SAC Wing Organization
| The Wing was SAC's basic operational
unit. It reflected a major change from the previous organizational
structure. During World War II, the basic combat unit was the
group and groups were assigned to bases. Often the base commander
was a regular army officer with no flying experience. This often
led to many problems. On September 16, 1947, the United States Air
Force was established as a separate and equal element of the United States
armed forces. One of the first things it did was implement the Hobson
Plan for reorganization. Often called the "Base
Plan," the Wing Commander was also the Base Commander.
| The above chart shows the organization of
a typical SAC wing of the 1950s. A wing was generally
assigned four tactical squadrons - three bombardment and one air
refueling. The primary responsibility of the Wing Commander was to
provide combat leadership. The tactical squadrons were supported
by four maintenance squadrons.
The Organizational Maintenance
Squadron assigned a crew to each aircraft, supervised by a crew
chief. It's job was to keep the plane flying. Each crew
continually checked every system on it's aircraft to insure it was
working properly. They reported problems to Job Control, who
scheduled specialized maintenance. The ground crews performed
routine maintenance, such as changing engine oil and supervising fueling
operations. Many SAC bases
were located along the northern border of the United States. The
O.M.S guys spent many a cold winter night keeping their plane clear of
snow. An often unrecognized job was that of sweeping snow off
the huge slippery wings.
The Field Maintenance Squadron contained
the specialized shops, essential to maintaining the highly technical
aircraft. They included Engine, Electrical, Hydraulics, Fuel
Systems, Air Frame, Sheet Metal, and Parachute. The F.M.S.
Ground Power Equipment Shop maintained the generators, blowers, heaters maintenance
stands and other equipment essential to working on the aircraft.
The Avionics and Electronics
Squadron maintained the electronic navigation and bombing systems and a
host of other "black boxes" carried by the aircraft. The
Munitions Squadrons uploaded and downloaded the nuclear weapons.
They also maintained guns and the stand off weapons.
They maintenance squadrons carried the
same numeric designation as the wing. For example, the 380th
Bombardment Wing would have the 380th O.M.S., the 380th F.M.S. and the
380th A&E. This was not the case with the
tactical squadrons. Their numeric designation was independent of
the wing, as they were moved from wing to wing. Other units that
carried a number different from the wing were Aviation Depot Squadrons
and Munitions Mint Squadrons (Until 01 Oct 72 all MMS were changed
to the Assigned Host Wing Number), SAC Communications Squadrons (Not the
AFCS Units with Air Traffic Control Functions)
Each wing was assigned a Combat
Support Group and it's job was to run the base that supported the air
mission. Many SAC wings also had their own hospital, manned by the
Medical Group. The numeric designation of the groups was usually
different from that of the wing. For example, the 380th
Bombardment Wing was supported by the 820th Combat Support Group and the
820th Medical Group
headquarters maintained operational control of the wings. Through
it's sophisticated Command and Control system, it could launch aircraft
and missiles at a moment's notice. Administrative and
logistics support had it's own chain of command.
SAC wings were assigned to a numbered Air
Force. Originally these were organized by mission, but on January
1, 1959, they were reorganized by geographic region. Within the ZI
(zone of the Interior, i.e. - the United States) The 8th Air Force had
control of the wings in the east, the 15th Air Force those in the west
and the 2nd Air Force those in the central states. The numbered
air force headquarters provided backup command and control.
Between the numbered air forces and the
wing was the Air Division. At first these were assigned to bases
that had more than one wing. The system was later
Aircraft and Manpower Authorizations
| A medium bombardment B-47 wing had three
bombardment squadrons, each containing 15 aircraft, 77 officers and 99
airmen. The combat crew consisted of two pilots and a bombardier-navigator.
A B-47 wing was authorized 410 officers and 2,243 airman. This
number included those assigned to the Combat Support Group, but does not
include any assigned to a Hospital Group.
A heavy bombardment B-52 wing also had three
bombardment squadrons, each containing 15 aircraft, 173 officers and 243
airmen. The combat crew consisted of two pilots, bombardier,
navigator, electronic counter-measures officers and tail gunner. A
B-52 wing was authorized 703 officers and 4,053 airmen. Again,
these numbers include the Combat Support Group, but not a hospital
The heavy bombardment B-36 wings that preceded
the heavy bombardment B-52 wings also had three bombardment squadrons,
but each contained only ten aircraft.
| During the late 1950's, Soviet missiles
represented a real threat. A B-52 base, with it's forty-five
bombers and wing of tankers was a big, fat juicy target. In
recognition of this, SAC began dispersing it's bombers to other bases so
that each base had one squadron of bombers and one squadron of
tankers. Most of these were organized as Strategic Wings. By
early 1963, SAC had phased out many of it's B-52s and as the bomber
force shrank, the strategic wings were replaced by bomb wings having one
bombardment and one refueling squadron. Both the strategic wings
and the later bomb wings had far few men assigned than cited
above. During this period, the B-47 wings maintained their three
bombardment squadron organization.
| The missile wings are organized similar
to the bombardment wings in that the wing commander is still the base
commander and they have the same maintenance squadrons. The
big differences are that the tactical squadrons have missiles, rather
than aircraft and the wing required far less men.
| As the cold war came to an end and the Soviet
Union disintegrated, SAC took it's bombers off alert. More and
more planes were retired and eventually only two B-52 wings were
left. They each have three squadrons of bombardment aircraft and
their organization is similar to that of the 1950s.
Terry Horstead has provided a great many details on wing organization.
They appear on the next page. CLICK HERE