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Loring Air Force Base

Shield Strategic Air Command.png Airdefensecommand-logo.jpg

Loring Air Force Base.jpg
1970 aerial photograph of Loring Air Force Base
IATA: noneICAO: ME16
Airport type Military/Public
Owner Loring Development Authority
Location Limestone, Maine
In use 1953 - 1994
Occupants 42nd Bomb Wing
Elevation AMSL 745 ft / 227 m
Coordinates 46°57′00″N 67°53′00″W / 46.95°N 67.8833333°W / 46.95; -67.8833333
Direction Length Surface
ft m
1/19 12,101 3,688 Asphalt/Concrete
1/19 (Alternate) 13,209 4,026 Asphalt

Loring Air Force Base is a former United States Air Force base that was under the operational control of the Strategic Air Command (SAC) for most of its existence. In 1992, it was transferred to the newly-established Air Combat Command, and it was finally closed as an active Air Force installation in 1994. Loring is located in Limestone, Aroostook County, Maine. It is treated for statistical purposes by the United States Census Bureau as a census-designated place. At the 2000 census, the base had a total population of 225. It was named for Major Charles J. Loring, Jr., USAF, a Medal of Honor recipient during the Korean War.





Original plans for Loring

Loring AFB was carved out of the woods of Maine in 1953. It was named after Charles J. Loring, Jr., who was killed in the Korean War. Along with the nearby Presque Isle Air Force Base, some of its roads were named after states in the Union. It was the closest Air Force base on the east coast to Europe. It was originally built with a capacity of 100 B-36 Peacemaker bombers and equipped with a 10,000 foot runway.

42d Bomb Wing

The host wing for Loring AFB throughout its existence was the 42d Bomb Wing. The wing originally flew the B-36 Peacemaker, converting later to the B-52 Stratofortress. The wing also flew the KC-135 Stratotanker. When the wing transitioned to B-52s, the overruns were added to the base.

Weapons Storage Area

The Nuclear Weapons Storage Area at Loring once operated as a separate, top secret facility. Originally called Caribou Air Force Station, the remote area to the northeast of Loring’s property was the first U.S. site specifically constructed for the storage, assembly, and testing of atomic weapons. [1]

A parallel ribbon of four fences, one of which was electrified, surrounded the heart of the storage area. This area was nicknamed the “Q” area, which denoted the Department of Energy’s "Q" level security clearance required to enter.

In June 1962, the Atomic Energy Commission released its custody and ownership of the weapons to the Air Force. The personnel and property of Caribou Air Force Station were absorbed into that of the adjacent Loring Air Force Base.

On the nights of October 28th and 29th in 1975, there were two sightings of unidentified helicopters breaching the base perimeter in the area of the WSA just north of Loring AFB. One of the helicopters reported landed within the weapons storage area. (463 Nuclear Weapons Specialists stationed within the fence cannot confirm this) [2]


Loring AFB was first targeted for closure in 1976. The Air Force's primary rationale at that time was the poor condition of Loring AFB's facilities. In 1976, it was estimated that Loring AFB needed up to $300 million in facilities improvements. Between 1976 and 1979, considerable debate took place over the strategic importance of Loring AFB, resulting in a reversal of the Air Force decision to close the base. When the decision to keep Loring AFB open was made in 1979, Congress committed itself to upgrading the base facilities. Since 1981, nearly $300 million in military construction and operations and maintenance funds were spent to upgrade the facilities.

In 1991, the Secretary of Defense, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of the Air Force, identified six Strategic Air Command bases for closure. Loring Air Force Base was one of the six bases on the closure list.

The official base closure date was September 30, 1994.


Loring AFB is located at 46°56′13″N 67°54′0″W / 46.93694°N 67.9°W / 46.93694; -67.9 (46.936948, -67.900075).[3]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the base CDP has a total area of 8.2 mi² (21.3 km²). 8.2 mi² (21.3 km²) of it is land and 0.04 mi² (0.1 km²) of it (0.36%) is water.

Things Unique to Loring[4]

  • Contained 14,300 acres (58 km2), making it the biggest SAC base in the country
  • 2 runways, only two other SAC bases had two runways
  • The largest capacity for weapon storage and for fuel storage in all of SAC (Its overall capacity ranked second among all 21 SAC bases)
    • Weapons storage capacity was 10,247,882 NEW (Net Explosive Weight) (the highest in all of SAC)
    • 1st in all of SAC in fuel storage capacity (9,193,374 gallons)
  • Ramp space exceeds 1.1 million square yards. (2nd among all SAC bases in total ramp space, 1st in excess ramp space)
  • One of two fully capable conventional weapons storage facilities in CONUS maintained by SAC.
  • A small downhill ski area provided recreation for personnel and their dependents, operating on the base from the early 1960s until the base's closure in 1994.[5]
  • It was here that a cheering crowd greeted President Richard Nixon after he returned from an important summit in Moscow. This was a month before he resigned. It is reported that many squadrons on the base were required to provide "volunteers" to take part in this "cheering crowd."

Units Based at Loring

Planes Based at Loring[6]

Post Base Usage

The 9,472-acre (38.33 km2) base property is now administered by the Loring Development Authority of Maine. The base is now called the Loring Commerce Center and is marketed as an "aviation and industrial complex and business park".

Military Users to the old base include:

Civilian users of the facility include:

  • Loring Job Corps Center
  • U.S. Fish & Wildlife National Wildlife Refuge (administering 4,700 acres (19 km2) of the base property)
  • various call centers, food processing and forestry operations, light manufacturing, and aviation services

The airfield at Loring Commerce Center was used by the popular jam-band Phish, to hold its massive festival concerts, "The Great Went" in 1997, the Lemonwheel in 1998 and "It" in 2003. Estimated attendance was 65,000 concert-goers and Phish was the only band. Fans camped on-site in tents, creating a community of fans that became the second largest city in Maine during both events.


As of the census[7] of 2000, there were 225 people, 82 households, and 57 families residing on the base. The population density was 27.4/mi² (10.6/km²). There were 355 housing units at an average density of 43.2/mi² (16.7/km²). The racial makeup of the base was 81.33% White, 10.22% African American, 2.22% Asian, 5.33% from other races, and 0.89% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 13.78% of the population.

There were 82 households out of which 53.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.9% were married couples living together, 11.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.3% were non-families. 28.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 1.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.74 and the average family size was 3.38.

On the base the population was spread out with 37.3% under the age of 18, 5.3% from 18 to 24, 43.6% from 25 to 44, 10.7% from 45 to 64, and 3.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29 years. For every 100 females there were 90.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.2 males.

The median income for a household on the base was $36,667, and the median income for a family was $39,844. Males had a median income of $33,125 versus $25,724 for females. The per capita income on the base was $19,888. None of the families and 5.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including none of those under the age of 18 or ages 65 and older.


See also


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

External links


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