Holloman Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base located six miles (10 km) southwest of the central business district of Alamogordo, a city in Otero County, New Mexico, United States. The base was named in honor of Col. George V. Holloman, a pioneer in guided missile research. It is the home of the 49th Wing (49 WG) of the Air Combat Command (ACC).
Holloman Air Force Base was established in 1942 as Alamogordo Air Field six miles west of Alamogordo, New Mexico, it was renamed in 1948 in honor of Col. George Holloman, a native of Rich Square, North Carolina and pioneer of early rocket and pilot-less aircraft research.
World War II
On 10 June 1942 Alamogordo Army Air Field (AAF) was established at a site six miles (10 km) west of Alamogordo, New Mexico. Initial plans called for the base to serve as the center for the British Overseas Training program. The British hoped to be able to train their aircrews over the open New Mexico skies. However, everything changed when the Japanese launched a surprise attack against the Hawaiian Islands on 7 December 1941. The British decided to not pursue its overseas training program, and the United States military saw the location as an opportunity to train its own expanding military. Construction began at the airfield on 5 February 1942 and forces began moving into Alamogordo Bombing and Gunnery Range on 14 May 1942.
The base was under the command of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) Second Air Force with its Headquarters at, Colorado Springs, Colorado. The base was equipped with aprons, runways, taxiways and hangars during the summer of 1942 being renamed Alamogordo AAF in June.
From 1942–1945, Alamogordo AAF served as the training grounds for over 20 different groups, initially flying Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses then Consolidated B-24 Liberators. Typically, the groups served at the airfield for several months, training their personnel before deploying overseas.
The host support unit at Alamogordo AAF was the 359th Base HQ and Air Base Squadron, activated on 10 June 1942. This was redesignated the 231st AAF Base Unit on 25 March 1944, then 1073d AAF Base Unit on 24 August 1944.
On 16 April 1945 Alamogordo AAF was relieved of its training mission and assigned to Continental Air Forces, and was scheduled to be a permanent B-29 base. However postwar funding cutbacks did not allow an active bomb group to be based at the facility, and the base was temporarily inactivated on 28 February 1946.
Holloman Air Armament Center (AAC)
After World War II, the future of the base was uncertain. In fact, rumors spread concerning the closure of the site, fueled by the fact that most operations had ceased. However, on 16 March 1947, a new era began when Air Materiel Command announced the airfield would be its primary site for the testing and development of pilotless aircraft, guided missiles, and other research programs.
For the next 25 years the site, which became known as the Holloman Air Development Center, and later the Air Force Missile Development Center, launched many missiles including Tiny Tim (the first Army rocket), Rascal, V-2 rocket, Ryan XQ-2 Drone, Falcon, MGM-13 Mace, MGM-1 Matador, and AGM-45 Shrike.
On 13 January 1948 the Alamogordo installation was renamed Holloman Air Force Base, in honor of the late Col. George V. Holloman, a pioneer in guided missile research.
Resulting from a major reorganization, the 2754th Experimental Wing was activated on 20 September 1949 at Holloman AFB overseeing all research and development projects. On 10 October 1952, the Holloman Air Development Center opened, under the command of Colonel Don R. Ostrander. Holloman Air Force Base wrote its name into the annals of American history in the 1950s and 1960s.
On 10 December 1954, Lt Colonel (Dr.) John P. Stapp received the nickname "The Fastest Man Alive" when he rode a rocket propelled test sled, Sonic Wind No. 1, to a speed of 632 miles per hour.
On 1 September 1957 the Holloman Air Development Center was renamed the Air Force Missile Development Center and inactivated on 1 August 1970.
Additionally, Captain Joseph W. Kittinger, Jr., stepped out of an open balloon gondola at 102,800 feet on 16 August 1960, in an attempt to evaluate techniques of high altitude bailout. Capt Kittinger’s jump lasted 13 minutes, reaching a velocity of 614 miles per hour. That jump broke four world records: highest open gondola manned balloon flight, highest balloon flight of any kind, highest bailout, and longest free fall.
On 31 January 1961, HAM, a three-year-old chimpanzee, blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station to an altitude of 157 miles inside the Mercury-Redstone 2 capsule as a final check to man-rate a capsule and launch vehicle. HAM thus became the first chimpanzee to go into Outer space.
A final noteworthy event occurred on 29 November 1961, when ENOS, a chimpanzee trained at Holloman’s Aero-Medical (HAM) laboratory, was the first US specimen launched into orbit. ENOS was launched in the Mercury-Atlas 4 capsule that completed two orbits around the earth and was safely recovered three hours, 21 minutes later.
On 8 April 1966 the 4758th Defense Systems Evaluation Squadron (DSES) arrived from Biggs AFB Texas. The mission of this squadron was to evaulate aircraft weapons systems and to provide training for air defense units. Aircraft flown by the 4758th DSES were the B-57 Canberra and F-100 Super Sabre. On 31 October 1970 the squadron was merged with the 4677th DSES at Tyndall AFB Florida.
On 1 August 1970, per Air Force Systems Command Special Order G-94, the AFMDC was inactivated and Tactical Air Command assumed host responsibilities for Holloman Air Force Base. Associate units and programs transferred to other locations within Air Force Systems Command. The Test & Evaluation activities that remained were the Central Inertial Guidance Test Facility (CIGTF), the High Speed Test Track, the Radar Target Scatter Facility (RATSCAT), and the Target Drone Facility.
These organizations were combined to form the nucleus of a Holloman AFB tenant organization, the 6585th Test Group, with the Air Force Special Weapons Center (AFSWC) at Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico, designated as the headquarters for the Test Group.
In 1975, AFSWC was disestablished, and the 6585th Test Group at Holloman became part of the Armament Development and Test Center (ADTC) at Eglin AFB Florida. They were later renamed the Armament Division (AD). From 1 October 1993 under the objective wing reorganization, the Air Division at Eglin AFB became the Air Armament Center (AAC).
In 1986, a contract was awarded to Flight Systems Inc. (later Honeywell) to modify 194 surplus Convair F-106 Delta Dart aircraft stored at Davis-Monthan AFB Arizona to the QF-106A target drone configuration. This program came to be known as Pacer Six, and the first flight of a converted drone took place in July 1987. Following the completion of an initial batch of ten QF-106s in 1990, most of the work was transferred to the USAF itself. Much of the conversion work was done before the aircraft were removed from storage at AMARC, with further work being carried out at East St Louis, Illinois.
The QF-106s began operating as a Full-Scale Aerial Target (FSAT) in late 1991 at White Sands Missile Range New Mexico, and later at the Eglin Gulf Test Range in Florida (based at Holloman and Tyndall). A typical mission would employ the QF-106 as a target for an infrared homing missile. The aircraft had burners placed on pylons underneath the wings to act as IR sources for heat-seeking missiles. The intention of the program was for the QF-106 to survive repeated engagements with air-to-air missiles, to make it possible for each QF-106 to last as long as possible before it was destroyed. The last shootdown of a QF-106 (57–2524) took place at Holloman AFB on 20 February 1997. Today, the QF-106 has been replaced by QF-4 Phantom drones
Today, the 46th Test Group from Eglin Air Force Base Florida is responsible for operational testing and evaluation of new equipment and systems proposed for use by these forces. Current initiatives include advanced self-protection systems for combat aircraft, aircrew life support systems, aerial reconnaissance improvements, new armament and weapons delivery systems, and improved maintenance equipment and logistics support.
366th Tactical Fighter Wing
On 12 July 1963, after serving at Chaumont-Semoutiers Air Base, France as a conventional strike force in Europe, the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing moved to Holloman. The move was a result of French president Charles DeGaulle’s deep suspicion of “supranational organizations” and his country’s shift away from the NATO orbit in the early 1960s that ultimately led to the closure of American air bases in France.
366th TFW was organized as follows:
On 20 March 1966 the rest of the wing entered the conflict and moved to Phan Rang AB, Republic of Vietnam in support of combat operations in Vietnam. With the transfer of the 366th to Vietnam, the 6583d Air Base Group became the host unit at Holloman.
49th Tactical Fighter Wing
On 1 July 1968, the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing arrived at Holloman Air Force Base from Spangdahlem AB, West Germany, becoming the first dual-based tactical fighter wing. The 6583d Air Base Group was inactivated in place.
Under the dual-basing concept, the 49th, stationed at Holloman, deployed individual squadrons periodically to Europe, fulfilling their NATO commitment. The operational squadrons of the 49th TFW upon its arrival were:
All three squadrons flew the McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom II. In 1972 squadron aircraft tail codes were standardized on "HO".
In 1969, the wing participated in its first dual-basing exercise, Crested Cap I, deploying 2,000 personnel and 72 aircraft to NATO bases in Europe. Also in 1969, the 49th earned the coveted MacKay Trophy for the "most meritorious flight of the year", for the redeployment from Germany to Holloman after Crested Cap II. The MacKay Trophy recognized the 49th for the fastest non-stop deployment of jet aircraft accomplished by a wing's entire fleet.
In May 1972 the 49th deployed their F-4 aircraft and 2,600 personnel to Takhli RTAFB Thailand. During this deployment the 49th flew more than 21,000 combat hours over just about every battle zone from An Loc to vital installations in the Hanoi vicinity. During five months of combat, the wing did not lose any aircraft or personnel—a testament to the outstanding training and proficiency of all members of the 49th. The unit received an Air Force Outstanding Unit Award with Combat "V" Device for its participation. The 49th TFW officially closed out its Southeast Asia duty on 9 October 1972, turning over Takhli to a former host unit at Holloman, the 366th TFW which was transferred from Da Nang Air Base South Vietnam.
F-15 Eagle era
On 20 December 1977, the wing began converting from the F-4D to F-15A/Bs. The transition was completed on 4 June 1978.
History was made during February 1980, when two pilots from the 49th each flew their F-15s 6,200 miles in just over 14 hours, establishing a record for the longest flight of a single-seat fighter aircraft. The flights required six aerial refuelings, proving the global power of the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing.
In July 1980, the wing acquired the commitment of a primary Rapid Deployment Force unit. This tasking, which lasted for a year, required the wing to be ready to deploy its aircraft, crews, and support personnel on short notice. The wing served with the Rapid Deployment Force until July 1981, when the tasking was transferred to the 1st Tactical Fighter Wing, Langley Air Force Base Virginia.
The 49th demonstrated its capabilities in the fall of 1988, winning top honors at the William Tell air-to-air weapons competition. The wing outdistanced the nearest competitor by more than 2,000 points. The 49th won a variety of awards, including the coveted "Top Gun" for best fighter pilot.
F-117 Nighthawk era
From 1991 to 1993, the 49th underwent a number of transitions. On 1 October 1991, the 49th was redesignated the 49th Fighter Wing as part of an Air Force wide redesignation of units.
On 1 November 1991, the 7th Fighter Squadron ceased F-15 operations, performing a Lead-In Fighter Training (LIFT) mission with Northrup AT-38B Talons, preparing for the transition to the Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk. during most of 1992.
On 1 June 1992 the 8th Fighter Squadron ceased F-15 operations and started flying AT-38B LIFT missions.
The 9th Fighter Squadron ceased F-15 operations on 5 June 1992 and received F-4E aircraft from the 20th Fighter Squadron from the closing George AFB California as the Fighter Training Unit for the German Air Force.
The last F-15 departed Holloman 5 June 1992, ending 14 years of Eagle operations.
On 9 May 1992, four Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk stealth fighters from the Tonopah Test Range Airport Nevada, arrived at Holloman. The 37th Tactical Fighter Wing at Tonopah was inactivated with the transfer of the last F-117s to Holloman on 8 July 1992.
F-117s were initially assigned to the following squadrons:
These squadrons were PCS (moved Permanent Change Of Station) to Holloman as part of the 37th Operations Group on 15 June 1992. The formal transfer to the 49th Operations group occurred on 8 July 1992 when the 37th OG was inactivated. In 1993 these squadrons were inactivated with assets transferred to the 7th, 8th and 9th Fighter Squadrons. The 7th was designated a combat training squadron, the 8th and 9th being deployable operational fighter squadrons.
On 1 July 1993, the 20th Fighter Squadron was activated as part of the 49th Operations Group, taking over the F-4Es of the 9th FS. The mission of the 20th FS was to conduct training with the German Air Force. The F-4Es which the 20th FS flew initially were USAF-owned aircraft, however in 1997 the squadron began flying German-owned F-4F aircraft. The F-4Fs, however flew in USAF markings. The 20th Fighter Squadron was inactivated on 20 December 2004 and the F-4Fs sent to Germany.
The 48th Rescue Squadron served at Holloman AFB on 1 May 1993 with its six Sikorsky HH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters. The personnel of the 48th deployed six times in support of Operations Northern and Southern Watch. Additionally, the 48th saved 33 lives in real-world rescues in the American Southwest. The unit was inactivated on 1 February 1999.
The 8th and 9th Fighter Squadrons deployed to Aviano Air Base, Italy and Spangdahlem Air Base, Germany from 21 February–1 July 1999, in support of Operation Allied Force. Flying more than 1,000 total sorties, pilots flew into heavily defended skies, littered with surface-to-air missiles and anti-aircraft fire. In particular, F-117A pilots bravely trusting in their aircraft's low observable technology struck some of the most valuable, and highly guarded targets in Serbia. The F-117s penetrated the heavily defended areas, which conventional aircraft could not reach, and at least two aircraft were lost.
Global War On Terror
People, airplanes, and equipment of the 49th Fighter Wing played a key role in the continued global war against terrorism and particularly in Operation Iraqi Freedom. The wing's F-117s played a major role, dropping the first bombs against an Iraqi leadership target in Baghdad on 19 March 2003. In all, F-117 pilots flew more than 80 missions and dropped nearly 100 enhanced guided bomb units against key targets.
Approximately 300 people deployed with the air package and provided direct support to the F-117 mission. Additionally, hundreds of other 49th FW personnel were deployed on other missions.
479th Tactical Training Wing
The 479th TTW was activated at Holloman on 1 January 1977 to provide Lead-In Fighter Training (LIFT) training for pilots assigned to fly the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle. The 479th Flew AT-38B Talons with the following squadrons:
All 479th TTW aircraft carried the "HM" tail code. The LIFT program was sharply cut back in 1991, and the wing replaced by the 479th Fighter Group at Holloman, with the aircraft being consolidated under the 586th Flight Training Squadron.
The 479th was inactivated on 31 July 2000, with squadron resources absorbed by the 49th FW, later being transferred to the 46th Test Group as the 586th Flight Test Squadron.
Major commands to which assigned
Major units assigned
World War II station units
World War II training units
United States Air Force
Aircraft operated from Holloman