Nellis Air Force Base is a United States Air Force Base, located approximately northeast of Las Vegas, Nevada. It is under the jurisdiction of Air Combat Command (ACC). The base is recorded as a census-designated place for statistical purposes, with a population of 3,187 at the 2010 census.
Nellis Air Force Base is named in honor of 1st Lieutenant William Harrell Nellis (1916–1944). He was born in Santa Rita, New Mexico on 8 March 1916, and his family relocated to Searchlight, Nevada as a child. He remained in the town until he graduated the eighth grade then moved to Las Vegas, Nevada, where he attended Las Vegas High School. He graduated in 1936. Nellis enlisted in the Enlisted Reserve Corps on 9 December 1942. He reported for active duty in the United States Army Air Forces as an aviation cadet on 2 March 1943.
After completing flight training at Albany Army Airfield, Georgia, in January 1944, he was deployed to the European Theater of Operations (ETO) and assigned to the Ninth Air Force 406th Fighter Group, 513th Fighter Squadron, where he participated in aerial combat missions flying the P-47 Thunderbolt. Most of the missions flown by Lt. Nellis were air-to-ground operations in support of General George S. Patton's Third United States Army. He was shot down in combat three times. On 27 December 1944 during his 70th mission, Lt. Nellis's aircraft was hit by ground fire while strafing a German convoy near Bastogne, Belgium. His plane burst into flames, plunged into the ground, and he was killed in the crash.
0n 30 April 1950, the United States Air Force officially renamed Las Vegas Air Force Base to Nellis Air Force Base. A dedication ceremony to mark the occasion took place 20 May 1950, with Lieutenant Nellis's family in attendance.
In 1929, what would become Nellis AFB was nothing more than a dirt runway, a water well and a small operations shack for Western Air Express Airlines. The United States Army Air Corps had been looking at the Las Vegas area since the 1930s, when it had used the Western Air Express Field—later renamed McCarran Field, northeast of Las Vegas for its training flights. With war looming, new training bases were needed. Far from either coast, Las Vegas' location made it safe from surprise air attack and offered a climate perfect for year-round flying. In addition, the hundreds of square miles of uninhabited desert surrounding Las Vegas were well suited for munitions training. The Western Air Express origins of Nellis AFB are reflected to this day in the 'WA' tailcodes worn by the aircraft based there.
In October 1940, Air Corps Major David Schlatter surveyed several areas in Utah, Arizona and Nevada looking for a site to locate the first American flexible aerial gunnery school. Major Schlatter was particularly interested in the Nevada site since about 90 percent of the area north, northwest and northeast of Las Vegas was desert wasteland. After surveying several areas in Utah, Arizona and Nevada, Maj. Schlatter settled on the Las Vegas site in October 1940. In 1941, the Army concluded a lease with the City of Las Vegas to use McCarran Field until construction was completed on the gunnery range airfield.
A detachment of five staff officers of the 79th Air Base Group, commanded by Lt. Col. Martinus Stenseth, took up residence in a small basement post office in the Las Vegas federal building in May 1941. A month later, the military population of Las Vegas Army Airfield (LVAAF) more than doubled with the arrival of five administrative noncommissioned officers and other support personnel.
During the construction of the airfield, there were no services or facilities. Enlisted men were quartered in Works Progress Administration barracks in town. The motor pool consisted of six vintage trucks and a semi-trailer often parked by the barracks. Supply and logistics had not yet been organized, and mechanics had to borrow nuts, bolts and old parts from service stations in Las Vegas and gasoline and oil from the Civilian Conservation Corps. Construction of permanent base facilities began in earnest in mid-1941 for barracks to house 3,000 people. One fallout of the construction of the base was the closing of the Block 16 brothels in Las Vegas.
World War II
Construction of permanent base facilities began in earnest in mid-1941 for barracks to house 3,000 people. By the time of the Pearl Harbor Attack and the United States entry into World War II, there were 10 AT-6 Texan advanced flight trainers and 17 Martin B-10 bombers at the airfield. The base was officially activated as Las Vegas AAF on 20 December 1941. It was placed under the jurisdiction of the Western Flying Training Command, Air Corps Flying Training Command. The 82d Flying Training Wing (Flexible Gunnery) was assigned by Flying Training Command as the primary instructional organization.
Students received five weeks of intensive training and classes were quickly rotated. The training started on the ground using mounted shotguns with fixed arcs of fire, and then shotguns mounted on the backs of trucks, which were driven through a course. Then the students went up in the bombers, shooting at targets pulled by other aircraft. remains of targets from these guns still exist today in the desert north of Las Vegas. Many pieces of the destroyed aerial drone targets litter the hillside north of the gunnery range and can be seen in town when the sun reflects off of them.
Along with the primary training base at Las Vegas, the Gunnery School operated a series of Auxiliary Airfields for training in southern Nevada:
The first B-17 Flying Fortress heavy bombers arrived in 1942, giving students their first chance to train in the gun turret of an actual combat plane and providing aircraft to train co-pilots in ground and transition school. At the height of World War II, 600 gunnery students and 215 co-pilots graduated from LVAAF every five weeks, and more than 45,000 B-17 gunners were trained. Actors Ronald Reagan and Burgess Meredith came to help produce the Army Air Forces training film The Rear Gunner in 1943.
Over the course of the war, the gunnery school at Las Vegas AAF expanded greatly to accommodate the large numbers of students. By 1944, students on gunnery missions fired from four-engined B-17, B-24 Liberator and B-40 Flying Fortress gunship aircraft while two-engine aircraft towed targets and single-engine tactical aircraft simulated attacks on the bombers. Unfortunately, towed targets hardly resembled attacking fighter aircraft, but one device that more closely simulated combat conditions was a camera gun that students "fired" at fighter aircraft flying in normal attack patterns toward the bombers. These cameras, which came into general use during 1944 and 1945, posed problems relating to developing the film and measuring the results for each student, but in conjunction with greater standardization of training and other improvements, they greatly reduced the shortcomings in flexible gunnery training.
Also, to make training more realistic, the 82d FTW used "frangible" bullets to fire at specially built Bell RP-63 Kingcobra aircraft that simulated conventional fighter attacks against bombers. The bullets were made in such a way that they splattered into powder when they struck the aircraft. The RP-63s were equipped with radiosonic equipment to cause a wing lamp to flash, showing gunners when they had scored. Unfortunately, the number of hits registered by the recording devices was usually disappointingly small—whether because of misses or a failure of the recording mechanisms was unclear.
In March 1945, the base converted from B-17 training to B-29 Superfortress very heavy bomber gunnery training, with the population of the base peaking with nearly 11,000 officers and enlisted personnel. Of those, more than 4,700 were students. Among the training devices used in the instruction of B-29 gunners was the manipulation trainer, consisting of 12 towers arranged to resemble a formation of planes. The towers ranged in height from , each equipped with 2 nose, 2 tail, 2 ring sighting, and 4 blister positions. As students in these positions faced simulated attacks from PT-13 and PT-17 Stearman biplane training aircraft, they "fired" camera guns at the attacking fighters.
Flexible gunnery training ended shortly after the surrender of Japan. With World War II ended, the base converted to the role of a separation and demobilization center. During 1945 and 1946 thousands of soldiers received separation physicals and final pay at Las Vegas Army Airfield on their return to civilian life. Activities at the base wound down until 31 December 1946 when AAF Training Command closed the airfield. It was placed on caretaker status on 28 August 1946, and was inactivated on 31 December 1946.
United States Air Force
Air Training Command
Las Vegas AAF was re-activated on 30 August 1947 by Air Training Command as a subinstallation of Mather Army Airfield, California under the ATC Flying Training Division. Initially the Army Air Forces wanted to conduct a course to train navigator, bombardier, and radar operator training at the base, but because of problems with sharing the airfield with local civilian interests, the training was shifted to Mather.
In 1948 Air Training Command began rebuilding its training programs. After the massive demobilization after World War II, plans were made by the new United States Air Force to rebuild a combat force capable of defending against the threat of the Soviet Union after the breakout of the Cold War. On 13 January 1948, the facility was renamed Las Vegas Air Force Base. It was then assigned as a sub-installation of Williams Air Force Base, Arizona, on 1 April 1948 to provide advanced training for fighter pilots.
3595th Pilot Training Wing
To provide advanced training of fighter pilots, ATC returned Las Vegas AFB to active status on 1 April 1948 and established the 3595th Pilot Training Wing (Advanced Single-Engine) on 22 December. However, training did not begin at Las Vegas until 1 March 1949. Training squadrons assigned to the wing were:
The squadrons were equipped with P-51 Mustangs, and their mission was advanced fighter pilot training to meet an Air Force directed increase in pilot production (3,000 pilots by 1950). The training school at Las Vegas AFB was six months then after graduation the pilots would be sent to their permanent assignments.
The outbreak of the Korean War on 25 June 1950 indicated that ATC would soon see an increase in training requirements. By 1 July the Air Force had directed ATC to accelerate training to fill the needs of a new 95-wing Air Force. With operational commands immersed in the war, it was left to ATC to train pilots for combat. The first school opened at Nellis. ATC redesignated the 3595th Pilot Training Wing (Advanced Single-Engine) as the 3595th Training Wing (Combat Crew).
On 17 July 1950, Nellis began a special training program to provide 115 combat-ready F-51 Mustang pilots for the Far East Air Forces and 92 combat-ready F-80 Shooting Star pilots to serve as replacements for casualties in the first months of the Korean campaign. Effective 1 September 1950, the advanced single-engine pilot training mission at Nellis was transferred to Craig AFB, Alabama. Nellis assumed fighter-bomber training, and ATC established its USAF Air Crew School (Fighter) on 14 November 1950, equipped with the F-80 and also early-model F-84C Thunderjets.
On 1 October, Nellis AFB was elevated to primary installation status, with all base management functions transferred from Williams AFB. In early 1951, with the large number of Air Force wings converting from conventional to jet aircraft, ATC established in April an on-the-job training program to turn out more jet mechanics. Using recently graduated airplane and engine mechanics, ATC assigned these individuals to Nellis to learn jet aircraft maintenance.
A major reconstruction project at Nellis AFB was performed between 1951 and 1954. A re-design of the airfield with new, longer jet-capable runways, a new configuration of the taxiways and an expansion of the aircraft parking ramp was performed. In addition, the temporary wartime wooden structures of the World War II gunnery school were replaced with permanent concrete and steel structures of support building and barracks, including a base housing facility for married personnel. The first Wherry houses were completed in 1958, with updated Capehart houses being completed in February 1960.
ATC Fighter Weapons School
In February 1949, ATC officials directed Las Vegas AFB to study the possibility of establishing a central gunnery school with both training and research capabilities. On 15 May 1949, with USAF approval, ATC opened its Aircraft Gunnery School at Las Vegas AFB. The 3525th Aircraft Gunnery Squadron was activated on 11 February, before the school opened. Shortly afterwards, base officials hosted their first aerial USAF Gunnery Meet.
Because of heavy commitments to the Korean War effort, the Nellis Gunnery School was converted to combat crew training in 1950. This mission would last through the end of 1953. Effective 1 January 1954, the school graduated its last Combat Crew Training Class and assumed, as its primary mission, the training of aircraft gunnery instructors. On that date, the squadron received a new title, the USAF Fighter Weapons School.
Under Air Training Command, the F-51 Mustang, F-80 Shooting Star, F-84 Thunderjet, and F-86 Sabre would be the primary aircraft used for instruction at the school. However, ATC suspended training at its Nellis-based fighter weapons school in late 1956 because of the almost total failure of the F-86 Sabre aircraft used at Nellis.
The school was programmed to have received F-100 Super Sabres in FY1958. Instead, those aircraft went to Tactical Air Command (TAC) operational units. In January 1957 the ATC commander told the Air Force chief of staff that the only way ATC could continue to operate the school was if the Air Force would agree to provide first-line aircraft on a timely basis. If that couldn't be agreed upon, then ATC felt the school mission should be handed to TAC.
In December USAF officials announced that TAC would assume responsibility for the fighter weapons school, which it did on 1 February 1958 with the transfer of jurisdiction of Nellis to Tactical Air Command.
Tactical Air Command
By the end of 1957, ATC basing structure had changed considerably as the result of tactical commitments, decreased student load, and fund shortages. During 1958 ATC discontinued its Flying Training and Technical Training Air Force. As a result, jurisdiction of Nellis AFB was transferred to Tactical Air Command on 1 July 1958. This reassignment came about as the result of a USAF-directed study of the feasibility of putting combat crew training under the appropriate zone of interior operational commands.
4520th Combat Crew Training Wing
The assets of the ATC 3595th PTW were re-designated initially as the 4520th Combat Crew Training Group by TAC on 1 Jul 1958. The group was upgraded to Wing status on 1 May 1961. The Combat Crew training squadrons were re-designated as follows:
With the transfer from Air Training Command to Tactical Air Command, the mission at Nellis transitioned from initial aircraft qualification and gunnery training to advanced, graduate-level weapons training. Soon after the transfer to TAC, the F-100C and F-100D entered the school inventory, providing complete mission capabilities.
In March 1961, F-105D Thunderchiefs were also supplied to the 4520th Combat Crew Training Wing and assigned to the 4537th Fighter Weapons Squadron. The wing taught veteran pilots in all phases of fighter weapon employment, finds the pilot proficient upon graduation in air-to-air gunnery, rocketry, conventional and nuclear bombing, aeria1 refueling, and combat navigation. Mid-1965 marked the beginning of the F-4 Phantom II Instructor Course.
When pilots would rotate back from combat units in Southeast Asia, some of the best of the best would become Fighter Weapons instructors at Nellis. There they would teach the best young pilots from other combat units to become experts in the fighter they flew and all the weapons it used. The 4520th Combat Crew Training Wing was seen as a core for a new fighter weapons center.
4525th Fighter Weapons Wing
On 1 January 1966 the USAF Fighter Weapons School, was organized and activated as a formal unit at Nellis and had three divisions, the F-100, F-4, and F-105. The school, however was discontinued, and inactivated by HQ TAC on 1 September, and merged with the 4520th CCTW, the wing was reorganized and re-designated as the 4525th Fighter Weapons Wing.
It was during this era (July 1968) that the first tail codes appeared on Nellis-based aircraft:
USAF Tactical Fighter Weapons Center
In conjunction with the reorganization of the Fighter Weapons School, Tactical Air Command established the USAF Tactical Fighter Weapons Center on 1 January 1966. A non-flying organization, the FWC has functioned as the authoritative agency in the employment of US Air Force tactical fighter weapons.
Over the years, it has developed, refined, coordinated, validated and tested fighter concepts, doctrine, tactics, and procedures. Additionally, the center has performed various phases of operational test and evaluation of aircraft, various aircraft systems, such as air defense radar and aircrew training devices. The FWC, either directly or indirectly, prepared or monitored Air Force publications on employment tactics, aircrew training, and aircrew weapons delivery. It has supervised courses of the US Air Force Fighter Weapons School, adversary tactics training, and Wild Weasel training, and other combat and tactical schools.
Through the FWC its subordinate units supervised Red Flag operational training and other continuing air exercises, such as Green Flag and Silver Flag Alpha. The center also directed operations of the US Air Force Bomber and Tanker, Employment School since 1992 and the Air Rescue Center since 1993.
In addition, the center exercised operations command and control of the USAF Air Demonstration Squadron, "The Thunderbirds", the Air Force's official aerial demonstration squadron between 1967 and 1974.
The center has undgone a number of designations over the years, being re-designated the USAF Warfare Center on 15 Nov 2005.
USAF Air Demonstration Squadron
Nellis AFB has been the home of the United States Air Force Thunderbirds Air Demonstration Squadron since moving from Luke AFB, Arizona in June 1956. Assigned to HQ, Tactical Air Command until 1967 as a series of provisional squadrons, the squadron became a part of the USAF Tactical Fighter Weapons Center in February 1967. The Thunderbirds have toured the United States and much of the world, performing aerobatic formation and solo flying in specially marked state-of-the-art USAF jet fighter aircraft.
In addition to their air demonstration responsibilities, the Thunderbirds are part of the USAF combat force and, if required, can be rapidly integrated into an operational fighter unit.
474th Tactical Fighter Wing
On 20 January 1968 the 474th Tactical Fighter Wing was reassigned to Nellis AFB, giving the base an operational Tactical Fighter Wing, assigned to Twelfth Air Force. The wing had originally been stationed at Cannon AFB, New Mexico in 1957. With the move to Nellis, the 474th Combat Support Group became the base operating host unit.
In early 1968, the Air Force decided to rush a small detachment of F-111As to Southeast Asia under a program known as "Combat Lancer". Six 428th TFS F-111As were allocated to the Combat Lancer program, and departed Nellis AFB for Takhli RTAFB on 15 March 1968. By the end of that month, 55 night missions had been flown against targets in North Vietnam, but two aircraft had been lost. 66-0022 had been lost on March 28, and 66-0017 on March 30. Replacement aircraft had left Nellis, but the loss of a third F-111A (66-0024) on April 22 halted F-111A combat operations. However, the aircraft remained poised for combat, but they saw little action before their return to the USA in November.
It turned out that the three F-111A losses were not due to enemy action but were caused by wing and tail structural defects. One of the Combat Lancer crashes had been traced to a malfunction of the aircraft's tail servo actuator. These losses caused a storm of controversy in the United States, with Wisconsin Senator William Proxmire denouncing the F-111A as an unsafe and defective plane. However, the Air Force and General Dynamics remained hard at work trying to fix the problems with the F-111A. The 428th TFS of the 474th TFW reached an initial operational capability in the spring of 1968. Modifications to the F-111 took a lot longer than expected, and the Wing was not fully operational until July 1971.
The 474th returned to Takhli RTAFB in September 1972. Two F-111A squadrons (the 429th and 430th) participated in the Linebacker II aerial offensive against North Vietnam. They flew bombing missions against targets in North Vietnam and Laos in the midst of the monsoon season. They flew without RB-66E electronic countermeasures escort aircraft or KC-135 tankers. On 8 November 1972, they flew 20 strikes over North Vietnam in weather that grounded other aircraft. Four F-111As could deliver the bomb loads of 20 F-4s. the 429th and 430th TFS flew some 4000 combat missions with excellent success rates in hitting targets even when visibility was near zero. Only six aircraft were lost in action.
The 430th TFS returned to the 474th TFW Nellis on 22 March 1973 assuming a replacement training unit mission, while the 428th and 429th were assigned to the newly transferred 347th Tactical Fighter Wing at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho on 30 July 1973. With the end of hostilities in Southeast Asia, the 474th's mission was to train combat-ready force of aircrews and maintained a rapid-reaction capability to execute fighter attacks against enemy forces and facilities in time of crisis.
In 1975, the 428th and 429th were reassigned to the wing, again being equipped with F-111As. In August 1977 the F-111 aircraft and crews were transferred to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, and the 474th Wing absorbed the F-4D Phantom II aircraft, crews, and resources of the inactivating provisional 4474th Tactical Fighter Wing at Nellis in April 1977. The Phantoms had a relatively short life, being replaced with new F-16A Fighting Falcons, as part of "Operation Ready Switch". The 474th was the third USAF wing to receive Fighting Falcons. It received its first Block 1/5 F-16A/Bs in November 1980, later operated Block 10 F-16A/Bs.
The wing conducted routine Tactical Air Command training and deployments from Nellis with the F-16s, retaining the Block 10/15 models until September 1989, when the wing was inactivated, the F-16As no longer being considered as front-line aircraft. Instead of re-equipping the wing, the F-16As were transferred to Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve squadrons, and the three squadrons resurfacing as EF-111A Raven Electronic Warfare Squadrons with the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing at Cannon AFB, New Mexico. The 474th Air Expeditionary Group today is a provisional unit assigned to Air Combat Command.
57th Fighter Weapons Wing
The 57th Fighter Weapons Wing was activated at Nellis on 15 October 1969, replacing the 4525th FWW as a tenant wing although Nellis remained under the jurisdiction of Tactical Air Command and the 474th Combat Support Group remained the base operating host organization. Transfer of the base operations functions occurred on 1 February 1970 when the 57th Combat Support Group took over the base hosting function at Nellis. With the re-designation to a HQ USAF-controlled (AFCON) designation, the 57th FWW gave the Fighter Weapons School at Nellis a permanent lineage and history that the provisional TAC MAJCOM wing could not carry.
The 57th FWW absorbed and re-designated the provisional Fighter Weapons Squadrons of the 4525th FWW, providing them AFCON designations. In June 1972, all 57th FWS aircraft recoded to the "WA" tail code:
The USAF Air Demonstration Squadron (the "Thunderbirds") was assigned to the wing in February 1974 an has remained an integral part of the wing to present. It incorporated intelligence training after March 1980. d
In 1977, the wing was re-designated as the 57th Tactical Training Wing, to better reflect its mission. At Nellis, it trained tactical fighter aircrews, conducted operational tests and evaluations, demonstrated tactical fighter weapon systems, and developed fighter tactics. As new fighter aircraft entered the inventory, more Instructor Courses were added to the curriculum; as weapons systems have been retired, the courses have been discontinued.
The 57th assumed operational control of "Red Flag" exercises in October 1979; developing realistic combat training operations featuring adversary tactics, dissimilar air combat training, and electronic warfare. The Red Flag exercise was controlled by the 4440th Tactical Fighter Training Group (Red Flag) component of the wing.
Foreign Technology Evaluation
On November 14, 2006 the Air Force declassified information regarding an American-manned Soviet MiG unit used in training at Nellis from the late 1960s to about 1990.
Operating from Tonopah Test Range Airport, this Nellis-assigned unit was designated as the 4477th Tactical Evaluation Flight, AKA "Red Eagles" and used MiG-17s, MiG-21s and MiG-23s to simulate combat to test the capabilities of United States combat aircraft, both Air Force and United States Navy, against the capabilities of these Soviet aircraft.
During the 1970s, a site near the former Air Defense Command radar station at Tonopah Air Force Station was used by the Air Force as part of the Foreign Technology Evaluation program. A "Barlock" search radar from the Soviet Union was installed to evaluate the Soviet Air Defense System, and electronic warfare using acquired Soviet ground radar equipment was used to test and develop techniques to counter Soviet air defense equipment used by the Warsaw Pact and nations friendly to the Soviets.
In 1980 the operation was renamed again to Constant Peg. The squadron developed realistic combat training operations featuring adversary tactics, dissimilar air combat training. In addition to the Soviet technology assessment, the squadron also was a training organization for USAF "Aggressor" pilots, giving them realistic training flying Soviet aircraft, as well as engaging in simulated combat against them in the F-5E Tiger II aircraft based at Nellis. After completion of training, the Agressor pilots were assigned to the DACT squadrons at Clark AB, Philippines, RAF Alconbury, England and Nellis AFB where they were able to train USAF and NATO pilots.
USAF Fighter Weapons School
On December 1981, the USAF Fighter Weapons School was formally reactivated. Upon activation, the 66th, 414th and 433d Fighter Weapons Squadrons were inactivated, becoming the "A-10", "F-4E" and "F-15A" Divisions of the FWS. The 422d FWS transferred its aircraft and personnel to the FWS, becoming the "F-16 Division", with the squadron itself being re-designated as the 422d Test and Evaluation Squadron, with a new mission.
On 15 June 1993, under Air Combat Command, the scope of the school was expanded beyond Advanced Fighter training. It included all of the weapons systems of ACC, with the activation of the B-52 and B-1 Divisions that year. Rescue helicopters joined the school with the HH-60 Division in 1995. That year also saw the addition of RC-135 Rivet Joint and EC-130 Compass Call courses to the CCO Division. To increase the graduate-level understanding of space and air integration for operators, the school added the Space Division in 1996. UAVs were added in 2008.
Today the USAF Weapons School is unequaled in providing the world's most advanced training in weapons and tactics employment to officers of the combat air forces.
As part of the establishment of the Fighter Weapons School in late 1981 the 57th wing was re-designated and reorganized:
57th Fighter Wing
In November 1991, the 57th implemented the USAF Objective Wing organization. The most comprehensive USAF reorganization plan since 1947, the implementation reorganized the wing as follows:
The USAF Air Demonstration Squadron remained directly assigned to the 57th Fighter Wing.
Air Combat Command
With the inactivation of Tactical Air Command in 1992, and the formation of Air Combat Command the basic mission of Nellis remained unchanged. Significant organizational changes to the base occurred as a result of the post-Cold War reorganization of the USAF.
The introduction of the RQ-1 Predator and MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) for reconnaissance and forward observation roles led to the activation of several new squadrons under the 57th Operations Group. The USAF Combat Rescue School, established in 1993, provided HH-60 Pave Hawk instructional flying for air rescue missions. These changes led to the unit being re-designated as the 57th Wing on 15 June 1993, to reflect its composite composition.
The organizational structure of Nellis changed in the mid 1990s, with the 57th Wing being relieved from base host support duties by the 99th Air Base Wing, a re-designation of the former Strategic Air Command 99th Strategic Weapons Wing, whose origins date back to the World War II Fifteenth Air Force 99th Bombardment Group. The 99 ABW oversees base day-to-day operations and provides support for more than 10,000 personnel assigned to Nellis AFB, Cand the Nevada Test & Training Range.
The 98th Range Wing was activated at Nellis on 29 October 2001 to operate, maintain, and develop the Nevada Test and Training Range (NTTR). The 98 RANW can be traced to the World War II 98th Bombardment Group, which was a B-24 Liberator heavy bomb group that fought in North Africa and Italy. Two of its members, Colonel John R. (Killer) Kane and First Lieutenant Donald Pucket were awarded the Medal of Honor for their actions in combat.
On January 14, 2003 the first production F-22A Raptor was delivered to the base. Nellis Air Force Base was selected as the location for the F-22 Force Development Evaluation program and Weapons School for the reason of weather similar to that in Iraq and Afghanistan. On December 21, 2004 one F-22A crashed on takeoff, marking the first accident at the base since March 1996 and the first accident of an F-22 since 1992. As of July 2008, there were 12 Raptors assigned to the 422d Test and Evaluation Squadron for various development and evaluation missions.
"Agressor" training, formerly known as Dissimilar Air Combat Training in the 1970s and 1980s was reactivated under the 57th Operations group in 2003. On 1 July 2005, the Agressor flying squadrons of the 57th OG were split off into the new 57th Adversary Tactics Group, which consolidated all Aggressor activities under one group is to provide the Combat Air Forces with the opportunity to train against a realistic, fully integrated threat array during large- and small-scale exercises such as Red Flag – Nellis, Red Flag – Alaska, Maple Flag, Green Flag and dissimilar air combat training deployments.
With the reactivation of the 432d Wing at Creech Air Force Base on 1 May 2007, the UAV reconnaissance elements that were assigned the 57th Operations Group, were transferred to the 432nd Wing.
On April 23, 2007 construction was started on a , 70,000 solar panel power generation system. The installation on the west side of the base was completed in December 2007. The 14 megawatt system is expected to provide 25% of the base's power requirements. On May 27, 2009 President Barack Obama toured the photovoltaic array during a visit to the base where he promoted the Recovery Act of 2009 and renewable energy.
Major commands to which assigned
 Note: Las Vegas Army Airfield was placed in caretaker status, August 28, 1946, and inactivated on December 31, 1946. It was assigned as a subbase of Mather AAF, California, between August 30, 1947 – March 31, 1948. It was reactivated on April 1, 1948 and assigned as a subbase of Williams AFB, Arizona, April 1, 1948 – October 1, 1950 when it was returned to primary installation status.
Major units assigned