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126th Air Refueling Wing
126th Air Refueling Wing.png
126th Air Refueling Wing emblem
Active July 1, 1927 – Present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Type Wing
Role Aerial refueling
Part of Air National Guard/Air Mobility Command
Garrison/HQ Scott Air Force Base, Illinois
Nickname MidAmerica Militia
Col Peter Nezamis

The United States Air Force's 126th Air Refueling Wing (126 ARW) is a Illinois Air National Guard air refueling wing located at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.

During peacetime, the 126th ARW receives direction through the adjutant general, the governor of Illinois and the National Guard Bureau. Upon federal mobilization, the wing is assigned to Air Mobility Command; 15th Expeditionary Mobility Task Force.



The primary mission of the 126th Air Refueling Wing is to provide air refueling support to major commands of the United States Air Force, as well as other U.S. military forces and the military forces of allied nations. Additionally, the unit can support airlift missions. The unit is also tasked with supporting the nuclear strike missions of the Single Integrated Operational Plan.




The Wing has its origins with the 108th Observation Squadron, flying Consolidated PT-1 aircraft and was originally activated on July 1, 1927.

The unit was ordered to active duty on February 8, 1941, it was assigned to the 72d Observation Group and deployed to Howard Field, Panama as part of Sixth Air Force. The squadron was tasked with anti-submarine, photographic and liaison missions, primarily using the North American O-47 aircraft.

The 108th was deactivated on November 1, 1943.

World War II

Unidentified B-26 of the 344th Bomb Group at Stansted, 1944.
Martin B-26G-1-MA Marauder AAF Serial No. 43-34181 of the 495th Bomb Squadron preparing to take off at Stansted Airfield, 1944.

The 344th Bombardment Group (Medium) was constituted on August 31, 1942, and activated on September 8, 1942 at Drane Field in Lakeland, Florida, an auxiliary facility to MacDill Field in Tampa. Initially, the group was equipped with B-26's and served as a replacement training unit. Moved to RAF Stansted, England, January–February 1944 and assigned to Ninth Air Force. Operational squadrons were:

  • 494th Bombardment Squadron
  • 495th Bombardment Squadron
  • 496th Bombardment Squadron
  • 497th Bombardment Squadron

The 344th BG began operations in March 1944, attacking attacking airfields, missile sites, marshaling yards, submarine shelters, coastal defenses, and other targets in German-occupied France, Belgium, and the Netherlands. Beginning in May, the 344th helped prepare for the Normandy invasion by striking vital bridges in France.

The 344th Bombardment Group was selected to lead the IX Bomber Command formations on D-Day, with the first aircraft taking off at 04:12 hours, attacking coastal batteries at Cherbourg, and during the remainder of June, it supported the drive that resulted in the seizure of the Cotentin Peninsula.

The unit also defended positions to assist British forces in the area of Caen and received a Distinguished Unit Citation for a three-day action against the enemy in late July when the group struck troop concentrations, supply dumps, a bridge, and a railroad viaduct to assist advancing ground forces at Saint-Lô.

Another action of the 344th was to knock out bridges to hinder the German Army's withdrawal through the Falaise gap, and bombed vessels and strong points at Brest during August and September.

On September 30 the 344th moved to their Advanced Landing Ground at Cormeilles-en-Vexin, France, France (A-59). While at Stansted the group flew over 100 missions, and lost 26 aircraft in combat.

After V-E Day the group moved to Schleissheim, Germany for occupation duty and began training with Douglas A-26 Invaders, but continued to use B-26 aircraft. It was transferred, without personnel and equipment, to the United States on February 15, 1946 where it was inactivated.

Cold War

B-26C of the 180th LBS

Redesignated 126th Bombardment Group (Light). Allotted to Illinois Air National Guard on May 24, 1946 and assigned to Chicago Municipal Airport.

Extended federal recognition on June 29, 1947. Redesignated 126th Composite Group in November 1950, and 126th Bombardment Group (Light) in February 1951. The unit was ordered to active service on April 1, 1951 as a result of the Korean War. The unit was initially assigned to Tactical Air Command at Langley AFB, Virginia.

The wing moved to Bordeaux-Merignac Air Base, France with the first elements arriving in November 1951. The 126th BW was assigned to United States Air Forces in Europe. By November 10, Bordeaux was considered an operational base and was assigned to the 12th Air Force.

At Bordeaux, the 126th BW consisted of the 108th, 168th and 180th Bomb Squadrons (Light). The aircraft were marked by various color bands on the vertical stabilizer and rudder. Black/Yellow/Blue for the 108th; Black/Yellow/Red for the 168th, and Black/Yellow/Green for the 180th.

It flew B-26's for training and maneuvers and stayed at Bordeaux AB until being transferred Laon AB, France on May 25, 1952 where it remained for the balance of the year.

The 126th was relieved from active duty and transferred, without personnel and equipment, back to the control of the Illinois ANG on January 1, 1953 as the 126th Fighter-Bomber Group and assigned to Tactical Air Command. Flew F-86 Sabres. In 1955, redesignated as the 125th Fighter-Interceptor Group, equipped with F-86Ds.

On July 1, 1961, the 125th's mission was changed to an air refueling one and was redesignated as the 126th Air Refueling Group, being assigned the KC-97 aircraft.

Reassigned to Strategic Air Command July 1, 1976 at Chicago O’Hare International Airport and redesignated as the 126th Air Refueling Wing. The 126th flew KC-97s and KC-135As. It was composed of the 108th Air Refueling Squadron and the 145th Air Refueling Squadron from the Illinois ANG along with the 126th Air Refueling Squadron from the Wisconsin ANG. In 1983 the KC-97s were sent to AMARC and the wing upgraded to the KC-135E. With the deactivation of SAC, the group was assigned to Air Mobility Command on June 1, 1992

Post Cold War

The 126th moved from the former Air Reserve Station at O'Hare International Airport in 1999 as recommended by the Base Realignment and Closure Commission's Report to Congress in conjunction with the closure of the Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard facilities at O'Hare. In 2000, the unit's KC-135E aircraft were upgraded with the new Pacer CRAG (Compass, Radar & GPS) avionics systems. In 2008, the unit completed a transition to KC-135R aircraft as the KC-135E fleet was retired.


Major Command/Gaining Command

Previous designations

  • 126th Air Refueling Wing (1976–Present)
  • 126th Air Refueling Group (1961–1976)
  • 125th Fighter-Interceptor Group (1955–1961)
  • 126th Fighter-Bomber Group (1953–1955)
  • 126th Bombardment Group (Light) (1951–1953)
  • 126th Composite Group (1950–1951)
  • 126th Bombardment Group (Light) (1946–1950)
  • 344th Bombardment Group (Medium) (1942–1946)

Squadrons assigned

Bases assigned

United States Army Air Forces

  • Chicago Municipal Airport, Illinois, July 1, 1927 – February 8, 1941
  • Howard Field, Panama, February 8, 1941 – November 1, 1943
  • MacDill Field, Florida, September 8, 1942
  • Drane Field, Florida December 28, 1942
  • Hunter Field, Georgia December 19, 1943 – January 26, 1944
  • RAF Stansted (USAAF Station 169), England, February 1944 (Station 169)
  • Cormeilles en Vexin Airfield (A-59), France, September 30, 1944 (ALG A-59)
  • Florennes/Juzaine Airfield (A-78), Belgium, April 5, 1945 (ALG A-78)
  • Fliegerhorst Schleissheim (R-75), Germany c. September 15, 1945 – February 15, 1946

United States Air Force

Note: ALG = "Advanced Landing Ground" designation of temporary airfields constructed or used by the Allies in Europe following the D-Day landings in 1944.

Aircraft operated



 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • Endicott, Judy G. (1999) Active Air Force wings as of October 1, 1995; USAF active flying, space, and missile squadrons as of October 1, 1995. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. CD-ROM.
  • McAuliffe, Jerome J. (2005). US Air Force in France 1950–1967. San Diego, California: Milspec Press, Chapter 6, Bordeaux-Merignac Air Base. ISBN 0-9770371-1-8.
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0912799129.
  • Rogers, Brian (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.

External links


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