Davis-Monthan Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base adjacent to Tucson, Arizona. The installation is primarily an Air Combat Command (ACC) base with the 355th Fighter Wing (355 FW) as the host activity. The base is also home to Headquarters, 12th Air Force (12 AF) and the Air Force Material Command's (AFMC) 309th Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Group (309 AMARG), previously known as the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center (AMARC).
Davis-Monthan's primary operational mission is to train A-10 and OA-10 pilots and to provide A-10 and OA-10 close air support and forward air control to ground forces worldwide. In addition, the attached AMARG facility functions as a long term storage and reclamation facility for excess DoD, USCG, NASA and other U.S. government aircraft.
The 7,000 military and 1,600 civilian employees who work on the base are paid $199 million annually, and the base has an estimated $750 million economic impact on Tucson as a whole.
The base commander and commander of the 355th Fighter Wing is Colonel Kent Laughbaum
Other major units assigned to the base are:
All active duty aircraft assigned to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base carry the tail code "DM".
In addition, there are numerous other support agencies assigned to the base. Some of these consist of the 305th Rescue Squadron (Air Force Reserve, HH-60G), and the 214th Reconnaissance Group (Arizona Air National Guard, MQ-1B Predator UAV). Additional support is also provided to the 162d Fighter Wing, Arizona Air National Guard, at nearby Tucson International Airport, flying the Block 30 F-16C.
Other federal agencies using the base include the Federal Aviation Administration, the U.S. Customs Service Air Service Branch, the U.S. Corps of Engineers, the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, and a detachment of the Naval Air Systems Command.
The base was named in honor of Lieutenants Samuel H. Davis and Oscar Monthan, two Tucsonans and World War I era pilots who died in separate military aircraft accidents. Davis, who died in a Florida aircraft accident in 1921, attended the University of Arizona prior to enlisting in the Army in 1917. Monthan enlisted in the Army as a private in 1917, was commissioned as a ground officer in 1918 and later became a pilot. He was killed in a crash of a Martin bomber in Hawaii in 1924.
United States Air Force
Standard Airlines, later absorbed by American Airlines, had regular flights to and from Tucson in 1928. Military presence at the field began when Sergeant Simpson relocated his fuel/service operation to Tucson airport on 6 October 1927. He kept a log containing names of the field's customers--it reads like a Who's Who of aviation greats, including Benjamin Delahauf Foulois, Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, and James H. Doolittle.
During the war, Davis-Monthan Airfield became the primary training location for B-24 Liberator groups and, nearing the war's end, B-29 Superfortresses. Known bombardment groups which trained at DM during the war were:
Training at the airfield came to a halt on 14 August 1945 when the Japanese unconditionally surrendered. One little known role Davis-Monthan played in the war effort consisted of housing German Prisoners of War from June 1945 to March 1946.
With the end of the war, operations at the base came to a virtual standstill. It was then the base was selected as a storage site for hundreds of decommissioned aircraft with the activation of the 3040th Aircraft Storage Group. The 3040th oversaw the storage of excess B-29s and C-47 "Gooney Birds." Tucson's dry climate and alkali soil made it an ideal location for aircraft storage and preservation, a mission that has continued to this day. The airfield also acted as a separation center, which brought the base populace to a high of 11,614 people in September 1945.
On 11 January 1948, with the establishment of the United States Air Force, the facility was renamed Davis-Monthan Air Force Base. On June 30, 1948, the Air Force activated the 43rd Air Refueling Squadron, whose KB-29Ms were newly-equipped with aerial refueling equipment purchased from the British firm FRL. The 43rd ARS, along with the 509th ARS at Walker AFB, New Mexico, was the first dedicated air fefueling unit in history.
On 2 March 1949, the Lucky Lady II, a B-50A of the 43d Bombardment Wing, completed the first nonstop round-the-world flight, having covered 23,452 miles in 94 hours and 1 minute (249.45mph). Lucky Lady II was refueled four times in the air by KB-29 tankers of the 43d Air Refueling Squadron, which had made only one operational air refueling contact before the mission. For this outstanding flight, the Lucky Lady II's crew received the Mackay Trophy, given annually by the National Aeronautic Association for the outstanding flight of the year, and the Air Age Trophy, an Air Force Association award, given each year in recognition of significant contributions to the public understanding of the air age. In 1953, the jet age came to the base when SAC units converted to the new B-47 Stratojet.
In April 1953 the Air Defense Command 15th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron was activated with F-86A Sabres. A year later the unit transitioned into F-86Ds followed by a transition to F-86Ls in the fall of 1957. In the spring of 1959 the unit received Northrop F-89J interceptors which it flew for only a year when it transitioned into McDonnel F-101Bs. On 24 December 1964 the 15th FIS was deactivated.
In July 1963, the 4028th Strategic Reconnaissance Weather Wing, equipped with U-2 strategic reconnaissance aircraft was assigned to the base and began flying global missions. Following the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1963, the 4080th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Laughlin AFB, Texas relocated to Davis-Monthan and assumed responsibility for all U-2 operations, emphasizing long-range strategic reconnaissance and intelligence collection. As a Strategic AIr Command (SAC) unit, the 4080th was later redesignated the 100th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing and also acquired DC-130 Hercules aircraft for launch and control of Firebee reconnaissance drones that were the precursors of contemporary unmanned aerial systems. The U-2s remained at the Davis-Monthan until 1976, when the 100 SRW was inactivated and its U-2s were to SAC's 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing (9 SRW) at Beale Air Force Base, California, where U-2 Dragon Lady operations were consolidated with SR-71 Blackbird operations.
The year 1964 brought back the combat crew training mission of the World War II years with the 4453d Combat Crew Training Wing equipped with the Air Force's newest and most sophisticated fighter, the F-4 Phantom II.
On October 1, 1976, the base was transferred to Tactical Air Command (TAC) after 30 years under SAC. It was also that year the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing accepted the first A-10 Thunderbolt II. Since 1979, D-M has been the training location for pilots in the A-10 and was redesignated as the 355th Tactical Training Wing on 1 Sep 1979. The organization was later redesignated the 355th Fighter Wing since it includes operational, deployable A-10 squadrons in addition to its CONUS training mission
The 1980s brought several diverse missions to D-M. The headquarters charged with overseeing them was now the 836th Air Division, which was activated January 1, 1981 the AD advised Air Force component commanders and land forces on A-10 aircraft tactics, training, employment and readiness, and subordinate units participated in exercises such as Red Flag and Celtic Echo.
In 1981 D-M welcomed the 868th Tactical Missile Training Group. The 868th was the only US-based Ground Launched Cruise Missile (GLCM) unit and the source of the crews that staffed the forward deployed GLCM wings in NATO in 1982.
On 1 September 1982 the headquarters of the 602nd Tactical Air Control Wing (TAIRCW) and its subordinate 23rd Tactical Air Support Squadron (TASS), a unit responsible for the Air Force's tactical air control system west of the Mississippi River stood up at D-M, bringing 16 OA-37B aircraft and numerous new personnel to the base. The 23rd TASS became the Air Force's first O/A-10 squadron in 1988, providing heavily armed airborne forward air control (FAC) capability for the first time. Unlike all other D-M aircraft at the time, the 23rd TASS fleet's tail flash read "NF", for "Nail FAC"; the squadron's radio call sign was "Nail."
On 1 October 1991 the 355th was redesignated as the 355th Fighter Wing (FW) in tune with the Air Force's Objective Wing philosophy. The 355th Fighter Wing was comprised of the 355th Operations Group, the 355th Maintenance Group, the 355th Medical Group, and the 355th Mission Support Group.
In May 1992, the 41st and 43d Electronic Combat Squadron, flying EC-130E Hercules Compass Call arrived. The aircraft carried an airborne battlefield command and control center capsule that provides continuous control of tactical air operations in the forward battle area and behind enemy lines. This capability added yet more strength to the wing's combat capability. The 43rd Electronic Combat Squadron "Bats" are part of the 55th Wing at Offut AFB, Nebraska but operate out of Davis-Monthan. In addition, the 42d Airborne Command and Control Squadron arrived from Keesler AFB, Mississippi on On 19 July 1994.
On 1 May 1992, senior Air Force leaders implemented the policy of one base, one wing, one boss. The 836 AD and 602 TAIRCW inactivated while the 41 ECS and 43 ECS came under control of the 355th Fighter Wing. With the mission diversified, the 355th was redesignated as the 355th Wing.
Following Operation Desert Storm, the 355th Wing supported Operation Southern Watch during deployments to Al Jaber, Kuwait in 1997 by deploying 24 A-10s, in 1998 by deploying 16 A-10s, and in 1999 by deploying 14 A-10s--all to ensure compliance of the 33rd parallel southern no-fly zone.
The flight and mysterious crash of Captain Craig D. Button took off from Davis-Monthan Air Force Base on April 2, 1997.
After the execution of Operation Enduring Freedom, eight A-10s from the 355th Wing were called to Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan to fly close air support missions supporting multinational ground forces.
In September 2002, the 48th, 55th, and the 79th Rescue Squadrons (RQS) transferred under control of the 355th Wing, equipped with HC-130 aircraft and HH-60 helicopters. At the same time, the 41st and 43 Electronic Combat Squadrons were realigned under the control of the 55th Electronic Combat Group (55 ECG). While personnel and aircraft remained on Davis-Monthan AFB operational control of the 55 ECG was assumed by the 55th Wing at Offutt AFB, Nebraska. Another major wing realignment occurred on 1 October 2003 with the activation of the 563 Rescue Group on Davis-Monthan AFB. Control of the 48th, 55th, and 79th Rescue Squadrons (RQS) was passed to the new group with the 23d Wing assuming operational command of the unit.
In 2003 and 2005, the 354th Fighter Squadron "Bulldogs" deployed on five-month deployments to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. During these deployments, they provided 24-hour presence to reassure the Afghan population as it struggled with its emergent democracy, and provided key support during national elections. While the 2003 deployment saw limited action, the Bulldogs employed over 22,000 rounds of 30 mm during 130 troops-in-contact situations during the 2005 deployment.
The 354th Fighter Squadron also returned to Afghanistan in April 2007 for a six-month deployment. Again, they provided 24-hour presence and Close Air Support expertise to coalition forces in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. During this period, insurgent activity level was the highest recorded to date in OEF. The Bulldogs employed an unprecedented number of munitions during this deployment--over 150,000 rounds of 30 mm in support of over 400 troops-in-contact situations.
Another major change occurred on April 26 2007. With only A-10 fighter aircraft assigned, the 355th Wing was redesignated once again as the 355th Fighter Wing. Today, the 355th Fighter Wing is composed of four groups: the 355th Operations Group, the 355th Maintenance Group, the 355th Mission Support Group and the 355th Medical Group. Together, along with their tenant organizations, they make up the 6,000 Airmen and 1,700 civilian personnel at Davis-Monthan AFB.
In 2007, the 214th Reconnaissance Group was activated.