44th Missile Wing: Wikis


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44th Missile Wing
44th Missile Wing.PNG
44th Missile Wing emblem
Active 1941–1994
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Part of Strategic Air Command
Garrison/HQ Ellsworth Air Force Base
Motto Aggressors Beware
Howell M. Estes II
Leon W. Johnson

The 44th Missile Wing (44 MW) is an inactive United States Air Force unit. Its last assignment was with Twentieth Air Force, being assigned to Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota. It was inactivated on 4 July 1994.



For additional history and lineage, see 44th Operations Group


  • Established as 44th Bombardment Wing, Medium, on 20 December 1950.
Activated on 2 January 1951
Discontinued on 15 June 1960
  • Redesignated 44th Strategic Missile Wing (ICBM—Minuteman) on 24 November 1961
Organized on 1 January 1962.
Redesignated: 44th Missile Wing 1 September 1991
Inactivated 5 July 1994


Attached to: 5th Air Division from 19 January to 22 February 1953
Attached to: 5th Air Division 9 April to 17 June 1954
  • Department of the Air Force, 15 Jun 1960-23 Nov 1961




  • 44th Air Refueling: 20 April 1953 – 1 June 1960 (not operational, 20 April – c. 15 May 1953; detached 27 June – 11 October 1957).
  • 66th Missile (prev Bombardment) Squadron: 16 June 1952 – 15 June 1960; assigned 1 July 1962 – (not operational, 1 July 1962 – c. February 1963)
  • 67th Missile (prev Bombardment) Squadron: 16 June 1952 – 15 June 1960; assigned 1 August 1962 – (not operational, 1 August 1962 – c. February 1963)
  • 68th Missile (prev Bombardment) Squadron: 16 June 1952 – 15 June 1960; assigned 1 September 1962 – (not operational, 1 September 1962 – c. February 1963)
  • 506th Missile Squadron: 1 December 1958 – 15 June 1960
  • 850th Strategic Missile: 1 January 1962 – 25 March 1965 (not operational, 15 February – 25 March 1965).

Bases Assigned

Deployed at Sidi Slimane AB, French Morocco, 19 January – 22 February 1953 and 19 April – 17 June 1954.

Aircraft and missiles

References for commands and major units assigned, components and stations:[1][2][3]

Operational History

44th Bombardment Wing

The Wing was established as a B-29 Medium bombardment wing on 20 Dec 1950. It was activated on 2 January 1951 at March AFB, California, and assigned to Fifteenth Air Force. It was equipped with B-29s, TB-29s. It was reassigned to the 12th Air Division of Fifteenth Air Force on 10 February 1951, and then the 21st Air Division within Fifteenth Air Force on 4 August 1951. The Wing moved to Lake Charles AFB, Louisiana, on 1 August 1951, and a year later changed equipment to B-29s.

The 44th Bomb Wing was one of the wings activated in training status when Korean War was 6 months old. Depended on 22nd Bombardment Wing for initial cadre and help in becoming organized. Commenced operational training in Mar.1951. From 1 October 1951 to 29 August 1952, served as operational training unit for B-29 aircrews and maintenance personnel for Far East Air Forces. From 10 October 1951 to 15 May 1952, trained all elements of the 68th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing. Became a first-line strategic bombardment wing in August 1952 and gained an air-refueling mission in 1953. Deployed at Sidi Slimane AB, French Morocco, 19 January – 22 February 1953 and 19 April – 17 June 1954. Discontinued in 1960.

44th Missile Wing

In 1962, the unit was reactivated at Ellsworth AFB, SD, and redesignated the 44th Strategic Missile Wing as part of the 821st Strategic Aerospace Division.

For more than a year this squadron prepared for the emplacement of Titan I intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM), which finally arrived in 1962, shortly after the activation of the 44th Strategic Missile Wing (SMW) in January. At that time Headquarters SAC also named the 44 SMW as host wing at Ellsworth.

The wing received its first operational Titan I missile on 22 June 1962. The Titan I missile sites were located near Wicksville, Hermosa, and Sturgis SD. The 850th Strategic Missile Squadron controlled maintenance and operations of the missiles.

Titan's life span was short in western South Dakota. In July 1962, SAC had effectively rendered it obsolete by activating the 66th Strategic Missile Squadron, the first of three such units slated to operate 150 Minuteman I ICBMs under the 44 SMW. The last Titan missile had been removed in February 1965. Since the Minuteman had completely replaced the Titan’s, the 850 SMS was inactivated on 25 March 1965

During 1962, three new strategic missile squadrons-the 66th,67th, and 68th, were activated to support the new Minuteman I system. The 67th Strategic Missile Squadron joined the 44th in August, followed by the 68th Strategic Missile Squadron in September 1962. A 44th Missile Maintenance Squadron was established at the same time. Each strategic missile squadron supported five flights of Minuteman missiles with 50 missiles per squadron.

A total of 150 launch facilities were constructed to house the missiles. The first Minuteman missile was positioned near Wall, SD in April 1963. All Minuteman I missiles were in place by the end of 1963. On 1 March 1965, “Operation Long Life” took place. This was the first of three scheduled launches of the Minuteman system. A missile with seven seconds of fuel was launched. With the test proving successful, the additional two launches were canceled. This was the only test launch in US ICBM history to be fired from an operational site.

Ellsworth was slated to host a unique series of operational tests. Approved by the Secretary of Defense in November 1964, “Project Long Life” called for the short-range operational base launch of three modified Minuteman IB ICBMs to provide a realistic test for this system. Each missile would contain enough propellant for a 7-second flight and have inert upper stages and reentry vehicles. The first launch occurred on 1 March 1965, and successfully demonstrated the ability of a SAC missile crew to launch an ICBM.

The 44 SMW played a key role in establishing the Airborne Launch Control System in the late 1960’s. On 1 January 1970, the 44 SMW assumed airborne launch responsibility for Minot Air Force Base, ND, and Malstrom AFB, MT. Four months later, the ALCS joined the Post Attack Command and Control System forming the 4th Airborne Command and Control Squadron, which was assigned to the 28th Bombardment Wing at Ellsworth AFB, SD.

On 30 June 1971, the 44 SMW was named host unit at Ellsworth AFB when the 821st Strategic Aerospace Division was inactivated. The wing was reassigned under the 4th Air Division headquartered at F.E. Warren AFB, WY. The wing was later assigned as part of the 57th Air Division headquartered at Minot AFB, ND.

In October 1971, the transition from Minuteman I to Minuteman II began. The transition, known as “Force Modernization”, was complete in March 1973. With these new missiles in place, Ellsworth was selected to host “Giant Pace Test 74-1,” the first Simulated Electronic Launch-Minuteman SELM) exercise. During this test, 11 SELM-configured Minuteman II ICBMs underwent successful simulated launch on command from both underground launch-control centers and the Airborne Launch Control System.

Modern era

During February 1991, the Secretary of Defense announced that the Air Force would begin retirement of older weapon systems in response to a changing world environment and declining defense budget. The deactivation of the Minuteman II missile system was announced on 15 April 1991. The schedule for Ellsworth included a one squadron per year draw-down beginning with the 67 SMS, followed by the 66 SMS, and finally the 68 SMS.

On 1 September 1991 under the "Objective Wing" concept adapted by the Air Force. The wing was renamed the 44th Missile Wing. The ICBM squadrons were reassigned to the newly established 44th Operations Group, along with the lineage, honors and history of the 44th Bombardment Group.

On 28 September 1991, in response to President Bush’s directive to stand down the Minuteman II, personnel of the 44 OG worked around the clock to dissipate launch codes and pin safety control switches at 15 launch control facilities. Removal of the first Minuteman II missile assigned to the 44 OG occurred at G-02, near Red Owl, South Dakota, on 3 December 1991. On 6 April 1992, the first launch control center shut down.

On 1 June 1992, the 44th Missile Wing was relieved of its emergency war order mission and its primary focus was deactivation of the Minuteman II weapon system. This day also marked the end of SAC and the beginning of Air Combat Command (ACC)

The 67th Missile Squadron (MS) was inactivated on 15 August 1992, and the 66 MS was inactivated on 1 September 1993. On 1 July 1993 the 44 Missile Wing changed hands from ACC to Air Force Space Command along with all other ICBM wings. Deactivation of the entire missile complex ended in April 1994. With its mission complete, the 44th Missile Wing formally inactivated on 4 July 1994.


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


  1. ^ Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0912799129
  2. ^ Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
  3. ^ Rogers, Brian (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.


  • Mackay, Ron and Steve Adams. The 44th Bomb Group in World War II: The 'Flying Eight-Balls' Over Europe in the B-24. Atglen, Pennsylvania: Schiffer Publishing, 2007. ISBN 0-76431-885-3.

External links


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