Ramstein Air Base
|Ramstein Air Base|
|Part of United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE)|
|Located near: Kaiserslautern, Rheinland-Pfalz, Germany|
A C-130 Hercules overflies the control tower at Ramstein Air Base
|United States with authority from Germany|
|Controlled by||United States Air Force|
86th Airlift Wing (USAF)
|Commanders||General Philip M. Breedlove|
|IATA: RMS – ICAO: ETAR|
|Elevation AMSL||410 ft / 125 m|
Ramstein Air Base is a United States Air Force base in Rhineland-Palatinate, a state of Germany. It serves as headquarters for the US Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) and is also a North Atlantic Treaty Organization installation. Ramstein is located near town of Ramstein-Miesenbach, in the rural district of Kaiserslautern.
The east gate of Ramstein Air Base is about 10 miles (16 km) from Kaiserslautern (locally referred to by Americans as "K-Town"). Other nearby civilian communities include Ramstein-Miesenbach, just outside the base's west gate, and Landstuhl, about 3 miles (4.8 km) from the west gate.
The host unit is the 86th Airlift Wing (86 AW), commanded by Brigadier General Charles K. Hyde. The 86th Airlift Wing is composed of four groups, 16 squadrons and three bases in Germany, Spain, and Belgium. Its mission is the operation and maintenance of airlift assets consisting of C-130Js, C-20s, C-21s, C-40B and C-37A Gulfstream aircraft throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Also at Ramstein is the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing (formerly the 435th Air Base Wing) (435 AGOW), which focuses on base-support responsibilities within the KMC. It is composed of five groups and 20 squadrons. The wing provides rapid mobility and agile combat support for military operations, and maintains expeditionary forces and infrastructure.
Ramstein's wings are assigned to the headquarters 3rd Air Force also based at Ramstein AB, which controls most of the USAF Wings throughout Europe.
Ramstein AB is part of the Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC), where more than 54,000 American service members and more than 5,400 US civilian employees live and work. U.S. organizations in the KMC also employ the services of more than 6,200 German workers. Air Force units in the KMC alone employ almost 9,800 military members, bringing with them nearly 11,100 family members. There are more than 16,200 military, U.S. civilian and U.S. contractors assigned to Ramstein AB alone.
Current status 
From 2004 to 2006, Ramstein Air Base underwent an extensive expansion with a major construction project – including an all-new airport terminal, among other new facilities, through the so-called Rhein-Main Transition Program which was initiated in support of the total closure of Rhein-Main Air Base on 30 December 2005 and transferring all its former capacities to Ramstein Air Base (70%) and Spangdahlem Air Base (30%).
While the KMC remains the largest U.S. community overseas at 53,000 people, the defense drawdown continues to shape its future. Due to the departure of other main operating installations, more than 100 geographically separated units receive support from Ramstein.
There is often a Summer Camp to Ramstein from British CCF (RAF) and ATC cadets.
Ramstein Air Base is an example of international collaboration: designed by French engineers, constructed by some Germans but with imported help from workers of Italy, Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Turkey (there were very few German men to work on construction projects after World War II) and operated by Americans. The area was nothing more than a swamp that had to be built up by two meters (six feet) in height level over the whole area. A train line was laid out from Einsiedlerhof-Kaiserslautern in a yoke shape around to the current base and back down to the Landstuhl spur in 1948 by agreement of the U.S. and French Occupational Forces. Trainload after trainload of earth was moved over the line and spread over the base current area to raise it to its current level. The trains ran 24/7 for over a year. Once the ground was level, building construction could be begin. A project designed and undertaken by the French Army and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from 1949 to 1952. Two bases were laid out. Landstuhl Air Base on the south side and Ramstein Air Station (station, no airstrip) on the north. From 1948 to the opening of the bases in 1953 it was the largest one spot construction site in Europe employing over 270,000 Europeans at one time.
Previous names 
- Landstuhl Air Base, 5 August 1952
- Ramstein Air Base, 1 June 1953
- Landstuhl and Ramstein were separate bases until 1 December 1957
- Ramstein-Landstuhl Air Base, 1 December 1957
- Ramstein Air Base, 15 August 1958 – present
Major USAF units assigned 
Source: Fletcher, Air Force Bases Volume II
Major US Army units assigned 
Source: Fletcher, Air Force Bases Volume II
- 21st TSC / 39th Movement Control BN. (2008 – Present)
- USAREUR Movement Control Team / AMC Logistic Center
- USAREUR Overseas Replacement Center – Contingencey Operations / AMC Passenger Terminal
In 1940, construction of today's Bundesautobahn 6 was stopped when a bridge that was being built across the Rhine River near Mannheim collapsed, leaving a section of autobahn that could not be used. A part of the unused autobahn to the west of Mannheim, near Kaiserslautern, was used as an airstrip by the Luftwaffe. The airstrip was also used by the advancing U.S. Army Air Forces during the final months of World War II. The old autobahn section is still used as the access road to the east and west gates of the base and the A 6 was rebuilt south of the air base after the war.
During the initial postwar era, the USAAF repaired several former Luftwaffe airfields in Bavaria which was part of the American occupation zone of Germany. With the advent of the Berlin Blockade and the chilling of relations with the Soviet Union by 1948 it became obvious to United States Air Force planners that these bases were tactically untenable because of their proximity to the East German and Czechoslovakian borders.
With the creation of NATO in response to Cold War tensions in Europe in 1949, USAFE wanted its vulnerable fighter units in what was then West Germany moved west of the Rhine River to provide greater air defense warning time. France agreed to provide air base sites within their zone of occupation in the Rheinland-Palatinate as part of the NATO expansion program.
Construction of the modern USAF base near Kaiserslautern began in April 1948 under the provisions of a Franco-American reciprocal agreement. Two separate, but adjoining bases were designed. A headquarters base for Twelfth Air Force, along with several NATO organizations, designated as Ramstein Air Station; and an operational fighter base, designated as Landstuhl Air Base. What is today known as Kisling Memorial Drive would separate the two facilities.
Enough construction was completed in mid-1952, that Landstuhl AB was opened on 5 August. Its facilities included a runway, dispersal hardstands, a control tower, ramps, and other flight-related facilities and the associated flying and support units. On 1 February 1952, Det 1, 86th Fighter-Bomber Wing arrived at Landstuhl AB from Neubiberg Air Base near Munich.
On 1 June 1953 Ramstein Air Station was opened. Ramstein was the location of headquarters, Twelfth Air Force, and supported family housing, base exchange, commissary, dependents' schools and other administrative offices for the WAFs (Women's Air Force). The barracks that were built at Ramstein AS were used to house WAFs and single women that worked as U.S. Government Employees at both Ramstein AS and Landstuhl AB. On 27 April 1953, Headquarters, Twelfth Air Force was activated on Ramstein Air Base, having moved from its joint facilities with HQ USAFE at Wiesbaden AB. What was not generally known at the time, and not made public until after the end of the Cold War in 1993, was the desire to have HQ Twelfth Air Force in close proximity to the Air Defense Operations Center (ADOC) – Kindsbach, AKA 'Kindsbach Cave' – the site of NATO's underground combat operations center.
The 86th Air Base Group was activated as the main base support unit for Landstuhl, while the 7030th HQ Support Group was the main base support unit for Ramstein. On 1 December 1957, the two bases were consolidated into the largest NATO-controlled air base in service on the continent. It was called "Ramstein-Landstuhl Air Base", but later, after the German government continued construction of the A6 autobahn from Kaiserslautern to Saarbrücken the autobahn cut off access at the south of the base which is where the main gate was in the city limit of Landstuhl. The main gate was moved to the west side of the base which was in the town of Ramstein. The two bases were joined and the current Kisling Memorial Drive cut off to the public which made one base. In 1961 the base was officially named "Ramstein Air Base".
One legacy of the two separate air bases is that the north side of Ramstein retained a separate APO from the south side. The north side (Ramstein AB) is APO AE 09012, while the south side (Landstuhl AB) is APO AE 09009. Also separate Combat Support Groups, the 7030th for the north side, and the 86th for the south side existed. These were consolidated in the 1980s, and the two Combat Support units were merged into the 377th Combat Support Wing. There is still a north and south side Fitness Centers. The current northside Community Center before housed the WAF NCO Club. As well, there were two Movie Theaters on the North side and two on the South side. urrently, only two (still stand on the north side, a remodeled Nightengale Theater (know before as the Four Corners Theater)) on the corner across from the Base Gase Station and the north side AAFES dry cleaners was known as the Ramstein Rocket Theater. On the South side the current Hercules Theater (Falcon Theater) next to HQ 86th Air Wing and a non-existent theater for which new barracks are currently under construction at the corner across the street from Moms/Gear-up shops called the Landstuhler Knights Theater.
Near the Ramstein Air Base is the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC), operated by the United States Army. Although part of the Kaiserslautern Military Community, LRMC has a separate history and was never a part of Ramstein or Landstuhl Air Bases, although both facilities have utilized the medical facilities at LRMC since they were established in 1953. Currently there are plans on the drawing board from the U.S. Department of Defense to build a new USAF/Army combined Medical Center on the current U.S. Army Weilerbach Storage Installation just to the east of Ramstein AB. Construction is to begin in early 2012 and to be completed in and around 2016. A twelve story facility to house all departments of LRMC and the current Ramstein AB Clinic along with Dental Clinic facilities for the whole KMC. In turn, the East Gate to Ramstein AB will be extended from its current location to just off the Autobahn 6 Einsiedlerhof exit to the base at what is known as the Elvis Gate. The area on Weilerbach Installation will be handed over to the USAF Ramstein AB administration.
NATO command center 
From its inception, Ramstein was designed as a NATO command base. In 1957, Ramstein provided support for NATO's HQ Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force, which moved to Ramstein from Trier Air Base on 10 November 1957 upon the closure of that facility. Also on that date, HQ Twelfth Air Force was transferred to Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas and was assigned to Tactical Air Command. It was replaced by HQ Seventeenth Air Force (USAFE) which was moved from North Africa. In turn, the 17th AF was replaced by its mother unit HQ USAFE from Lindsey Air Station, Wiesbaden, Germany in 1973. The HQ 17th AF was moved to Sembach AB at that time and controlled all USAF Air Divisions and Wings north of the Alps, with the exception of the British Isles and Scandinavia, which were controlled by HQ 3rd AF at Mildenhall.
On 31 January 1973, several headquarters were relocated into and out of Ramstein, when Seventeenth AF moved to Sembach Air Base to make room for the expected move of HQ USAFE to Ramstein. This entire operation, code-named "Creek Action", was carried out as part of the USAF's new world-wide policy of locating the most vital headquarters in thinly populated rural areas rather than near cities. Later, HQ USAFE was moved due to the fact that US Intelligence found that the Soviets had plans to invade Western Europe through the Fulda Gap in Germany. The military thought to move vital HQs on the other side of the Rhein River for protection.
As a result of this policy change, Ramstein air base became a large multi-national NATO center: in addition to the USAFE's headquarters, it also housed the new NATO headquarters of the Allied Air Forces Central Europe (AAFCE).
The AAFCE also commanded the 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force (2ATAF) and the 4th ATAF. The 4th ATAF, which had been headquartered at Ramstein for many years, included the 1st Canadian Air Group, 1st and 2nd Divisions of the West German Air Force, and units of the USAFE's 3rd and 17th Air Force.
HQ USAFE fully completed its move from Wiesbaden to Ramstein early 1991.
With USAFE's arrival in 1973, Ramstein entered a period of expansion. The duel commander of the 316th AD / 86 TFW became host commander of Americans living in the Kaiserslautern Military Community in stead of the US Army 21st Commanding General. The Wiesbaden USAF Community was then traded to the US Army Control as for an even Kaiserlautern switch. It is interesting to note that the KMC through the 1950s – to the early 1990s had an average population of Americans of 110,000 outnumbering those Germans in the City of Kaiserslautern for that time.
Allied Air Forces Central Europe was established at Ramstein on 28 June 1974. Ramstein subsequently provided support for other headquarters, including the 322nd Airlift Division which arrived on 23 June 1978, and SAC's 7th Air Division, which arrived on 1 July 1978.
In December 1980, HQ Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force was moved from Ramstein to Heidelberg and co-located with HQ Central Army Group.
ADOC Kindsbach 
Close to Ramstein was the site of Air Defense Operations Center (ADOC) – Kindsbach, AKA 'Kindsbach Cave' – the site of Europe's underground combat operations center.
The facility was located in a former German western front command headquarters. The French took control of the underground bunker after World War II, and USAFE assumed control in 1953. After major renovations, USAFE opened the center on 15 August 1954.
The center was a state-of-the-art, 67-room, 37,000-square-foot (3,400 m2) facility where USAFE could have led an air war against the Soviet Union. The center had a digital computer to work out bombing problems, cryptographic equipment for coded message traffic and its own photo lab to develop reconnaissance photos. Responsible for an air space extending deep behind the Iron Curtain, the center interacted directly with The Pentagon, NATO, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe and all USAFE bases. With its massive telephone switchboard and 80 teletype machines, the cave was plugged into everything in the outside world. The center was receiving more than 1,000 calls a day.
As a further measure of protection, the cave was fully self-contained with its own water supply, electric backup-generators, climate controls, dining facilities and sleeping accommodations for its 125-man crew. Visitor passes were rarely issued to this secret facility.
Throughout the years, leadership changed but USAFE led the operations through numbered Air Forces. The center's commander was the USAFE Advanced Echelon. The glassed-in office was on the top floor of the three-story underground command center. Directly under the office was the management for offensive air operations. And the bottom floor office was the management for defensive air operations – to include support for U.S. Army forces and German Civil Defense. All three offices had a full view of the massive Air Operations Center map on the opposing wall.
The AOC was the largest room in the complex. Its three-story map was used to plot minute-by-minute movements of friendly and unidentified aircraft. But the center was much more than just a tracking station, because it could also react to threats. They always knew the current operational status of air weapons in theater including missiles, and could dispatch armed response "at a moment's notice".
By the early 1960s, the manual plotting system used to track aircraft at the cave and elsewhere throughout Germany was too slow and inaccurate for the quick responses necessary. Beginning in 1962, airmen trained in the new 412L air weapons control system began to arrive in Germany and at the cave. Over the next year, the new GE semi-automatic system was installed. When complete at the cave, the current air picture over East and West Germany, as well as parts of the eastern soviet block countries, was displayed on a 40-foot by 40-foot (12 x 12 m)screen with radar information provided by various 412L sites located throughout Germany. Senior U.S. staff monitored the dynamic display 24/7. Over the next several years, additional 412L sites throughout Germany joined the network until the manual system had been totally replaced.
By 1984, the Kindsbach Cave had become too small and its cost for renovation too high. The USAFE vacated the facility and on 31 October 1993, control was returned to the German government and the German government returned the facility to the original owner of the land. Today the Kindsbach Cave is private property, through tours of the cave can be arranged. The cave is overgrown by vegetation, trees, and new housing.
Operational history 
86th Wing 
Reassigned from Neubiberg Air Base, West Germany in 1952 and except for a period between 1968 and 1973, the 86th Wing, under various designations, has been the main operational and host unit at Ramstein Air Base.
Throughout the 1950s the 86th was primarily a Fighter-Bomber Wing. In 1960, it was realigned to an air defense mission and became the 86th Air Division (Defense). The 86th AD was inactivated in 1968. Returning as an F-4 Phantom II Tactical Fighter Wing in 1973, the 86th TFW performed that mission until 1994, deploying components to the middle east during the 1990 Gulf War.
On 14 August 1976, the Strategic Air Command 306th Strategic Wing was activated at Ramstein with a KC-135 air refueling and an RC-135 reconnaissance mission. The 306th also functioned as the focal point for all SAC operations in Europe, and as liaison between SAC and USAFE. The wing moved to RAF Mildenhall, England on 1 July 1978.
In June 1985, the 316th Air Division was activated, centralizing command authority at Ramstein. The 86 TFW became the division's flight operations arm, while the newly formed 377th Combat Support Wing, also activated in 1985, became responsible for the logistical and administrative support on base, replacing the 86th and 7030 Combat Support Wings.
On 28 August 1988, Ramstein Air Base was the site of the tragic Ramstein airshow disaster, which killed 72 spectators and three pilots, and injured hundreds.
After the Cold War, the 86th was realigned to become an Airlift Wing, which it remains today. On 1 July 1993 the 55th Aeromedical Airlift Squadron moved from the 435th AW at Rhein-Main Air Base Germany to Ramstein. On 1 October, the 75th and 76th Airlift Squadron arrived at Ramstein from the 60th AW at Travis Air Force Base California, and 437th AW at Charleston AFB South Carolina, respectively. A year later on 1 October 1994, the 37th Airlift Squadron was transferred to Ramstein from Rhein-Main.
In 1999, the activation of the 86th Contingency Response Group (86 CRG) brought the airfield and aerial port operations and providing force protection at contingency airfields mission to the wing.
On 24 May 2004, the 38th Combat Support Wing was activated to enhance support to USAFE geographically separated units. This wing was inactivated in 2007.
The 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing was activated on 4 September 2008. The wing is the headquarters for the existing 721st Air Mobility Operations Group at Ramstein and the 521st AMOG at Naval Station Rota, Spain. The 521st AMOW provides an enhanced level of control for the AMC route structure in Europe, which includes critical locations for getting people, cargo and patients to and from current war zones.
26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing 
On 7 March 1966, French President Charles de Gaulle announced that France would withdraw from NATO's integrated military structure. The United States was informed that it must remove its military forces from France by 1 April 1967.
As a result, the 26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, based at Toul-Rosieres Air Base, France and two of its squadrons, the 38th and 32d, equipped with the RF-4C Phantom II was relocated to Ramstein on 5 October 1966.
Assigned squadrons of the 26th TRW at Ramstein were:
- 38th Tactical Reconnaissance (RF-4C, Tail Code: RR)
- 526th Fighter Interceptor/Tactical Fighter (F-102/F-4E (1970) Tail Code: RS)
- 7th Special Operation (C-130, C-47, UH-1)
While at Ramstein the 26th TRW acquired a number of other units with different flying missions. One function gained by the 26 TRW, almost immediately after arriving at Ramstein, was the maintenance and flying of the HQ USAFE liaison aircraft. In addition, the Wing was responsible for flying members of the HQ USAFE staff to Air Force and NATO bases throughout Europe. In addition, the 26th TRW was only designated a flight, because of its small size. It consisted of a mixture of aircraft, including: T-29s, T-33s, T-39s, C-54s, O-2s, H-19s, and UH-1s.
In 1971 a detachment of the "435th Air Base Wing" from Rhein-Main Air Base was assigned to Ramstein and a large cargo aerial port constructed. This allowed Military Airlift Command C-141 and C-5 Galaxy aircraft to use Ramstein as a transshipment point for material, which was then moved within USAFE by C-130 tactical transports.
In the spring of 1972, the 7th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) was assigned flying C-130Es, C-47As, and UH-1Ns. Because of the special operations mission of the 7 SOS, it reported directly to HQ USAFE for operational control.
As part of operation "Creek Action", a command-wide effort to realign functions and streamline operations, HQ USAFE transferred the 26th TRW from Ramstein to Zweibrücken Air Base, and the 86th Tactical Fighter Wing was reassigned from Zweibrücken to Ramstein on 31 January 1973.
There are four schools at Ramstein Air Base: Ramstein Elementary School (Koalas), Ramstein Intermediate School (Jaguars), Ramstein American Middle School (Rams), and Ramstein High School (Royals). All of these schools are run by DoDDS, a component of DoDEA.
In popular culture 
See also 
- Much of this text in an early version of this article was taken from pages on the Ramstein Air Base website, which as a work of the U.S. Government is presumed to be a public domain resource. That information was supplemented by:
- Endicott, Judy G. (1999) Active Air Force wings as of 1 October 1995; USAF active flying, space, and missile squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. CD-ROM.
- Fletcher, Harry R. (1989) Air Force Bases Volume II, Active Air Force Bases outside the United States of America on 17 September 1982. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-53-6
- Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-89201-092-4.
- 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 0-912799-12-9.
- Rogers, Brian (2005). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. Hinkley, England: Midland Publications. ISBN 1-85780-197-0.
- USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers—1908 to present
- IATA:RMS, ICAO: ETAR, former code EDAR.
- Biographies : BRIGADIER GENERAL CHARLES K. HYDE.
- Wing activation of the 521st AMOW
- Biographies : COLONEL KIMBERLY J. CORCORAN
- Fletcher, Harry R. (1989) Air Force Bases Volume II, Active Air Force Bases outside the United States of America on 17 September 1982. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-53-6
- Ubisoft (2008). "Locations". Ubisoft. Retrieved 1 April 2011.
- Herzeleid.com Quote from MTV interview
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: Ramstein Air Force Base|
- Official USAF Website For Ramstein AB
- Congressional Hearing on C-Span about construction of new military community center
- Photos of 1988 Ramstein Airshow Disaster
- ADOC Kindsbach (In German)