86th Airlift Wing: Wikis


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86th Airlift Wing
86th Airlift Wing.png
86th Airlift Wing emblem
Active 1948-1968; 1969– present
Country United States United States
Branch Flag of the United States Air Force.png Air Force
Type Airlift
Part of United States Air Forces in Europe
Garrison/HQ Ramstein Air Base
Army of Occupation ribbon.svg Southwest Asia Service ribbon.svg AFEMRib.svg
Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary ribbon.svg Afghanistan Campaign ribbon.svg Iraq Campaign ribbon.svg
  • Army of Occupation
Germany (1948–1949)
  • Southwest Asia Service (1990–1991)
  • Expeditionary Service
Operation Northern Watch
Operation Support Hope
Operation Unified Assistance
  • Global War on Terrorism
Afghanistan Service (Dates TBD)
Iraqi Service (Dates TBD)
AFOUA Streamer.JPG
July 1, 1993 – June 30, 1995
July 1, 1996 – June 30, 1997
March 24, 1999 – June 10, 1999
January 1, 2001 – December 31, 2001
January 1, 2002 – December 31, 2002
January 1, 2007 – December 31, 2007
Colonel William Bender
Wilbur L. Creech
Robert C. Oaks
George B. Simler
See 86th Operations Group for complete lineage and unit history

The 86th Airlift Wing (86 AW) is a United States Air Force wing, currently assigned to the United States Air Forces in Europe. The 86th AW is stationed at Ramstein Air Base, Germany



The wing’s primary mission is to conduct airlift, airdrop and aeromedical evacuation operations flying the C-21, C-20H, C-37, C-40B and C-130J aircraft. The 86th Airlift Wing commander also serves as the Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC) commander, leading the largest American community outside the United States.


The 86th Airlift Wing is composed of four groups, 14 squadrons and one detachment. These are:

  • 86th Operations Group (86 OG)
37th Airlift Squadron (37 AS)
76th Airlift Squadron (76 AS)
309th Airlift Squadron (309 AS) (Chièvres Air Base, Belgium)
86th Operations Support Squadron (86 OSS)
496th Air Base Squadron (496 ABS) (Morón Air Base, Spain)
  • 86th Contingency Response Group (86 CRG)
86 AMS
786th Security Forces Squadron (Airborne) (786 SFS)
  • 86th Maintenance Group (86 MXG)
86 Aircraft Maintenance Squadron (86 AMXS)
86 Maintenance Squadron (86 MXS)
86 Maintenance Operations Squadron (86 MOS)
  • 86th Mission Support Group (86 MSG)
86th Mission Support Squadron (86 MSS)
86th Communications Squadron (86 CS)
86th Security Forces Squadron (86 SFS)
86th Services Squadron (86 SVS)
  • 86th Medical Group (86 MDG)

The 779th Expeditionary Airlift Flight was activated in January 2008 to administer a rotational deployment of two C-17 Globemaster IIIs to be based at Ramstein AB.[1] The exact reporting chain for the 779th EAF is not known.


For additional history and lineage of the 86th AW, see 86th Operations Group


  • Established as 86 Fighter Wing, and activated, on 1 Jul 1948
Redesignated: 86 Fighter-Bomber Wing on 20 Jan 1950
Redesignated: 86 Fighter-Interceptor Wing on 9 Aug 1954
Redesignated: 86 Air Division (Defense) on 18 Nov 1960
Inactivated on 14 Nov 1968
  • Redesignated: 86 Fighter-Interceptor Wing on 14 Nov 1968 (Unit inactive)
  • Redesignated: 86 Tactical Fighter Wing on 13 Oct 1969
Activated on 1 Nov 1969
Redesignated: 86 Fighter Wing on 1 May 1991
Redesignated: 86 Wing on 1 Jun 1992
Redesignated: 86 Airlift Wing on 1 Oct 1994.


  • United States Air Forces in Europe, 1 Jul 1948
  • 2 Air Division, 10 Oct 1949
  • Twelfth Air Force, 7 May 1951
  • United States Air Forces in Europe, 1 Jan 1958
  • Seventeenth Air Force, 15 Nov 1959
  • United States Air Forces in Europe, 1 Jul 1963
  • Seventeenth Air Force, 1 Sep 1963
  • United States Air Forces in Europe, 20 May 1965
  • Seventeenth Air Force, 5 Oct-14 Nov 1968
  • Seventeenth Air Force, 1 Nov 1969
  • 316 Air Division, 14 Jun 1985
  • Seventeenth Air Force, 1 May 1991
  • Third Air Force, 31 Jul 1996
  • United States Air Forces in Europe, 1 Nov 2005
  • Third Air Force (Air Forces Europe), 29 Nov 2008-Present

Major Components


July 1, 1948 – March 8, 1958; September 22, 1975 – June 14, 1985; May 1, 1991 –


Attached June 12 – July 14, 1971
Assigned July 15, 1971 – January 15, 1973
Attached July 1, 1954 – October 7, 1955; August 10, 1956 – March 7, 1958
Assigned March 8, 1958 – January 1, 1960
Attached July 1, 1954 – October 7, 1955; August 10, 1956 – March 7, 1958
Assigned March 8, 1958 – November 1, 1968
March 24, 1958 – July 1, 1959; June 14, 1985 – May 1, 1991
Attached May 22, 1957 – October 7, 1955; August 10, 1956 – March 1958,
Assigned March 8, 1958 – November 1, 1968
Attached May 22, 1954 – October 7, 1955; August 10, 1956 – March 7, 1958
Assigned March 8, 1958 – November 1, 1968; January 31, 1973 – September 22, 1975; June 14, 1985 – May 1, 1991

Bases assigned

Aircraft operated

Operational history

86th Fighter Wing

F-47D's of the 526th Fighter Squadron at Neubiberg Air Base
Republic F-84E-5-RE Thunderjet AF Serial No. 49-2133 of the 527th Fighter-Bomber Squadron at Neubiberg Air Base, West Germany.

The 86th Fighter Wing was established and activated on 1 Jul 1948 at Neubiberg AB, Germany. Its initial mission was to provide air defense, primarily in West Germany with its operational component, the 86th Fighter Group.

Equipped with P (later F-47) Thunderbolts, the 86th was one of two active USAF fighter units in Germany (the other being the 36th FG) during the immediate postwar years. Over the next several years, the 86th underwent several redesignations and several station assignments in occupied Germany. In June 1948, the 86th Fighter Wing was stationed at Neubiberg Air Base, near Munich when tensions with the Soviet Union culminated in the Berlin Blockade.

With the arrival of the jet age in Europe, USAFE wanted to move its units west of the Rhine River, as its bases in the Munich area were just a few minutes flying time from Soviet Mig-15 bases in Czechoslovakia. In February 1951, the United States and France signed an agreement in which USAF bases in their German occupation zone would be built and made available to USAFE. In late 1952, enough construction was completed at Landstuhl and the 86th Fighter-Bomber Wing was reassigned to the new base.

The 86th Wing (under various designations) has been assigned to Ramstein for almost 60 years, with a brief period (1966–1973) being inactive or assigned to Zweibrucken Air Base.

In March 1958 the 86th Fighter-Bomber Group was inactivated and its operational squadrons being assigned to the Wing. In May, the 406th FIW at RAF Manston, England was deactivated. Its three F-86D squadrons, the 512th, 513th and 514th were reassigned to bases on the continent and were also assigned to the 86th. These squadrons were detached to the following bases:

86th Air Division (Defense)


In January 1959 the 525th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Bitburg received its first Convair F-102 Delta Dagger, designed to upgrade the air defense capabilities of Western Europe. HQ USAFE decided to uprade the 86th Fighter-Interceptor Wing and centralize command of all the European Air Defense squadrons in USAFE to it. With this change, the 86th Fighter-Interceptor Wing was redesignated the 86th Air Division (Defense) on November 18, 1960.

However at the time of their arrival in Europe, the F-102 was already being replaced by the McDonnell F-101B Voodoo and the Convair F-106 Delta Dart in the Aerospace Defense Command as an interceptor, and by much more versatile McDonnell F-4 Phantom II. On November 14, 1968 the 86th Air Division was inactivated

86th Tactical Fighter Wing

86th TFW 17th TRS McDonnell Douglas RF-4C-38-MC Phantom AF Serial No. 68-0562, 1970
McDonnell Douglas F-4E-41-MC Phantom AF Serial No. 68-0527, 86th TFW 527th TFS
86th TFW General Dynamics F-16C Block 30F Fighting Falcon AF Serial No. 87-0242
Lockheed C-130E Hercules of the 37th AS/86th Airlift Wing

The 86th Tactical Fighter Wing was reactivated at Zweibrücken Air Base, West Germany on November 1, 1969. It received its first flying unit, the 17th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, on January 12, 1970. The 17th TRS and its McDonnell Douglas RF-4C Phantom IIs was reassigned to the 86th TFW from the deactivating 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at RAF Upper Heyford, England. Squadron tail code for the 17th TRS was initially "ZS", then was recoded to "ZR" in 1971.

For 18 months the 17th was the only operational squadron on the base. On June 12, 1971, the 81st Tactical Fighter Squadron with its Electronics Counter-Measures (ECM) equipped McDonnell EF-4C Phantom II "Wild Weasel" fighters was attached to the 86th TFW from the 50th TFW at Hahn AB when the 50th switched to a strike-attack role, with air defense as a secondary mission. (Note: The EF-4C designation was not official. The aircraft were officially F-4C models). The 81st TFS, however remained a part of the 50th TFW but was detached from the wing's operational control and attached to the 86th Tactical Fighter Wing for support. Squadron tail code for the 81st TFS was "ZS".

In 1972, tail codes for all 86th TFW aircraft at Zweibrücken were standardized as "ZR", per AFM 66-1, when squadron tail codes were eliminated.

On January 15, 1973, the 81st TFS was reassigned to Spangdahlem Air Base under operation "Battle Creek". The last of this variant of the Phantom returned to the USA in 1979/1980 and was replaced by the F-4G Wild Weasel at Spangdahlem.

As part of operation Creek Action, a command-wide effort to realign functions and streamline operations, USAFE transferred the 26 TRW from Ramstein to Zweibrucken Air Base, Germany, and the 86th Tactical Fighter Wing (TFW) from Zweibrucken back to Ramstein on January 31, 1973. These moves were made without the transfer of personnel or equipment with the exception of the 38 TRS, 7 SOS and 81 TFS. The 38th remained under the control of the 26 TRW by moving to Zweibrucken with the wing and the 7th Special Operations Squadron was transferred to Rhein-Main Air Base. The 526th TFS remained at Ramstein AB, and it was reassigned to the 86th Tactical Fighter Wing, flying F-4Es. Its tail code was "RS".

On September 22, 1977 the newly-activated 512th TFS was equipped with the 526 TFS aircraft and the 526 TFS received new planes from McDonnell Douglas St. Louis plant. The unit was designated the 86th Tactical Fighter Group and was under the 86th Tactical Fighter Wing.

With these changes, the operational squadrons of the 86th TFW in 1978 were:

  • 512th Tactical Fighter Squadron (F-4E, RS, yellow/black tail stripe)
  • 526th Tactical Fighter Squadron (F-4E, RS, red/black tail stripe)

In September 1985 the 512th TFS converted to the General Dynamics Block 25 F-16 Fighting Falcon, and the 526th retired their F-4Es in June 1986, also receiving Block 25 F-16s. The 86th TFW supported numerous military units located in the area and participated in numerous exercises that provided the wing with air combat tactics training essential to their mission. In 1990, personnel and aircraft of the 86th TFW deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Storm. With the end of Operation Desert Storm, the 86th TFW deployed to Turkey and supported operations in Southwest Asia to ensure that Iraq complied with treaty terms. 526th TFS aircraft twice attacked Iraqi surface-to-air missile (SAM) sites in northern Iraq.

86th Airlift Wing

On 1 May 1991, the 86th Operations Group was activated as a result of the 86th Fighter Wing implementing the USAF objective wing organization. Upon activation, the 86 OG was bestowed the lineage and history of the 86th Fighter Group. The 86 OG was assigned control of the wing's tactical units.

With the end of the Cold War in the early 1990s, the 86th was realigned to become an Airlift Wing. By 1994, the tactical fighters of the 86 OG began to be transferred to other USAFE bases. On July 1, the 526th FS deactivated and its aircraft and personnel moved to Aviano Air Base, Italy to form the 555th FS. The 512th FS was deactivated on October 1, with its aircraft and personnel also being moved to Aviano, being assigned to the 510th FS.

With the arrival of the cargo and transport squadrons and the tactical fighters departed, the wing was re-designated the 86th Airlift Wing on October 1, 1994. The new wing operated C-130 Hercules aircraft. On November 2, 2009 the wing completed its transition from C-130E to C-130J models.[2]


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

  • Much of this text in an early version of this article was taken from pages on the Ramstein Air Base website, which as a work of the U.S. Government is presumed to be a public domain resource. That information was supplemented by:
  1. ^ Stars and Stripes, [1]
  2. ^ Svan, Jennifer H., "Ramstein sends off last C-130E", Stars and Stripes, November 3, 2009.
  • Donald, David. Century Jets: USAF Frontline Fighters of the Cold War. AIRtime, 2004. ISBN 1-88058-868-4.
  • Martin, Patrick. Tail Code: The Complete History of USAF Tactical Aircraft Tail Code Markings. Schiffer Publishing, 1994. ISBN 0-88740-513-4.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories, 1947–1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History, 1984. ISBN 0-91279-912-9.
  • Rogers, Brian. United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, UK: Midland Publications, 2005. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.

External links


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