Altus Air Force Base: Wikis


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Altus Air Force Base

Air Education and Training Command.png
Air Education and Training Command

USGS aerial image as of 17 Feb 1995
Airport type Military: Air Force Base
Owner United States Air Force
Operator Air Education and Training Command
Location Altus, Oklahoma
Built 1942
In use 1942-Present
Occupants 97th Air Mobility Wing
Elevation AMSL 1382 ft / 421 m
Coordinates 34°39′59″N 099°16′05″W / 34.66639°N 99.26806°W / 34.66639; -99.26806
Direction Length Surface
ft m
17R/35L 13,440 4,097 Concrete
17L/35R 9,001 2,744 Asphalt
174/354 3,501 1,067 Asphalt
Source: Federal Aviation Administration[1]
Altus AFB is located in Oklahoma
Altus AFB
Location of Altus Air Force Base, Oklaholma

Altus Air Force Base (AFB) (IATA: LTSICAO: KLTSFAA LID: LTS) is a United States Air Force base located approximately 4 miles (6.4 km) east-northeast of Altus, Oklahoma.

The host unit at Altus AFB is the 97th Air Mobility Wing (97 AMW), assigned to the Air Education and Training Command Nineteenth Air Force. The wing's mission is to provide C-17 Globemaster III and KC-135 Stratotanker formal school initial and advanced specialty training programs for up to 3000 students annually.

Altus AFB was established in 1943 as Altus Army Airfield (AAF). The 97 AMW commander is Colonel Jon T. "Ty" Thomas. The Command Chief Master Sergeant is Chief Master Sergeant Eric M. Molloy.


Altus AFB, though it's host 97th AMW provides quality training to produce the finest combat-ready aircrew members for the United States Air Force. The wing in conjunction with its training mission, maintains its instructor force maintain operational currency so that they, as highly qualified combat-ready aircrew members, can deploy to augment world-wide contingencies. The 97th maintains approximately 500 mobility personnel ready to deploy all over the world in a moments notice in support of national interests.

Altus AFB supports about 2,000 permanent military personnel. Furthermore, about 3,000 military personnel and their families live on base and a large number of military personnel and their families live off base. The surrounding community has about 1,000 military retirees who depend on base facilities. The base provides direct employment for about 2,500 civilian personnel.


The 97 AMW consists of the following major units:

  • 97th Operations Group
Plans and executes C-17 and KC-135 formal school, initial and advanced specialty training programs for up to 3000 students annually. Sustains C-17 Globemaster III and KC-135 Stratotanker airland, airdrop and air refueling mobility forces, providing global reach for combat and contingency operations. Provides air traffic control and weather forecasting for flying operations.
97th Operations Support Squadron
97th Training Squadron
54th Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135R)
55th Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135R)
58th Airlift Squadron (C-17A)
  • 97th Mission Support Group
Provides mission, infrastructure, and community quality of life support for personnel and all assigned organizations on Altus AFB. Supports worldwide USAF taskings with deployment ready personnel and equipment.
97th Logistics Readiness Squadron
  • 97th Maintenance Directorate
Provides maintenance and support to all assigned aircraft and provides the same maintenance support to transient aircraft, engines and associated ground equipment. To provide backshop support to all three aircraft while continuously improving environmental awareness and effectively managing maintenance resources, allowing the 97th Air Mobility Wing to perform its aircrew training mission.
  • 97th Medical Group
Ensures maximum wartime readiness and combat capability by promoting the health, safety and morale of active duty personnel. Staffs, trains, mobilizes and provides medical services in support of contingency operations worldwide. Develops and operates a prevention-oriented, cost-effective managed healthcare system for over 9,500 people.



Previous names

  • Established on 17 Jun 1942 as: AAF Advanced Flying School, Altus, Oklaholma
  • Altus Army Airfield, 8 Apr 1943
  • AAF Pilot School (Advanced TE), Altus Army Airfield, 6 Aug 1943-23 Apr 1946
  • Inactivated 23 Apr 1946-3 Mar 1953
  • Altus Air Force Base, 3 Mar 1953-Present

Major Commands to Which Assigned

  • AAF Gulf Coast Training Cen, 26 Jun 1942
  • AAF Central Flying Training Comd, 31 Jul 1943
  • AAF Technical Service Comd, 16 May 1945
  • Air Technical Service Comd, 1 Jul 1945 - 9 Mar 1946
  • Tactical Air Command, 11 Jun 1952

Base operating units

  • 453rd Base HQ and Air Base Squadron, 6 Oct 1942 - 1 May 1944
  • 2508th AAF Base Unit (Pilot School), 1 May 1944 - 16 May 1945
  • 4124th AAF Base Unit, 16 May-13 Dec 1945
  • 63d Air Base Group, 8 Jan 1953
  • 4037th Air Base Group, 15 Oct 1953 - 18 Nov 1953
  • 96th Air Base Group, 18 Nov 1953
  • 1st Combat Support Gp, 1 Mar 1959 - 8 Jul 1968
  • 443rd Air Base (later Combat Support) Group, 8 Jul 1968
  • 97th Mission Support Group 1 Oct 1992 - Present

Major units assigned

  • Army Air Force Pilot School (Advanced Training), 26 Jun 1942 - 15 May 1945
  • 4124 Army Air Force Base Unit, 15 May 1945 - 13 Dec 1945
  • 63d Troop Carrier Wing, 8 Jan 1953 - 14 Oct 1953
  • 96th Bombardment Wing, 18 Nov 1953 - 7 Sep 1957

Operational history

World War II

Set in the cotton fields of southwestern Oklahoma, Altus Air Force Base first became home to military aircraft and personnel in 1943. With an average of more than 300 days of weather favorable to flying each year, a generally flat landscape and few obstructions, the base was then, and is still, considered ideally situated as a suitible location for airmen to hone their flying skills. Originally called Altus Army Air Field (AAF), construction of the new base began in May 1942. Over the next five decades, the base became known as one of the U.S. Air Force's premier air mobility training locations.

The base became operational on January 1943, being assigned to the UAAF Gulf Coast Training Center. The mission of the base being the training of new pilots on multi-engine aircraft. The primary training aircraft were the Cessna Cessna AT-17 "Bobcat" and the Curtiss AT-9 "Jeep". After students became proficient with these aircraft, they transferred to units that would prepare them to fly the actual type of aircraft they would use in combat over Europe and in the Pacific theaters during World War II. At the end of hostilities in Europe, Altus AAF was slated for inactivation and on 15 May 1945 placed on temporary inactive status.

Scrap yard

Between 1945 and 1953 Altus would serve as a scrap yard for hundreds of WWII era military aircraft. In 1945 the famous B-17F "Memphis Belle" was discovered at Altus awaiting disposal. The aircraft was saved and transferred to the city of Memphis, Tennessee where it was displayed until 2005.

Cold War

The base would only sit idle for a few years. The onset of the Korean War in June 1950 created the need for more men to fly and service aircraft. During the early years of the conflict, many WWII airfields were examined for reactivation. On August 1, 1953, Altus Air Force Base was reactivated as a training base for transport aircraft. The C-47 "Skytrain" and the C-45 "Expediter" were the main aircraft assigned to the base, run briefly by the 63d Troop Carrier Wing from 8 January until October 15, 1953 under the watch of the Tactical Air Command (TAC). During the 1950s, the base would undergo many changes and would change hands from TAC to the Strategic Air Command (SAC). Later that year, on November 18, the 96th Bombardment Wing, Medium, (96 BMW) would arrive and begin operations with three bomber squadrons and one air refueling squadron. The squadrons eventually flew the first all jet-engined bomber, the B-47 Stratojet and the KC-97 Stratotanker, a dual-purpose cargo and air-refueling aircraft. By the end of the decade, both of these aircraft would be replaced by aircraft still in the Air Force inventory, the KC-135 Stratotanker and the B-52 Stratofortress. The KC-135 was the first all jet-engined air-refueling aircraft and the B-52 still remains the backbone of the USAF bomber fleet. When the 96th BW moved to Dyess AFB, Texas, the 11th Bombardment Wing (Heavy) activated and stood on alert during the Cold War. As the base moved into the 1960s, more changes would occur.

June 1961 witnessed the activation of twelve Atlas “F” intercontinental ballistic missile sites within a 40-mile radius of the base. Controlled by the 577th Strategic Missile Squadron, the missiles sat inside a silo, constructed underground with a launch facility, and manned around the clock. The missile silos became operational on 10 October 1962, but the activation would be short-lived. By April 1965, the Atlas missile would be outdated and was phased out of the national strategic defense plan.

In August 1966, the 4th Mobile Communications Group transferred from Hunter AFB, Georgia to Altus. The unit's mission consisted of providing mobile and transportable communication services, aiding navigation and air traffic control throughout the world.

In 1967, the Air Force began searching for a base that could handle the training for its strategic airlift fleet, the C-141 Starlifter and its newest and largest transport aircraft, the C-5 Galaxy. Again, Oklahoma proved to be well suited for the mission. The Military Airlift Command (MAC) assumed command of the base from SAC and activated the 443d Military Airlift Wing (443 MAW), Training, to assume host wing responsibilities and to fly alongside the SAC aircraft that would become a tenant command at Altus.

By the start of the 1970s, Altus AFB would have three aircraft type/models assigned: KC-135s, C-141s, and C-5s. For the KC-135 aircraft at Altus still under SAC's control, the USAF activated the 340th Air Refueling Wing, which continued to operate the base's KC-135s.

Modern era

The post Cold War environment would bring many changes to Altus AFB. On June 1, 1992, the Air Force reorganized and the Military Airlift Command (MAC) disestablished. In its place was the new Air Mobility Command (AMC) which placed MAC's strategic and tactical airlift aircraft and SAC's aerial refueling aircraft under a single command. Second, the 443d Airlift Wing and the 340th Air Refueling Wing were inactivated, with the latter's aircraft transferred to the 19th Air Refueling Wing (19 ARW) at Robins AFB, Georgia. On October 1, the first Air Mobility Wing (AMW), the 97th Air Mobility Wing (97 AMW), arrived at Altus without personnel or equipment, having formerly been designated as SAC's 97th Bombardment Wing and being transferred from the deactivating Eaker AFB, Arkansas as a result of Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) action. The 97 AMW was tasked with flight crew formal training unit (FTU) responsibilities for the C-141 and C-5 aircrew, and with the closure of Castle AFB, California due to BRAC action, concurrently assumed FTU responsibilities for KC-135E/R/T flight crews. On July 1, 1993, the 97th was transferred from AMC to the newly-established Air Education and Training Command (AETC) as part of a USAF initiative to move most FTU activities to AETC.

More changes were on the horizon. In 1996, the latest addition to Altus AFB, the new C-17 Globemaster III, arrived. Even before its arrival, the base began training pilots and loadmasters to operate and fly the aircraft.

In August 2002, the mission of the wing grew when the Air Force moved the basic loadmaster course from Sheppard AFB, Texas to Altus. This initiative combined similar training programs to reduce the number of moves required by trainees while cutting overall costs. Additionally, during that same month, the wing reorganized as a "combat wing": the 97th Support Group became the 97th Mission Support Group, gaining the new 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron (comprising the former 97th Supply Squadron, 97th Transportation Squadron and logistics plans flight) and the 97th Contracting Squadron. Also, the 97th Logistics Group inactivated and the 97th Maintenance Directorate was activated. The directorate comprises civil-service personnel, who are responsible for the care and maintenance of all three airframes at the base.

The 97 AMW discontinued FTU responsibilities for the C-141 concurrent with that aircraft's retirement from the USAF inventory in 2006. On July 1, 2007, the Air Force Reserve Command's (AFRC) 433d Airlift Wing (433 AW) at Lackland AFB/Kelly Field assumed responsibility for all flying training and academic training for the C-5 aircraft for all Regular Air Force, Air Force Reserve Command and Air National Guard (ANG) aircrews, leaving the 97 AMW and Altus to concentrate on C-17 and KC-135 training for AMC, AFRC and ANG aircrews.[2]

See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.
 This article incorporates public domain material from the United States Government document "Altus Air Force Base".

  • Maurer, Maurer. Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office 1961 (republished 1983, Office of Air Force History, ISBN 0-912799-02-1).
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama: Office of Air Force History 1984. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.
  • Mueller, Robert, Air Force Bases Volume I, Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982, Office of Air Force History, 1989
  • Shaw, Frederick J. (2004), Locating Air Force Base Sites History’s Legacy, Air Force History and Museums Program, United States Air Force, Washington DC, 2004.
  • Manning, Thomas A. (2005), History of Air Education and Training Command, 1942–2002. Office of History and Research, Headquarters, AETC, Randolph AFB, Texas ASIN: B000NYX3PC
  • Altus AFB Website

External links


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