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For the civil airport use of this facility, see Albuquerque International Sunport
Kirtland Air Force Base

Air Force Materiel Command.png
Part of Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC)

Kirtland AFB, October 6, 1996
Airport type Military/Public
Operator United States Air Force
Location Albuquerque, New Mexico
Elevation AMSL 5300 ft / 1600 m
Coordinates 35°02′25″N 106°36′33″W / 35.04028°N 106.60917°W / 35.04028; -106.60917Coordinates: 35°02′25″N 106°36′33″W / 35.04028°N 106.60917°W / 35.04028; -106.60917
Direction Length Surface
ft m
8/26 13,793 4,204 Concrete
3/21 10,000 3,048 Concrete
17/35 10,000 3,048 Asphalt/Concrete
12/30 6,000 1,829 Concrete
Kirtland AFB is located in New Mexico
Kirtland AFB
Location of Kirtland Air Force Base, New Mexico
ABQ - FAA airport diagram.jpg
71st Special Operations Squadron V-22 Osprey.
The Personnel Halting and Stimulation Response (PHaSR) is a rifle-sized laser weapon system that uses two non-lethal laser wavelengths to deter, prevent, or mitigate an adversary’s effectiveness. The laser light generated by this weapon illuminates or “dazzles” aggressors, temporarily impairing individuals and their ability to see the laser source.
A MAFFS-capable C-130 sits on a ramp at Kirtland Air Force Base, N.M. The MAFFS unit is deployed to Kirtland to lend air support to wildfires in West Texas.

Kirtland Air Force Base (IATA: ABQICAO: KABQ) is a United States Air Force base located in the southeast quadrant of the Albuquerque, New Mexico urban area, adjacent to the Albuquerque International Sunport. The base was named for the early Army aviator Col. Roy C. Kirtland. The military and the international airport share the same runways, making ABQ a joint civil-military airport.

The base is the third largest installation in Air Force Materiel Command, covering 51,558 acres (209 km²) and employing over 23,000 people, including more than 4,200 active duty, 3,200 part-time Air Force Reserve, and 1,000 Air National Guard personnel.

Kirtland is the home of the Air Force Materiel Command's Nuclear Weapons Center (NWC). The NWC is the center of expertise for nuclear weapon systems, ensuring safe, secure and reliable nuclear weapons are available to support the National Command Structure and Air Force. The NWC's responsibilities include acquisition, modernization and sustainment of nuclear system programs for both the Department of Defense and Department of Energy.

The NWC is composed of two wings -- the 377th Air Base Wing and 498th Armament Systems Wing along with ten groups and 7 squadrons.

Kirtland is also home to the 58th Special Operations Wing (58 SOW), an Air Education and Training Command (AETC) unit that provides formal aircraft type/model/series training to the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) special operations forces (SOF) and Air Combat Command (ACC) combat search and rescue (CSAR) communities. The 58 SOW operates the MC-130H Combat Talon II and MC-130P Combat Shadow, HC-130 Hercules, UH-1N Huey, HH-60G Pave Hawk and CV-22 Osprey aircraft. Headquarters Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center is also located at Kirtland AFB.

The 150th Fighter Wing of the New Mexico Air National Guard, an ACC-gained unit, is also home-based at Kirtland, operating the F-16 Fighting Falcon.



Kirtland Air Force Base was named for Colonel Roy C. Kirtland (1874–1941) in February 1942. Colonel Kirtland learned to fly in 1911 in one of the first Wright airplanes at Dayton, Ohio. During World War I he organized and commanded a regiment of mechanics, and served as an inspector of aviation facilities. Recalled from retirement in 1941 at the age of 65, the oldest military pilot in the Air Corps, he died of a heart attack on May 2, 1941 at Moffett Field, California.

Previous names of Kirtland Air Force Base were:

  • Albuquerque Army Air Base, March 8, 1941
  • Kirtland Army Air Field, February 24, 1942

Major Commands

  • AF Combat Command, c. March 8, 1941 – December 6, 1941
  • West Coast Air Corps Training Command, December 6, 1941 – January 23, 1942
  • Air Corps Flying Training Command, January 23, 1942 – March 1942
  • AAF Flying Training Comd, March 1942 – July 31, 1943
  • AAF Training Comd, July 31, 1943 – March 1, 1945
  • Second AF, March 1, 1945 – January 21, 1946
  • Fourth AF, January 31, 1946 – April 14, 1945
  • Continental Air Forces, April 16, 1945 – March 21, 1945
  • Strategic Air Comd, March 21, 1945 – December 1, 1946
  • Air Materiel Comd, December 1, 1946 – December 1, 1949
  • Special Weapons Comd, December 1, 1949 – April 1, 1952
  • Air Research and Development Comd, April 1, 1952 – April 1, 1961
  • Air Force Systems Command, April 1, 1961 – July 1, 1977
  • Military Airlift Command, July 1, 1977 – July 1, 1992
  • Air Force Materiel Command, July 1, 1992 – Present

Base Operating Units

  • 3d Air Base Sq, April 11, 1941 – July 19, 1942
  • 3d Base HQ and Air Base Sq, July 19, 1942 – May 1, 1944
  • 3007th AAF Base Unit, May 1, 1944 – March 1, 1945
  • 237th AAF Base Unit, March 1, 1945 – January 31, 1946
  • 428th AAF Base Unit, February 1, 1946 – March 10, 1949
  • HQ and HQ Sq, 2758th AF Base, March 10, 1949 – July 5, 1949
  • 3078th Air Base Gp, July 5, 1949 – December 1, 1949
  • 4910th Air Base Gp, December 1, 1949 – May 1, 1955
  • 4900th Air Base Gp, May 1, 1955 – April 1, 1976
  • 4900th Air Base Wg, April 1, 1976 – July 1, 1977
  • 1606th Air Base Wg, July 1, 1977 – June 1, 1993
  • 377th Air Base Wing, June 1, 1993 – Present
  • 898th Munitions Squadron July 1, 1994- Present

Operational History

In 1939 the U.S. Army leased land east of Albuquerque airport to establish a flight training base, connecting both the municipal airport and a private field, Oxnard Field. Construction on permanent facilities at Albuquerque Army Air Base began January 7, 1941 and was completed in eight months. In march the first base commander was assigned, and the following month the base received its first military aircraft, a B-18 Bolo. By summer the first troop train had arrived, along with 2,195 trainees for the new B-17 Flying Fortress. The 19th Bomb Group, designated to fly the first B-17s overseas to the Philippines, completed its training at Kirtland in July and August 1941.

During World War II Kirtland trained flight crews for the B-17, B-24 and B-29 bombers. The 3007th Air Base Unit contained both advanced pilot training and bombardier training schools, with the latter using AT-11 Kansan trainers to train more than 5,000 bombardiers during the war.

In February 1946, Kirtland was placed under the Air Materiel Command and it ceased its flight training activities. Kirtland's new role was to develop proper aircraft modifications for weapons delivery and to determine ballistic characteristics for nuclear weapons. Kirtland's role in the testing and evaluation of special weapons increased in 1947 when Kirtland Army Air Field, became Kirtland Air Force Base.

In September 1948 the first Convair B-36 was modified to carry nuclear weapons at Kirtland, followed by the first B-47 Stratojet in December of that year.

In December 1949, Kirtland became headquarters for the Air Force Special Weapons Center. In 1963, the Special Weapons Center gave up much of its research and development work to the newly created Air Force Weapons Laboratory.

April 11, 1950, – A B-29 bomber carrying a nuclear weapon, four spare detonators, and a crew of thirteen crashed into a mountain near Manzano Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, three minutes after departure from the Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque. The crash resulted in a major fire which was reported by the New York Times as being visible from "fifteen miles." The bomb's casing was completely demolished and its high explosives ignited upon contact with the plane's burning fuel. However, according to the Department of Defense, the four spare detonators and all nuclear components were recovered. A nuclear detonation was not possible because the weapon's core, while being carried on-board, was not placed in the weapon for safety reasons. All thirteen crew members were killed. [4]

On July 1, 1971, Kirtland merged with Manzano Base and Sandia Base, its neighbors to the east.

Early in 1974, at the direction of the Air Force Chief of Staff, the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center was organized at Kirtland to direct and oversee operational testing of aircraft and other equipment.

The Air Force Special Weapons Center was dismantled on April 1, 1976.

On October 1, 1982, the Air Force Space Technology Center was activated at Kirtland. On December 13, 1990, it was combined with three Air Force laboratories to become Phillips Laboratory. It recently joined other laboratories and became part of the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Also located on Kirtland AFB was the National Atomic Museum, which has since moved and been renamed the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History.

In 1992, the Kirtland Underground Munitions Storage Complex (KUMSC) was activated at Kirtland AFB. KUMSC is the largest storage facility for nuclear weapons in the world. The facility provides storage, shipping and maintenance for the United States Air Force and Navy. It is operated by the 898th Munitions Squadron (898 MUNS) and the 377th Security Forces Squadron (377 SFS). The facility is state of the art, with more than 300,000 square feet (28,000 m2) located entirely underground. Total number of deliverable nuclear warheads stored there is over 3,000. The majority of the munitions include the B83 and B61 gravity bombs, and W80, W87, and W88 warheads for the Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM), Minuteman III and Peacekeeper ICBM's. Around 2004, the "Laser Effects Facility" was featured on the documentary television series UFO Files episode "Alien Engineering".

In November 2009 the 377th Air Base Wing, commanded by Colonel Michael S. Duvall, and 498th Nuclear Systems Wing, commanded by Colonel Richard M. Stuckey, failed their nuclear surety inspections. The inspections were conducted by Air Force Material Command and the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.[1][2]

On January 27, 2010 the 898th Munitions Squadron, which manages and maintains 2,000 nuclear warheads in and around the base, was decertified. The action meant that the squadron could no longer perform its mission of safeguarding the weapons at the Kirtland Underground Munitions Maintenance and Storage Complex until it passed a nuclear surety inspection.[3]

Units located at Kirtland

Team Kirtland

Major Units

  • Nuclear Weapons Center
  • 377th Air Base Wing
    The 377 ABW provides munitions maintenance, readiness and training, and base operating support to approximately 76 Federal government and 384 private sector tenants and associate units. Among these is the Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Defense Nuclear Weapons School, the mission of which is to provide nuclear weapons core competencies and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high explosive (CBRNE) response training to DoD, other Federal and State Agencies, and National Laboratory personnel.
  • 498th Armament Systems Wing
    The 498th ABW is responsible for sustainment of nuclear munitions and cruise missiles, including operation of two munitions maintenance and storage complexes (at Kirtland AFB and Nellis AFB, Nev.) and the 498th Missile Sustainment Group at Tinker AFB, Okla. This encompasses the entire scope of nuclear weapon system support functions to include sustainment, modernization and acquisition support activities for both the Department of Defense and Department of Energy.
  • Detachment 8, Air Force Research Laboratory
    • Directed Energy Directorate
      This lab develops, integrates, and transitions science and technology for directed energy to include high-power microwaves, lasers, adaptive optics, imaging and effects to assure the preeminence of the United States in air and space.
    • Space Vehicles Directorate
      This lab develops and transitions high pay-off space technologies supporting the warfighter while leveraging commercial, civil and other government capabilities.

Associate Units

Unassociated Organizations

Kirtland in pop culture

See also


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

  1. ^ Hoffman, Michael, "Two wings get F on nuclear inspection", Air Force Times November 27, 2009.
  2. ^ Hoffman, Michael, "Weapons center chief accepts inspection blame", Military Times, February 11, 2010.
  3. ^ Hoffman, Michael, "Kirtland AFB unit loses nuclear mission", Military Times, February 12, 2010.
  • Much of this text in an early version of this article was taken from pages on the Kirtland Air Force Base Website, which as a work of the U.S. Government is presumed to be a public domain resource. That information was supplemented by:
  • Mueller, Robert (1989). Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. USAF Reference Series, Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-53-6
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0912799129.
  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
  • Mauer, Mauer (1969), Combat Squadrons of the Air Force, World War II, Air Force Historical Studies Office, Maxwell AFB, Alabama. ISBN 0892010975
  • 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.

External links


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