Hills. The 184th Bomb Group's mission is to maintain the peace by
providing the best air tactics training environment possible. To carry out
this mission, the guard employs 24 full time Active Guard Reserve
personnel and two civil service employees. This full time contingent is
supported by Air Guardsmen on weekends. In addition to meeting its
military mission, the 184th carefully manages the natural and cultural
resources of the Range, protecting the environment and providing
recreational opportunities, as well as generating revenues from
agricultural leases. Smoky Hill ANG Range is the largest of 15
bombing ranges in the Air National Guard. Within Smoky Hill's 34,000 acres
lies a 12,000 acre target area which is comprised of dual conventional
ranges and three large tactical ranges. The tactical ranges provide the
most realistic air-to-ground training available for all types of military
aircraft. Smoky Hill also has four drop zones for cargo aircraft.
|1957. Two future
airman from Salina, Kansas examine the B-47 named for their city.
The plane was the 1,000th Stratojet produced at Boeing's nearby