150th Special Operations Wing

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150th Special Operations Wing
188th Fighter Squadron - General Dynamics F-16C Block 30H Fighting Falcon 87-0304.jpg
188th Fighter Squadron – General Dynamics F-16C Block 30H Fighting Falcon 87-0304
Active 1957–Present
Country  United States
Allegiance  New Mexico
Branch US-AirNationalGuard-2007Emblem.svg  Air National Guard
Type Wing
Role Special Operations
Part of New Mexico Air National Guard
Garrison/HQ Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico

Korea (Dec '50 – Nov '52) Vietnam (Tuy Hoa AB Jul '68 – Jun '69)

Operation Iraqi Freedom (Balad AB Aug 2004 – Nov 2004)(Balad AB Oct 2007– Jan 2008)
150th Special Operations Wing emblem 150th Special Operations Wing.jpg

The 150th Special Operations Wing (150th SOW) is a non-flying unit of the New Mexico Air National Guard, based at Kirtland Air Force Base, Albuquerque, New Mexico. If activated to federal service, the Wing is gained by the Air Force Special Operations Command. Its mission consists of training mission-ready aircrews in special operations and personnel recovery.

The 150th Special Operations Wing is an associate unit of the 58th Special Operations Wing.

The 150th Fighter Wing is currently involved in a Chief of Staff-directed Total Force Integration with the USAF 58th Special Operations Wing and is standing up an Intelligence Target Production Squadron and a Red Horse Squadron.

Today, the 150th Fighter Wing is composed of the following units:

  • 150th Operations Group
  • 150th Maintenance Group
  • 150th Mission Support Group
  • 150th Medical Group.

The Wing has an authorized strength of 140 officers and 811 enlisted members. In addition, the wing is assigned one Fairchild C-26 Metroliner support aircraft and supports both domestic and world-wide Combatant Commander tasking.

Operating areas[edit]

The New Mexico Air National Guard owns and uses the Cato/Smitty MOA, southwest of Albuquerque, from 500 feet AGL to 51,000 feet with some supersonic flights conducted above 30,000 feet. The unit also utilizes the very large White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) airspace for both air-to-air and air-to-ground training. In addition to Cato and WSMR, the Tacos make use of the Pecos MOA that is east of Albuquerque and North of Roswell. For air-to-ground training, the NMANG has several options for local flying, including Melrose Bombing Range co-located with the Pecos MOA, Red Rio, Oscura, and Centennial ranges in the WSMR airspace, and Airburst bombing range in southern Colorado.

The 150FW schedules three Military Training Routes (MTR) that are wider than average to help dissipate the environmental effects of overflight. They usually get very few noise complaints. VR-176 is an MTR that accesses the White Sands Missile Range airspace and even though it is very wide, has the most noise avoidance areas. Every attempt is made to brief infrequent or transient users of VR-176 about the noise sensitive areas. VR 1195 and 1107 encompass the majority of eastern New Mexico.

With some of the greatest flying weather in the country, three large supersonic training areas, five air-to-ground ranges (three manned, all scoreable), and three very large Military Training Routes, the New Mexico Air National Guard is unquestionably one of the best locations to base our nation's fighter aircraft.


F-80C Shooting Star fighters from the 188th Fighter Squadron

On 1 July 1957, the F-80C Shooting Star-equipped 188th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron was authorized to expand to a group level, and the 150th Fighter-Interceptor Group was established by the National Guard Bureau. The 188th FIS becoming the group's flying squadron. Other squadrons assigned into the group were the 150th Headquarters, 150th Material Squadron (Maintenance), 150th Combat Support Squadron, and the 150th USAF Dispensary.

Air Defense Command[edit]

Also, the 188th Fighter Interceptor Squadron assumed 24-hour Air Defense alert status at Kirtland Air Force Base. In April 1958, the first Air National Guard unit to receive the North American F-100A Super Sabre was the 188th TFS of the New Mexico ANG, which received these planes in April 1958. This conversion raised unit strength to 956 officers and airmen.

In April 1961, an aircraft malfunction caused an AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missile to launch and shoot down a B-52B Stratofortress bomber near Grants, New Mexico. The B-52B (AF Ser. No. 53-0380, aircraft nickname "Ciudad Juarez") from the 95th Bomb Wing took off from Biggs Air Force Base, at El Paso, Texas on a practice mission. During an intercept by two New Mexico ANG F-100As, an AIM-9B shook loose and impacted one of the engine pods on the left wing, taking the B-52's left wing off in the subsequent explosion. Three B-52 crewmembers died; the F-100 pilot was absolved of any blame.[1] In the fall of 1962, the Cuban missile crisis put the 150th on an alert status that lasted for 90 days.

188th TFS F-100C Super Sabre 53-1737, 1965

Tactical Air Command[edit]

In 1964, the F-100As were retired and the 188th received newer F-100C and twin-seat F-100F Super Sabre trainers; being reassigned from Aerospace Defense Command to Tactical Air Command.

In January 1968, the group was activated as a result of the Pueblo Crisis, and in June of that year the 188th Tactical Fighter Squadron and approximately 250 maintenance and support personnel were deployed to Tuy Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam. Remaining group members were assigned to various bases in South Korea. The unit flew over 6000 combat sorties in the F-100C Super Sabre and amassed over 630 medals and decorations before release from federal active duty in June 1969. Captain Michael Adams was killed in action and Major Bobby Neeld and First Lieutenant Mitchell Lane remain listed as missing in action. The unit received the AF Outstanding Unit Award with a bronze "V' for valor. After its Vietnam War deployment, the 188th was relieved from active duty and returned to New Mexico State Control on 4 June 1969.

A-7D 71-0301, 188th TFS, about 1976

In 1973, after the United States withdrew its forces from South Vietnam, the 188th TFS became the first Air National Guard squadron to receive A-7D Corsair II subsonic tactical close air support aircraft from Tactical Air Command units that were preparing to receive the new A-10 Thunderbolt II. Receiving its aircraft from the 354th TFW at Myrtle Beach AFB and the 355th TFW at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona. The aircraft had excellent accuracy with the aid of an automatic electronic navigation and weapons delivery system. Although designed primarily as a ground attack aircraft, it also had limited air-to-air combat capability.

In 1977, the unit participated in the "Coronet Ante" exercise, which was part of the NATO "Coldfire" exercise in Europe. The 150th TFG deployed nine A-7Ds to Gilze Rijen Air Base, The Netherlands, from 2 September through 27 September 1977. Close air support missions were flown over The Netherlands, France, the United Kingdom, Germany, Belgium, and the North Sea. In 1980, the 188th received the new twin-seat A-7K trainer.

In 1980, the 150th Tactical Fighter Group was first ANG to be assigned to the prestigious Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force (RDJTF); the first ANG unit to participate in Bright Star joint service exercises in Southwest Asia; the first ANG unit to receive the Low Altitude Night Attack modification to the A-7D; the first ANG unit to participate in a deployed bare base operational readiness inspection, and the first ANG unit to have a crew chief as a member of the Air Force Thunderbirds.

Additionally, the 150th TFG set an A-7D and first endurance record of 11 1/2 hours non-stop from Pease AFB, New Hampshire to Cairo West Air Base, Egypt. Over the years, the 150th received the following awards: (1) Spaatz Trophy in 1956, (2) Winston P. Wilson Trophy in 1980, (3) Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards in 1989 and February 1996, (4) Top A-7 Team at Gunsmoke in 1989 and 1991, (5) Distinguished Flying Unit Award in 1991, and (6) Outstanding ANG Unit in 1991.

The 150th Fighter Group was partially activated in support of Operation Desert Storm, although no A-7D aircraft were sent to Southwest Asia. On 11 December 1990, 44 members of the 150th Security Police Flight and other unit members were deployed to Saudi Arabia. All members returned home by May 1991.

Modern era[edit]

USAF F-16C block 30 #87-0304 from the 188th FS is parked on the tarmac with engine work being performed.

Early in the 1990s with the declared end of the Cold War and the continued decline in military budgets, the Air Force restructured to meet changes in strategic requirements, decreasing personnel, and a smaller infrastructure. The 169th adopted the new USAF "Objective Organization" in early 1992, with the word "tactical" being eliminated from its designation and becoming the 150th Fighter Group. Tactical Air Command was inactivated on 1 June, being replaced by the new Air Combat Command (ACC).

The 188th TFS flew A-7D's for twenty years before converting to the F-16 Fighting Falcon. On 11 May 1992 the 188th FS received their first Block 40 F-16C and their last A-7D left on 28 September 1992, being retired to Davis-Monthan AFB AMARC storage. With this event the A-7D was almost phased out completely as the 188th FS was one of the last Air National Guard units to fly the venerable aircraft.

However, instead of converting to older F-16A/B models, the squadron received relatively new block 40 aircraft. This type had the Low Altitude Night Targeting Infra Red Navigational system (LANTIRN) on board for advanced navigation and targeting by day and night. Again, the 188th was the first within the Air National Guard to have this capacity.

On 1 October 1995 ACC and the National Guard Board authorized the status of the 150th to be expanded to the Wing level, and the 188th Fighter Squadron became part of the new 150th Operations Group under the new 150th Fighter Wing.

150th Defense System Evaluation Flight[edit]

150th DSEF Block 30B F-16C 85-1567 in flight. Note the black tail flash of the 150th DSEF, rather than the yellow which the 188th flew from 1992–2010

An out of the ordinary organizational setup was also at hand in the 188th FS. Within the squadron was another flight – being the 150th DSE (Defense System Evaluation) – which flew F-16C block 30 aircraft. It typically had about five on hand. Even during the time frame when the 188th FS was flying block 40's the DSE had F-16 block 30's. The 150th DSE provided fighter aircraft support to the US Army Air Defense Center and White Sands Missile Range.

Typically testing for the army and various navies around the world. With the USAF, the 150th DSE was selected to do all the flight tests for the F/A-22 Raptor before they leave the Marietta factory in Georgia. Tests usually involved avionics, radar systems and more. The squadron would deployed two F-16s to the Marietta factory adjacent to Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Atlanta, Georgia for a six-week period for each test. But for the most part any other tests were done over the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. The 150th DSE was disbanded in 2007 with many jets departing during the year prior.

Expeditionary Force deployments[edit]

188th EFS F-16C 88-0515 during Operation Southern Watch deployment, 1998. Between 1992–2003 the squadron flew with an "NM" tail code.

In mid-1996, the Air Force, in response to budget cuts, and changing world situations, began experimenting with Air Expeditionary organizations. In April 1998, the 188th Expeditionary Fighter Squadron (188 EFS) deployed six F-16s and support personnel to Al Jaber AB, Kuwait in support of Operation Southern Watch. Operation Southern Watch was an operation which was responsible for enforcing the United Nations mandated no-fly zone below the 32nd parallel in Iraq. This mission was initiated mainly to cover for attacks of Iraqi forces on the Iraqi Shi'ite Muslims. The 188th EFS returned to Kirtland in July 1998 and was inactivated.

The 188th EFS was again activated in March 2001, deploying to Incirlik AB, Turkey in support of Operation Northern Watch. Operation Northern Watch was a US European Command Combined Task Force (CTF) who was responsible for enforcing the United Nations mandated no-fly zone above the 36th parallel in Iraq. This mission was a successor to Operation Provide Comfort which also entailed support for the Iraqi Kurds. The deployed personnel and aircraft returned in June 2001 and the 188th EFS was again inactivated.

Global War on Terrorism[edit]

After the attacks of 11 September 2001, the 150th FW supported several deployments in support of Operation Noble Eagle to Atlantic City AGB, New Jersey and March ARB, California. Within hours of the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, 150th FW pilots flew combat air patrol sorties over key resources in the western United States, and continued to do so for many months. To protect the local homeland, 150th Security Forces Squadron (SFS) personnel provided several months of security protection to the Albuquerque International Airport.

The 188th EFS has also been activated and the squadron has made several deployments worldwide in the F-16 to Singapore, Australia, Chile, and South Korea. In May 2004, the 188th EFS deployed its F-16s to Balad AB, Iraq, becoming the first U. S. Fighter squadron to be stationed at the base. In October 2007, the unit returned to Balad as part of a Rainbow deployment AEF 9/10 (Cycle 6) which included the 119th, 120th, 134th, 163rd, 186th and 188th EFS. The deployment cycle started in September and the 188th FS sent six aircraft with two spares that returned stateside immediately.

188th Fighter Squadron inactivation[edit]

Although rated a number 1 facility in the 2005 BRAC plan, the USAF decided to close down the 188th Fighter Squadron and convert Kirtland AFB from a fighter to a special operations base as part of the reduction of the USAF fighter fleet by 250 aircraft. The hope is that some of the money saved will allow the USAF to purchase new aircraft such as the F-35 Lightning II.

In 2009, the 21 F-16C/D aircraft of the New Mexico ANG were reassigned to other Air National Guard units in the District of Columbia Air National Guard and the Vermont Air National Guard as part of the "Fiscal Year 2010 Combat Air Force Restructure". The last two F-16s left Kirtland AFB in September 2010 and the 188th Fighter Squadron was inactivated.[2]

Current status[edit]

The 150th SOW is currently engaged in assisting in the mission of the USAF 58th Special Operations Wing at Kirtland AFB. The future mission of the 150 SOW will be to train aircrew in the HC-130P and HH-60G search and rescue aircraft, and the MC-130H Combat Talon II, MC-130P Combat Shadow, and CV-22 Osprey special operations aircraft.

This move will leave several agencies without local fighter support, including three major Joint Terminal Air Controller (JTAC) detachments, the 49th Fighter Wing flying the F-22 Raptor at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, and the longstanding test support with various WSMR missile tests.


  • Designated 150th Fighter Group (Air Defense) and allotted to New Mexico ANG, 1957
Received federal recognition and activated on 1 July 1957
Re-designated: 150th Tactical Fighter Group, 1 April 1964
In non-operational status, 26 January 1968-4 June 1969
Re-designated: 150th Fighter Group, 16 March 1992
Status changed from Group to Wing, 1 October 1995
Re-designated: 150th Fighter Wing, 1 October 1995
Re-designated: 150th Special Operations Wing, 13 December 2013[3]


Gained by: 33d Air Division, Air Defense Command
Gained by: Tactical Air Command, 1 April 1964
Gained by: Air Combat Command, 1 June 1992
Gained by: Air Education and Training Command, 2010–Present





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

  • A Handbook of Aerospace Defense Organization 1946 – 1980, by Lloyd H. Cornett and Mildred W. Johnson, Office of History, Aerospace Defense Center, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado
  • Rogers, B. (2006). United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978. ISBN 1-85780-197-0
  • Kirtland AFB Fact Sheet
  • GlobalSecurity.org

External links[edit]