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Forbes Air Force Base

Air national guard shield.svg Air Mobility Command.png
Shield Strategic Air Command.png Tacemblem.jpg

Part of Kansas Air National Guard (ANG) and
Air Mobility Command (AMC)
formerly Strategic Air Command (SAC) and
Tactical Air Command (TAC)
Located near Topeka, Kansas
February 24, 2002

Location Of Forbes Air Force Base

Type Air Force Base
Built 1941
In use 1941–Present
Controlled by Kansas Air National Guard (KANG)
Garrison 190th Air Refueling Wing

Forbes Air Force Base, previously Topeka Army Air Field, is a Kansas Air National Guard installation located five miles (8 km) south of Topeka, Kansas. It was formerly a United States Air Force Strategic Air Command base which was transferred to the Metropolitan Topeka Airport Authority in 1973. It is now a joint civil-military facility known as Forbes Field.

The 12,800-foot (3,900 m) by 200-foot (61 m) runway, and other runways, ramps and facilities needed by the 190th Air Refueling Wing of the Kansas Air National Guard are maintained by the Federal Government.


Units Assigned

The 190th Air Refueling Wing (190 ARW) of the Kansas Air National Guard (KANG) occupies 215 acres (87 ha) on the south side of Forbes Field, located approximately 5 miles (8.0 km) south of downtown Topeka, Kansas. The mission of the 190 ARW is to “Provide a professional trained militia, ready to serve community, state and nation”. The unit currently flies the KC-135R Stratotanker. The 190 ARW occupies 7 administrative facilities, 16 industrial facilities, and 2 services facilities totaling approximately 523,100 square feet (48,600 m2) with 323 full time personnel. Unit training drills conducted once a month result in a surge of up to a total of 1152 personnel.


Forbes Air Force Base was named for Major Daniel Forbes, an Air Force test pilot from Carbondale, Kansas who was killed in a crash of a Northrop YB-49 Flying Wing, which took the lives of all five crew members. The co-pilot on the flight was Captain Glen Edwards, the namesake of Edwards Air Force Base in California.


Major Units Assigned

World War II

During World War II, the facility was known as Topeka Army Air Field and was used as a United States Army Air Forces Second Air Force training field.

Congress authorized the Topeka Army Air Field (TAAF) building project within two weeks after the December 7, 1941, attack on Pearl Harbor. Eight months later, the completed air base -- essential buildings, hangars, repair shops, steam heating plants, fuel storage and three 7,000 by 150-foot (46 m) paved runways -- was formally accepted by the Army Air Corps.

In August 1942 the first troops arrived and had to be quartered in the agriculture building on the Topeka Fair Grounds because their green wood two-story barracks buildings weren't finished yet. By September 1942, the field was the home of the 333rd Bombardment Group.

During the war there were ammunition storage bunkers and small arms ranges. These features were removed during construction of the new runway. New ammunition storage bunkers and ordnance storage warehouses were constructed. The bunkers are currently being leased to a company for storage of explosives and are locked. The ordnance storage warehouses are being used by the airport authority for storage. There is an area south of the bunkers that is suspected of being a burial site for rocket fuel and munitions.

By 1945 TAAF was one of three B-29 Superfortress centers where newly transitioned crews claimed new Superfortresses and took off for the Pacific to aid in the assault on the Japanese home islands. On October 31, 1947, Topeka Army Air Field was inactivated.

Strategic Air Command

On July 1, 1948 Topeka Air Force Base reactivated as a Strategic Air Command base (SAC); home to the 311th Air Division, Reconnaissance and to the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing. That mission continued until October 14, 1949, when the base was again inactivated.

During that activation, Topeka AFB was renamed Forbes Air Force Base in memory of Major Daniel H. Forbes, a Topeka pilot killed June 5, 1948, while testing the Northrop YB-49 "Flying Wing" prototype jet bomber near Muroc Dry Lake (now Edwards AFB), California.

During the Korean War, Forbes AFB reopened and was again assigned to SAC. On February 16, 1951, the 21st Air Division was activated at Forbes, and the division's 90th Bombardment Wing moved to the base in February and March. The wing trained SAC's newly activated 376th, 308th and 310th Bomb Wings. From June 1951 to August 1953 it also trained B-29 Superfortress replacement crews for combat in the Korean War. About 10 a month were trained until August 1952 when the bomb wing training program was concluded and the number of B-29 crews produced was doubled.

On June 16, 1952, the 90th was redesignated the 90th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, Medium, and five months later started training reconnaissance crews as replacements for Far East Air Forces. During October 1952 the 55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing moved to Forbes from Ramey AFB, Puerto Rico, continuing its program of photography, photomapping and electronic reconnaissance.

In June 1960, the 90th SRW was deactivated and replaced by the 40th Bomb Wing, transferred from Schilling AFB, Salina, Kansas. The 40th was base at Forbes until 1964, flying the B-47 Stratojet.

In October 1958, Topeka received news that Forbes AFB would support SM-65 Atlas-E missile sites to be constructed in the surrounding area. The United States Army Corps of Engineers Kansas City District managed construction of the nine “coffins” where the missiles would be stored horizontally. Although Forbes was slated to have three sites with three missiles at each site, in February 1959, the Air Force directed that each missile be placed at an individual launch site, These sites were situated at or near Valley Falls, Kansas, Dover, Kansas, Waverly, Kansas, Osage City, Kansas, Delia, Kansas, Wamego, Kansas, Overbrook, Kansas, Holton, Kansas, and Bushong, Kansas. Construction officially began on June 9, 1959, when Kansas Governor George Docking drove a silver nail into a construction form.

Site construction was split between two firms, with one firm responsible for work at three sites and the other for work at the other six. There were difficulties encountered due to some 519 modifications made during construction. One modification concerned the propellant loading system. Prefabricated in Pittsburgh by Blaw-Knox Manufacturing for Atlas E sites at Vandenberg AFB, California; F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming; Fairchild AFB, Washington; and Forbes AFB, the system components were to arrive on skids bolted together. Unfortunately the skids often arrived late and testing revealed system defects that took time to correct.

Labor-management problems caused occasional setbacks in construction. During the project there were 22 work stoppages, most of which were quickly resolved. However, in October and November 1960, a long work stoppage occurred due to a work assignment dispute between the hoisting engineers and the electrical workers. The problem was resolved after the National Labor Relations Board issued a restraining order. There were 25 lost-time accidents during construction, including two fatalities that were electricity-related. One minor disturbance occurred at one of the sites when student pickets from McPherson College arrived to protest the deployment of ICBMs.

Despite the labor problems and student pickets, the project continued on schedule. On July 1, 1960, the 548th Strategic Missile Squadron stood up. Nearly 6 months later, on January 24, 1961, the first Atlas missile arrived at Forbes. By October, all nine sites had their Atlas E missiles. The Forbes sites were completed 3 weeks ahead of schedule. On October 16, 1961, Air Force Ballistic Missile Activation Chief, Maj Gen Gerrity, turned over operational control of the sites to Second Air Force Commander, then-Lt Gen John D. Ryan. In the ensuing press conference, the two generals urged Kansans to become interested in constructing fallout shelters as an insurance policy that could enhance deterrence.

As a result of Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara’s May 1964 directive accelerating the decommissioning of Atlas and Titan I missile bases, the 40th Bomb Wing was inactivated September 1, 1964 and the 548th Strategic Missile Squadron was deactivated on March 25, 1965.

Tactical Air Command

With the decomissioning of the ICBMs, Forbes became a Tactical Air Command (TAC) base, becoming the home of the 313th Tactical Airlift Wing on October 1, 1964.

Flying C-130 Hercules, the 313th's 29th, 38th, 47th and 48th Troop Carrier (later Tactical Airlift) squadrons frequently deployed on a global basis to support airlift requirements of overseas commands, participate in tactical exercises and disaster relief on a regular basis. TAC also invested in the facilities at Forbes, upgrading the runways, hangars, barracks, administrative and support structures and facilities.


Forbes AFB was ordered closed by the Department of Defense as part of a post-Vietnam reduction in force in 1973. Most of the facility was turned over for civilian use, but an Air Force presence remained in the form of the Kansas Air National Guard's 190th Air Refueling Wing (190 ARW), operating the KC-135 Stratotanker. Originally gained by the Strategic Air Command, the 190 ARW's gaining command shifted to the Air Mobility Command (AMC) with the disestablishment of SAC in 1992. Initially operating the KC-135A, then KC-135E, the 190 ARW currently flies the KC-135R.

In June 2007, the 190 ARW gained custody of all KC-135R aircraft previously operated by the Kansas Air National Guard's 184th Air Refueling Wing (184 ARW) at nearby McConnell AFB. This action consolidated all of the Kansas ANG's KC-135R assets into a single wing located at Forbes Field. The 184 ARW was subsequently redesignated as the 184th Intelligence Wing (184 IW), a non-flying unit at McConnell AFB.

See also


External links

Coordinates: 38°57′03″N 095°39′49″W / 38.95083°N 95.66361°W / 38.95083; -95.66361


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