16th Air Expeditionary Wing: Wikis


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16th Air Expeditionary Wing
Emblem of the 16th Air Expeditionary Wing
Active 1944-1946
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Part of United States Air Forces in Europe
Garrison/HQ Aviano AB, Italy
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg Asiatic-Pacific Campaign ribbon.svg Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary ribbon.svg
  • World War II
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign (1945)
  • Global War on Terrorism
    (Dates TBD)
Two F-16s from Aviano Air Base, Italy, drop away from the fuel boom after gassing up from a KC-135 Stratotanker over the Adriatic Sea. The jets were refueled by the New Jersey Air National Guard's 108th Air Refueling Wing, McGuire Air Force Base, N.J. The 108th ARW is part of the 16th Expeditionary Operations Group, a small U.S. Air Force detachment located on this French air base. The 16th Expeditionary Operations Group is a unit of the 16th Air Expeditionary Wing, U.S. Air Forces in Europe..

The United States Air Force's 16th Air Expeditionary Wing (16 AEW) was an Air Expeditionary unit of the United States Air Forces in Europe until c.2005-06.

The unit's origins begin with its predecessor, the World War II 16th Bombardment Wing (16th BW) was part of Twentieth Air Force. The 16th BW engaged in very heavy bombardment B-29 Superfortress operations against Japan. It's aircraft were identified by a "B" with a diamond painted on the tail.



The 16th AEW was activated as part of the United States Air Forces in Europe in 1998, initially as a component of Operation Allied Force, the 1998 NATO bombing of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It was deactivated by 2006.


The Wing was located at Aviano AB, Italy. It operated expeditionary sites at Camp Bondsteel, Kosovo; Camp Able Sentry, Macedonia; Sarajevo and Tuzla AB, Bosnia and Herzegovina; Taszar AB, Hungary; Zagreb, Croatia and Naval Air Station Sigonella and San Vito Air Station, Italy; in addition to a contingency processing center at Rhein-Main AB, Germany.

  • 16th Expeditionary Operations Group, Istres AB
  • 401st Expeditionary Air Base Group, Tuzla AB
  • 406th Expeditionary Air Base Group, Taszar AB
  • 620th Expeditionary Air Base Group, Camp Able Sentry
  • 2nd Expeditionary Air Support Operations Squadron, Camp Bondsteel
  • 16th Expeditionary Air Support Operations Group, Sarajevo
  • 16th Expeditionary Support Squadron, Rhein-Main AB
  • 99th Expeditionary Reconnaissance Squadron, NAS Sigonella
  • 775th Expeditionary Support Squadron, San Vito AS

Weapons systems operated[1]




  • Constituted as: 16th Bombardment Group (Very Heavy) on 28 Mar 1944.
Activated on 1 Apr 1944.
Inactivated on 15 Apr 1946.
  • Redesignated as: 16th Air Expeditionary Wing in February 1999 and converted to provisional status
Activated 1999 (Date TBD)
Inactivated 2006 (Date TBD)


Attached to 17th Bombardment Operational Training Wing (Very Heavy), c. 15 Aug 1944-7 Mar 1945
Attached to: Sixteenth Air Force, February 1999 - 2006 (TBD)


  • 15th Bombardment Squadron: 1 Apr 1944-15 Apr 1946
  • 16th Bombardment Squadron: 1 Apr 1944-15 Apr 1946
  • 17th Bombardment Squadron: 1 Apr 1944-15 Apr 1946
  • 21st Bombardment Squadron: 1 Apr-10 May 1944


reference for lineage, assignmetns and stations[2][3]

World War II

16th Bombardment Group

Bell-Atlanta B-29B-60-BA Superfortress "Pacusan Dreamboat" (44-84061)
Unidentified B-29 Superfortress of the 16th Bombardment Group

The unit was activated on 1 April 1944 at Dalhart AAF, Texas. Equipped with the Boeing B-29B Superfortresses, the operational bomb squadrons were the 15th, 16th, 17th and 21st. The unit trained for combat initially at Dalhart, then moving to Fairmont AAF, Nebraska on 15 August 1944.

The B-29B was a limited production aircraft, built solely by Bell-Atlanta. It had all but the tail defensive armament removed, since experience had shown that by 1944 the only significant Japanese fighter attacks were coming from the rear. The tail gun was aimed and fired automatically by the new AN/APG-15B radar fire control system that detected the approaching enemy plane and made all the necessary calculations. The elimination of the turrets and the associated General Electric computerized gun system increased the top speed of the Superfortress to 364 mph (586 km/h) at 25,000 feet (7,600 m) and made the B-29B suitable for fast, unescorted hit-and-run bombing raids and photographic missions.

The 16th was assigned to Twentieth Air Force on 7 March 1945 and was deployed to Northwest Field, Guam as part of the 315th Bombardment Wing. Its B-29s were marked with a Diamond-B tail code. The group entered combat on 16 June 1945 with a bombing raid against an airfield on Moen. Flew first mission against the Japanese home islands on 26 June 1945 and afterwards operated principally against the enemy's petroleum industry.

Flying unescorted in the face of severe enemy attack, the 16th bombed the Maruzen Oil Refinery at Shimotsu on the night of 2 July; the Mitsubishi refinery and Kawasaki oil installations at Kawasaki on the night of 12-13 July, and the coal liquefication plants at Ube on 22-23 July 1945. The unit was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation for the missions.

There were several missions flown during the month of August and each resulted in the virtual destruction of an important Japanese petroleum refinery. The tactics of radar bombing from individual aircraft were used during attacks on the Mitsubishi-Hayama Petroleum Complex on the night of 1-2 August; the Nippon Oil Refinery and Tank Farm at Amagasaki on 9-10 August, and the final target of the war for the 16th Group was the Nippon Oil Refinery at Tsuchizaki on 15 August 1945.

After the war the group dropped food and supplies to Allied prisoners gf war in Japan, Manchuria, and Korea, and participated in several show-of-force missions over Japan. The problem of dropping supplies to Prisoners of War was difficult. In the first place, most of the camps were small and hard to locate. Even more important was the great distance that had to be flown on some of the missions. Accurate information was lacking on several of the camps, especially those located in Manchuria and Korea. The Japanese had apparently shifted many of the prisoners around and closed down some of the concentration centers. Most of the supplies were dropped with the aid of a parachute but certain types of packages were permitted to fall free. The bombardier on each B-29 had quite a problem in determining the exact moment of release.

On 2 September the 16th Group participated in the "Show of Force" mission over Tokyo which took place while the surrender terms were being signed on the battleship Missouri in Tokyo Bay. The mission was carefully planned as it represented the first attempt at formation flying that the organization had made since its arrival overseas. The aircraft flew over Tokyo Bay just as the surrender terms were signed and the men could watch the Missouri at the same time that they heard the broadcast of the ceremony over the radio. The B-29s flew at approximately 3,000 feet (910 m) and could see clearly through a scattered undercast.[4]

The 16th Bombardment Group was inactivated on Guam on 15 April 1946.

Modern era

16th Air Expeditionary Wing

The 16th Air Expeditionary Wing was a redesignation of the 31st Air Base Squadron, assigned to Aviano Air Base, Italy in February 1999. Its initial mission was a component of Operation Allied Force (OAF), which was the NATO response to Serbian aggression against ethnic Albanian in Kosovo.

In June 2003 the 401st Air Expeditionary Wing was reactivated at Aviano Air Base, Italy, replacing the 16th AEW, deactivating so as to eliminiate an overlap in heraldry with the 16th SOW at Hurlburt Field, Florida.[5]

The 16th AEW may have operated over Kosovo and elsewhere in southern Europe until 2005-2006.


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

  1. ^ Airman Magazine Jan 2001
  2. ^ Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
  3. ^ USAFHRA Document 01127465
  4. ^ Official History of the 16th Bomb Group, transcribed from AFHRA microfilm B0082
  5. ^ Aviano AEW gets new designation, new commander

External links


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