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History

Little Rock AFB Our Military History

On Sept. 9, 1952, the Air Force announced its decision to build a $31 million medium jet bomber base near Jacksonville, Arkansas (about 25 miles northeast of Little Rock); construction began on Dec. 8, 1953. By August 1954, the 384th Bombardment Wing and 70th Reconnaissance Wing had been selected by Strategic Air Command to reside at the base. As the two wings awaited movement orders, Col. Joseph A. Thomas (the first base commander) worked with various levels of government on construction of the base. Tragically, Col. Thomas died in the crash of the base’s only aircraft, a C-54 assigned for administrative flying. On Sept. 10, 1955, the base opened for air traffic.

The Air Force officially transferred Little Rock Air Force Base from SAC to the Tactical Air Command April 1, 1970. On March 4, 1970, the first C-130 arrived on base and began tactical airlift operations and training. On May 31, 1971, the 314th Tactical Airlift Wing transferred to Little Rock Air Force Base. Another significant change occurred on base in December 1974, when the Air Force reassigned the 314th TAW from TAC to the Military Airlift Command.

The base and its mission remained primarily unchanged until August 1987, when the 308th Strategic Missile Wing was inactivated. The 314th TAW remained the host unit, supporting global airlift and providing primary C-130 training for U.S. aircrews as well as crews from friendly foreign nations. In June 1992, the 314th Airlift Wing was aligned under the newly formed Air Mobility Command, the successor to Military Airlift Command. Then again in October 1993, the 314th AW transferred to Air Combat Command. On April 1, 1997, the 314th AW transferred to the Air Education and Training Command.

On Oct. 1, 1986, the 189th Air Refueling Group saw yet another mission change when it was redesignated as the 189th Tactical Airlift Group and converted to the C-130 aircraft, with transfer of operational claimancy to MAC.

During the 1991 Gulf War, the 314th TAW’s two operational C-130 squadrons and the 189th TAG’s C-130 squadron supported operations from both the Middle East and European theaters. Later that year, the 314th Tactical Airlift Wing was redesignated as the 314th Airlift Wing and, following the disestablishment of MAC in 1992, the base and the 314th AW were transferred to the new AMC. The 189th TAG was also redesignated as the 189th Airlift Group the same year, followed by redesignation as the 189th Airlift Wing in 1995.

In 1993, the base and the 314th AW transferred to Air Combat Command as part of the U.S. Air Force’s decision to transfer CONUS-based C-130s from AMC to ACC. In 1997, the U.S. Air Force reversed this decision, returning most C-130 airlift back to AMC claimancy. However, given the 314th AW’s primary training mission as the Formal Training Unit for C-130s, the base and the 314th AW were transferred to the Air Education and Training Command, and the base’s two operational Regular Air Force C-130 squadrons were organized under the 463rd Airlift Group, an AMC unit.

From the mid-1990s to the late 1990s, the 314th AW and the 463th AG supported the air war over Serbia. Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the 463rd AG has supported both Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom. During that time, Little Rock also provided assistance with humanitarian and peacekeeping aid in regions including Iraq, Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Since the turn of this century, the base has continued its contributions to relief efforts by assisting after hurricanes Katrina and Rita as well as its continued support throughout the Global War on Terror. In 2004, the first active-duty C-130J arrived at the base, extending the distance and speed of the C-130 while reducing workforce and operating expenditures. After its activation in 2008, the 19th Airlift Wing and Air Mobility Command assumed host wing duties for the base.

Throughout its history, Little Rock Air Force Base has been operated by six Air Force Major Commands: SAC, TAC, MAC, AMC, ACC and AETC. These represent every possible major command a continental U.S.-based operational flying base could have been assigned to except for the former Air Defense Command/Aerospace Defense Command and Air Force Global Strike Command.

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