163d Reconnaissance Wing

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163d Reconnaissance Wing
163d Reconnaissance Wing MQ-1 and Chase plane.jpg
163d Reconnaissance Wing MQ-1 and Chase plane
Active 1958-Present
Country  United States
Allegiance  California
Branch US-AirNationalGuard-2007Emblem.svg  Air National Guard
Type Wing
Role UAV Reconnaissance
Part of California Air National Guard
Garrison/HQ March Joint Air Reserve Base, Riverside, California
Detachment at: Southern California Logistics Airport, Victorville, California
Nickname(s) Grizzlies
Tail Code "CA"
163d Reconnaissance Wing emblem 163d Reconnaissance Wing.png

The 163d Reconnaissance Wing (163 RW) is a unit of the California Air National Guard, stationed at March Joint Air Reserve Base, Riverside, California. If it were activated into federal service, elements of the Wing would be gained by the United States Air Force Air Combat Command and Air Education and Training Command.


The 163 RW is one of the first Air National Guard units to fly the MQ-1 Predator. The unit was featured in an ABC News story on January 12, 2010.[1]

The mission of the 163 RW is to execute global unmanned aerial systems, combat support, and humanitarian missions by Air National Guard men and women.[2]


The 163d Reconnaissance Wing consists of the following units:

  • 163d Operations Group
196th Reconnaissance Squadron
210th Weather Flight
  • 163d Mission Support Group
  • 163d Maintenance Group
  • 163d Medical Group


California Air National Guard 196th Fighter Interceptor Squadron F-102A Delta Dagger in 1970[3]

Air Defense Command[edit]

On 17 May 1958, the California Air National Guard 196th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron (FIS), at Ontario International Airport, was authorized to expand to a group level, and the 163d Fighter-Interceptor Group was established. The 196th FIS became the group's flying squadron. Other units assigned into the group were the 163d Material Squadron, 163d Air Base Squadron, and the 163d USAF Dispensary. The group's mobilization gaining command was Air Defense Command (ADC)

Initially flying North American F-86A Sabre day interceptors, the squadron upgraded to F-86Hs in 1959 and to Convair F-102 Delta Daggers in 1965. The F-102 was being phased out of active-duty units in the early 1960s and the 163d was one of the last units to replace its F-86 Sabres. The F-102, however, was obsolescent as an interceptor by the time it was received by the 163d. The Delta Darts soldiered into the early 1970s until they were retired to the Aerospace Maintenance and Regeneration Center at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona.

Serving with distinction, the unit received two Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards for extended periods ending in 1964 and 1974.

Tactical Air Command[edit]

On 8 March 1975, the unit took on the challenge of a new mission and its mobilization gaining command became Tactical Air Command as the group became the 163d Tactical Air Support Group. The 163d received the 0-2A/B "Super Skymaster" to accomplish the unit's new role.

196th TFS F-4C about 1987[4]

In October 1982, the 163d assumed a tactical fighter role flying the McDonnell Douglas F-4C Phantom II. The group concurrently moved to March Air Force Base, near Riverside, into new facilities specifically built for the unit.

On 21 March 1987, Captain Dean Paul Martin ("Dino", son of entertainer Dean Martin), a pilot in the 196th Tactical Fighter Squadron crashed his F-4C into San Gorgonio Mountain, California shortly after departure from March AFB during a snow storm. Both Martin and his Weapons System Officer (WSO), Capt Ramon Ortiz were killed.[5]

The 163d transitioned to the upgraded F-4E Phantom II on 1 April 1987. This newer aircraft incorporated more sophisticated electronics and weaponry.

In July 1990, the unit once again changed missions and was redesignated the 163d Tactical Reconnaissance Group. The 163d was equipped with RF-4C unarmed reconnaissance model of the Phantom II aircraft and maintained a dual state/federal mission. The unit's primary mission was to provide tactical reconnaissance to all friendly forces. The unit was also actively involved in state wide missions. This was accomplished by using a system of visual, optical, electronic, and other sensors. During this time the aircrews accumulated over 30,000 hours of flying time and the unit deployed across both the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

The 163d deployed to Pisa Airport, Italy, in support of Operation Decisive Endeavor. While deployed, the unit flew as the lead unit in support of flight operations over Bosnia.

Air Refueling[edit]

196th Air Refueling Squadron KC-135

After the end of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, the phaseout of the RF-4C Phantom II with the Air National Guard was accelerated. In 1993, the RF-4s were retired to Davis-Monthan. The squadron became an air refueling group and was equipped with Boeing KC-135E Stratotankers. As a result of this change in mission and aircraft, the 163d's mobilization gaining command became Air Mobility Command. In 1995, the group expanded and became the 163d Air Refueling Wing. The wing later transitioned to the KC-135R Stratotanker.

In one of the highest profile military events of the year, nearly 100 members and three KC-135R aircraft from the 163d wing deployed in support of Operation Allied Force. The 163d flew combat missions around-the-clock refueling North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) aircraft, including complex night formation sorties with the F-117A Nighthawk Stealth Fighter. 1999 also saw the 163d's Pacer Crag conversion begin in June and complete by the end of the year. This extensive aircraft modernization project meant intensive aircrew training and was expected to extend the life of the 40-year-old Boeing jet beyond the year 2020.

The wing and its 196th Aerial Refueling Squadron were widely recognized for achievements in 1999 and earned the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award for the fourth time. The award covers a period during which the unit deployed 300 personnel and three aircraft to Pisa Airport, Italy in support of Operation Decisive Endeavor and also flew as the lead unit in support of flight operations over Bosnia. The 163d Operations Support Flight, 163d Logistics Group, 163d Logistics Squadron, and the 196th Air Refueling Squadron also earned the Governor's Outstanding Unit Citation.

The 163d provided support to NATO's Operation Joint Forge while deployed to Istres Air Base, France from 31 October through 3 December 2000, deploying three KC-135 Stratotanker air refueling aircraft along with nearly 210 personnel. As part of Air Expeditionary Force 9, the 163d "Grizzlies" also sent personnel to Kuwait, Germany, France, Saudi Arabia and Turkey from October through December 2000.

Unmanned Aerial Vehicle operations[edit]

The Air National Guard stood up the first of several units that will operate the MQ-1 Predator armed unmanned reconnaissance aircraft. During a ceremony 28 November 2007 at March Air Reserve Base, the 163d Air Refueling Wing became the 163d Reconnaissance Wing, taking on the Predator mission in place its KC-135R tankers. The wing's last KC-135R left in April 2008. The wing was the first Air National Guard unit to receive the MQ-1 and was the first to become a fully functional ANG Flying Training Unit (FTU) and to operate a Field Training Detachment (FTD) for the Predator.

The wing operates its MQ-1s out of March ARB, but also uses the restricted airspace near Edwards Air Force Base, also in southern California, for training. The 163d also flies its Predators under the service's "remote split operations" approach. This means that the aircraft and a contingent of maintainers are deployed forward, along with some pilots to handle takeoffs and landings. However, the majority of the wing's pilots remain stateside and operate the aircraft via satellite communications links.

The wing's FTU falls under Air Combat Command and trains pilots and sensor operators to become Predator aircrew. The FTD, which falls under Air Education and Training Command, trains enlisted personnel to build, maintain and repair the Predator.

On 28 August 2013, a Predator flew over the Rim Fire in California providing infrared video of lurking fires, after receiving emergency approval.[6][7]


  • Constituted as the 163d Fighter Group (Air Defense), and allotted to California ANG, 1958
Extended federal recognition and activated on 17 May 1958
  • Redesignated: 163d Fighter-Interceptor Group on 15 September 1972
Redesignated: 163d Tactical Air Support Group on 8 March 1975
Redesignated: 163d Tactical Fighter Group on 1 October 1982
Redesignated: 163d Tactical Reconnaissance Group on 1 July 1990
Redesignated: 163d Reconnaissance Group on 16 March 1992
Redesignated: 163d Air Refueling Group on 1 October 1993
Redesignated: 163d Air Refueling Wing on 1 October 1995
Redesignated: 163d Reconnaissance Wing on 28 November 2007


Gained by: 27th Air Division, Air Defense Command
Gained by: Los Angeles Air Defense Sector, Air Defense Command, 1 July 1960
Gained by: 27th Air Division, Air Defense Command (later Aerospace Defense Command), 1 April 1966
Gained by: 26th Air Division, Aerospace Defense Command, 1 January 1970
Gained by: Tactical Air Command, 8 March 1975
Gained by: Air Combat Command, 1 June 1992
Gained by: Air Mobility Command, 1 October 1993
Elements gained by: Air Combat Command, 28 November 2007
Elements gained by: Air Education and Training Command, 28 November 2007


  • 163d Operations Group, 1 October 1995–Present


  • Ontario Municipal Airport, California, 7 May 1958
  • March Air Force Base (later March Air Reserve Base), California, 1 October 1982 – Present
Elements at Southern California Logistics Airport, California, 1 June 2012 – Present



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

  1. ^ Inside the Drone War: On The Ground and In The Virtual Cockpit with America's New Lethal Spy - ABC News Granted Exclusive Access to Drone Pilots at California Air Force Base (Jan 12, 2010)
  2. ^ http://www.163rw.ang.af.mil/index.asp
  3. ^ This aircraft is now on static display at Clovis Park, California.
  4. ^ Serial 63-7644. This was the type of aircraft Capt. Dean Paul Martin, was flying when he crashed.
  5. ^ "The Son Of Singer Dean Martin Killed While Flying His Military Phantom Jet." avstop.com. Retrieved: 9 April 2011.
  6. ^ Elan Head. "Unmanned future" Vertical Magazine, November 7, 2013. Accessed: November 21, 2013.
  7. ^ Elan Head. "Predator aircraft makes history in Rim Fire" Vertical Magazine, September 1, 2013. Accessed: 11 December 2013.

External links[edit]