Griffiss Air Force Base: Wikis


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Griffiss Air Force Base

Shield Strategic Air Command.png

Part of Strategic Air Command
Located near: Rome, New York
USGS 1997 Aerial Photo
Type Air Force Base
Coordinates 43°13′50.955″N 75°24′34.707″W / 43.23082083°N 75.40964083°W / 43.23082083; -75.40964083
Built 1941-1942
In use 1942-1994
Griffiss AFB is located in New York
Griffiss AFB
Location of Griffiss Air Force Base, New York
This article is about the former United States Air Force base in New York. For the USAF base in Texas of a similar name, see Carswell Air Force Base.
For the civil use of this facility and airport information, see Griffiss International Airport

Griffiss Air Force Base, is a former United States Air Force base, located in Rome, New York, about 15 mi NW of Utica. Missions at Griffiss AFB included fighter interceptors, electronic research, installation, and support activities, aerial refueling, and bombers. The airfield is now the site of Griffiss International Airport.


Major Commands

  • USAAF Materiel Div, February 1, 1942 (rdsgd Materiel Comd, March 16, 1942)
  • USAAF Materiel and Services, July 17, 1944 (rdsgd AAF Technical Service Comd, August 31, 1944
  • Air Technical Service Comd, July 1, 1945
  • Air Materiel Comd, March 9, 1946)
  • Air Research and Development Command, April 2, 1951
  • Air Materiel Command, July 1, 1954
Redesignated: Air Force Logistics Command, April 1, 1961

Major Units assigned

  • Rome Air Depot, February 1, 1942 – January 3, 1955
  • Rome Air Material Area, February 1, 1943 – June 25, 1947
  • 4104th Army Air Force Base Unit, April 1, 1944 – April 15, 1945
  • 65th Reconnaissance Group, December 27, 1946 – June 27, 1949
  • 1st Fighter-Interceptor Group, August 15, 1950 – June 3, 1951
71st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, August 15 – October 21, 1950
27th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, August 15, 1950 – October 1, 1959
  • 6530th Air Base Wing, June 12, 1951 – August 1, 1952
  • Rome Air Force Depot, January 3, 1955 – April 1, 1967
  • 465th Air Refueling Squadron, October 8, 1955 – July 1, 1959
  • 2856th Air Base Wing, February 16, 1958 – July 1, 1970
  • 4247th Air Defense Group, February 8, 1957 – October 15, 1959
49th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, July 1, 1959 – July 7, 1987


Griffiss Air Force Base is a former USAF base located near Rome, New York. Ground was broken on August 2, 1941 for the Rome Air Depot, to be completed in 1942. After a series of names and realignments, the base was finally named Griffiss Air Force Base in 1948. The base was named in honor of Lt Col Townsend E. Griffiss (1900–1942). Colonel Griffiss died during World War II on a flight to England from the Soviet Union. While returning from an evaluation of ferrying routes for lend lease aircraft on February 15, 1942, RAF pilots mistook him for an enemy and shot his aircraft down southwest of Plymouth. Col. Griffiss was the first U.S. airman to be killed in the line of duty in the European Theater.



On April 3, 1941, the War Department began looking for an area to construct an Air Depot in central New York. Orders to begin construction came from the War Department on June 23, 1941. Facilities were completed in February 1942, and flight operations on the depot airfield began on February 18, 1942.

Rome Air Depot

On February 1, 1942, the Rome Air Depot was activated and throughout World War II the depot provided aircraft engine maintenance and repair, and trained air depot groups in engine repair. With the end of the war and the sharp reduction of AAF aircraft operations, activities were sharply curtailed in the fall of 1945. The Rome Air Depot continued operations well into the 1960s as an Air Force Logistics Command Air Materiel Area (AMA) supporting USAF electronics and RADAR systems. The depot began a phasedown in the early 1960s, with the depot closing in 1967 with its functions being transferred to other AFLC Air Materiel Areas.

Air Defense

Air Defense Command.png

Although many aircraft landed at Griffiss during the war, the airfield had no permanently stationed flying units. It wasn't until after World War II, that the Air Force Reserve 65th Reconnaissance Group conducted aerial photo and mapping operations from Griffiss from December 27, 1946 until being inactivated on June 27, 1949.

A 49th FIS F-106A in 1970.
T-33As of the 49th FIS on the ramp at Griffiss AFB, 1984.

On October 3, 1950 that the Air Defense Command (ADC) 1st Fighter-Interceptor Group became the first permanently assigned USAF flying unit at Griffiss. ADC units were stationed at the for the next 30 years as Griffiss became a center for the Northeast air defense mission, and was headquarters of the Northeast Air Defense Sector. The 4727th Air Defense Group, equipped with F-89J came to Griffiss in February 1957.

In May 1959, the 465th Fighter Interceptor Squadron was assigned to Griffiss with F-89 Scorpion all-weather fighters. Late the next year, the 49th Fighter Interceptor Squadron assumed operational control over the 465th and became a major tenant at Griffiss. The 49th operated F-101 Voodoos until late 1968, when it was re-equipped with F-106 Delta Darts. The 49th was the last operational unit to fly the F-106s, prior to being deactivated July 1, 1987.

The 49th Fighter Interceptor Squadron replaced the 4727th ADG in October 1959 and converted from the McDonnell F-101 Voodoo to the Convair F-106 Delta darts in late 1968. The 49th FIS was inactivated at Griffiss AFB on July 1, 1987, when the air defense mission was transferred to the Air National Guard.

Beginning in 1960, Griffiss became the headquarters of the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS). NEADS was responsible for defending a half million square miles of air space including New York City, Washington D.C., Chicago and other major cities. The base had been home also for the 24th Air Division since September 1983, following a major overhaul of the air defense force structure. Its air defense responsibility was to equip, administer and train combat-ready forces for the northeast United States. In 1987, the 24th Air Division's area of responsibility was expanded as part of a major restructuring of North American air defense and following the inactivation of the 23rd Air Division at Tyndall AFB, the 24th became responsible for the entire eastern United States. The 24th AD was inactivated on September 30, 1990.

Rome Laboratory

Electronic research began at the Rome Air Depot in 1949. The Watson Laboratory complex was transferred to Rome from Red Bank, New Jersey between 1950 and 1951. The Rome Air Development Center was begun at the base on June 12, 1951, as a response to the specific electronics needs of air forces learned by the U.S. Army Signal Corps during the war. The RADC would be renamed to Rome Laboratory in 1991 as a response to its changing role in research and development.

Strategic Air Command

Master plan for Griffiss

which is the current designation of the unit

Shield Strategic Air Command.png

The 4039th Strategic Wing of Strategic Air Command was activated as an associate unit at Griffiss AFB in January 1959. In a effort to perpetuate the lineage of many units with illustrious World War II records, SAC devised a program to activate Air Force-controlled units inactivated at the end of World War II. On February 1, 1963, the 4039th Strategic Wing was redesignated the 416th Bombardment Wing. Similarly, the 75th BMS, a unit of the 4039th, became the 668th Bombardment Squadron, one of the four squadrons previously assigned to the 416th BG.

The 41st Air Refueling Squadron and the 56th Munitions Maintenance Squadron were reassigned to the 416th BMW and retained their designations. The 41st Air Refueling Squadron was activated on January 1, 1959, flying the Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, to provide aerial refueling for SAC bombers. KC-135A 58-0030 nicknamed "City of Rome" was the first tanker assigned to the 41st AREFS

The wing's tankers deployed to Clark AB in the Philippines in December 1964 to provide aerial refueling of tactical combat aircraft operating in Southeast Asia. By July, the wing's tankers and crews began supporting B-52 Arc light missions. The wing's first bomber crew deployed to the theater in June 1968. At times during this era, more than half of the wing's B-52 crews were on temporary duty in Southeast Asia.

Another milestone in the 416th BW history occurred in July 1970 when the wing assumed host responsibility of Griffiss AFB. The base passed from the Air Force Logistics Command to the Strategic Air Command. The 416th received its first Short Range Attack Missile in November 1972. By June 1973, each of the wing's aircraft had been modified to carry up to 20 missiles on wing pylons and on a rotary launcher in the bomb bay. Congress announced in May 1979 that the 416th BW would be the first wing to receive the Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM). The wing received two Air Launched Cruise Missiles on January 11, 1981. These missiles were initially used for environmental testing and maintenance training. On August 15, 1981, the first B-52G modified to carry the missile was returned to the wing and the first ALCM training flight was launched September 15, 1981. On September 21, 1982, the wing conducted the first ALCM operational test launch by an operational wing. The 416th received the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award in recognition of its work with the ALCM.

Beginning in November 1987, Griffiss AFB became home to the United States Army 10th Aviation Brigade. The Brigade was part of the reactivated 10th Mountain Division and remained at Griffiss until facilities were constructed for the division at Ft. Drum. The brigade flew three types of helicopters; the UH-1 for transport, the AH-1F for attack and the OH-58A for reconnaissance, at the time.

In May 1990, the wing began re-engining its KC-135 fleet with High Bypass Turbofan engines. The now designed KC-135R had extended range, increased power, noise reductions and more importantly, could give more fuel to receivers since its new engines were consuming a lot less. By July 1990, the wing's last KC-135A had undergone the re-engining process, just in time to display its new capabilities in Operations Desert Shield and Storm.

The 509th Air Refueling Squadron was formally activated at Griffiss AFB on September 20, 1990 with the newest tanker model, the KC-135R. The 509th was assigned to the 509th BW until 1990. In Desert Storm, the wing's B-52s and crews flew 148 combat sorties for more than 11,000 flying hours dropping 6,274 bombs equaling 4,394,350 pounds of ordnance, while the KC-135s flew 1,100 sorties and transferred 100 million pounds of fuel. On May 9, 1991, B-52G 58-0225 "Mohawk Valley" piloted by the Wing's Commander, Col.Mike Loughran, landed at Griffiss AFB for the last time to be preserved on base.

In July 1991, the 416th BW began converting from the B-52G to the H model. The upgrade was concluded in October 1991 when the wing received its last B-52H. The 416th BW was redesignated the 416th Wing on September 1, 1991. Concurrent with the redesignation was a complete restructuring of the wing, eliminating the three deputy commander levels and organizing the wing into a four-group structure; the 416th Operations, 416th Logistics, 416th Support and 416th Medical groups.

With the inactivation of Strategic Air Command, the 416th Wing was assigned to the new Air Combat Command on June 1, 1992. Under ACC, the wing was redesignated the 416th Bomb Wing and realigned under Ninth Air Force. The Wing's KC-135R were reassigned to the 380th Air Refueling Wing at Plattsburgh AFB under the newly activated Air Mobility Command. The 41st ARS was inactivated on February 15, 1993. The 509 ARS remained at Griffiss until the unit was inactivated.

BRAC Realignment

Griffiss AFB was realigned for civilian and non-combat purposes in the early 1990s. The base's final "Commander's Day" was held on August 13, 1994 with many neighboring units attending this final open house. November saw the 416th BW transfer its last B-52H with the aircraft being reassigned to Minot AFB and the 5th Bomb Wing.

The 416th Bomb Wing was officially deactivated on September 30, 1995 and USAF flight operations at Griffiss AFB ended.

The facilty is now home to the Griffiss Business and Technology Park, and it is still home to the Rome Research Site of the Air Force Research Lab. At its peak, the base was the largest employer in Oneida County, New York.

The base was designated a Superfund site in 1987.[1] Griffiss was the site of the Woodstock 1999 concert festival. The base was chosen for its defensibility.[citation needed]


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

  • 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 (1989). Volume 1: Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. USAF Reference Series, Office of Air Force History, United States Air Force, Washington, D.C. ISBN 0912799536; 0160022614
  • Aerospace Defense Command publication, The Interceptor, January 1979 (Volume 21, Number 1).

External links


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