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 

Higher Echelons

      SAC 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 expanded.  

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 group.
     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.   

Dispersal Program

     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.

Missile Wings

      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.

The 1990s

     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.

Wing Organization Detail

     Terry Horstead has provided a great many details on wing organization.  They appear on the next page.  CLICK HERE