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Webb Air Force Base

Airtrainingcommand-patch.jpg

Part of Air Training Command (ATC)
Located near Big Spring, Texas
Webbafb-15feb1997.jpg
15 Feb 1997
Type Air Force Base
Coordinates 32°13′05″N 101°31′17″W / 32.21806°N 101.52139°W / 32.21806; -101.52139
Built 1942
In use Open 1942 - closed 1977
Controlled by United States Air Force
Webb AFB is located in Texas
Webb AFB
Location of Webb AFB, Texas
Air Traffic Control Tower at Webb Air Force Base post closure of the base, February, 2002

Webb Air Force Base (IATA: BGS[1]), previously named Big Spring Air Force Base, was a United States Air Force facility of the Air Training Command (ATC) that operated from 1951 to 1977 in west Texas near Big Spring. It was a major training facility, and by 1969 almost 9,000 pilots had been trained at Webb. The last wing was the 78th Flying Training Wing (78 FTW).

Contents

History

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World War II

The facility first was used by the United States Army Air Force as Big Spring Army Air Field, opening on 28 April 1942 as part of the Central Flying Training Command.

The mission of Big Spring AAF was to train aviation cadets in high altitude precision bombing as bombardiers.[2] The airfield had received its first class of cadets in September 1942. The AT-11 (Beechcraft Model 18 and the B-18 Bolo were the primary aircraft flown for training. The 79th Bombardier Training Group[3] continued operations until the surrender of Japan, when the cadets who agreed to remain in postwar service were transferred to Midland AAF, Texas. Also trained Free French cadets. The last class graduated on 26 Sep 1945.

The base was declared surplus and reverted to city control in November 1945[4], and it served as the Big Spring Municipal Airport for six years.

Cold War

The airfield was activated as Big Spring Air Force Base on October 1, 1951, Brought back into service because of the Korean War, the base was renamed Webb Air Force Base on 18 May 1952 to memorialize 1st Lieutenant James L. Webb, a Big Spring native and World War II combat pilot in Europe, who was killed off the Japanese coast flying a F-51 Mustang in 1949.[5]

The 3560th Pilot Training Wing of the Air Training Command (ATC) activated stationed at the base, and instruction of the first class began in April 1952. The base was equipped with thirty-seven T-28 Trojan propeller and twenty-eight T-33 Shooting Star jet trainers.[5] The base population soon passed the 2,000 mark.

In the early 1960s, with the introduction of the T-41 propeller aircraft and the T-37 and T-38 jet training aircraft, Webb became one of ATC's principal Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) bases. By the end of 1968, almost 9,000 pilots had been trained at Webb.

In 1956, the Air Defense Command 331st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron was transferred to Webb from Stewart Air Force Base in New York to defend the southern United States border on air intercept missions as part of the Central Air Defense Force. Originally flying the F-86D Sabre, the squadron upgraded to the F-102 Delta Dagger in 1960, then transitioning to the F-104 Starfighter in 1963.[6][7] In March 1967 the 331st was redesignated the 4760th Combat Crew Training Squadron and charged with training Royal Jordanian Air Force students on F-104s.[8] It was inactivated on 1 October 1967 when the Jordanians were recalled because of the war with Israel in the summer of 1967.[9]

Webb was also the site of several annual summer Field Training encampments for college AFROTC (Air Force Reserve Officers Training Corps) cadets throughout the 1950s and most of the 1960s. In the early 1970s, the 3560th was redesignated the 78th Flying Training Wing (78 FTW). The 78 FTW was subsequently reactivated as the 78th Air Base Wing (78 ABW) at Robins AFB, Georgia, a role it continues in today.

By the mid-1970s, the end of the Vietnam War, the associated financial costs of that conflict and related cuts in force size and future defense budgets meant a marked decrease in the need for Air Force pilots. As a result, Webb AFB, along with several other USAF Undergraduate Pilot Training (UPT) bases, was identified for closure and formally deactivated in 1977. The property it had occupied was turned over to the Big Spring Industrial Park.

The area currently serves as the general aviation airport for the City of Big Spring, known as Big Spring McMahon-Wrinkle Airport. In addition, three units of the Big Spring Correctional Center (a federal prison privately operated by Cornell Companies) are located on the base grounds (as well as FCI Big Spring, which is a separate facility and operated directly by the Bureau of Prisons).

See also

References

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

External links


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