323d Air Expeditionary Wing

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323d Air Expeditionary Wing
323dairexpeditionarygroup-emblem.jpg
Emblem of the 323d Air Expeditionary Wing
Active 1949-1951; 1955-1957; 1973-1993; 2006-2008
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Role Training
Part of Air Training Command

The 323d Air Expeditionary Wing (323 AEW) is a provisional United States Air Force unit assigned to the United States Air Forces in Europe. As a provisional unit, it may be activated or inactivated at any time.

It was last known to be active from 14 March – 30 April 2008 at Balotesti, Romania, serving briefly as the USAF headquarters for a NATO Summit.[1]

During World War II, the group's predecessor unit, the 323d Bombardment Group (Medium) was a B-26 Marauder bombardment group assigned to the Eighth and later Ninth Air Force.

History[edit]

Air Force Reserve[edit]

The wing was first activated as the 323d Bombardment Wing at Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma in June 1949 when Continental Air Command implemented the wing base organization for its reserve units, uniting support organizations and the 323d Bombardment Group under a single headquarters.

The wing was ordered to active duty on 10 March 1951 as a result of the Korean War. Its personnel and equipment were used as fillers for other units and it was inactivated on 17 March 1951.

323d Fighter-Bomber Wing[edit]

The wing was reactivated at Bunker Hill AFB, Indiana 8 August 1955 and assigned to Tactical Air Command's Ninth Air Force. Initially training with North American F-86Fs, these were quickly upgraded to the North American F-86H Sabre and then to the North American F-100A/D in 1956 to become proficient in tactical air operations. Operational squadrons were:

The wing's aircraft wore a band on the tail, and around the nose edged with small black checkers.

In 1955, Strategic Air Command (SAC) began stationing units at the base, and the Eighth Air Force claimed jurisdiction of Bunker Hill AFB in September 1957. With the turnover of the base to SAC, the 323d was phased down and replaced by the SAC 401st Air Base Group on 1 September 1957.

323d Flying Training Wing[edit]

Emblem of the 323d Flying Training Wing

Reactivated as the 323d Flying Training Wing (323 FTW), an Air Training Command navigator training wing at Mather AFB, California on 1 April 1973, replacing the 3535th Navigator Training Wing which had existed at Mather since 1946. The 323 FTW also conducted advanced training for newly winged navigators slated as navigator-bombardiers and electronic warfare officers in B-52, FB-111, B-1, EF-111 and RC-135 aircraft. The following operational squadrons were redesignated as a result of the reactivation: 449th, 450th, 451st, 452d and 432d FTSs.

The 323 FTW also operated Mather AFB as the "host" wing for the installation while Strategic Air Command's 320th Bombardment Wing and the Air Force Reserve's SAC-gained 940th Air Refueling Group, later 940th Air Refueling Wing, were "tenant" wings). The wing had responsibility for publishing Navigator magazine, a USAF-wide professional publication and also conducted operational test and evaluation of the T-43A aircraft, 1 August 1973 – 31 October 1973 and began conversion from the T-29 to the T-43 shortly afterwards. As the only USAF flight training school teaching air navigation, the wing served not only the USAF, but also the Air National Guard, Air Force Reserve and friendly foreign nations.

With the decommissioning of the U.S. Navy's Training Squadron TWENTY-NINE (VT-29) at NAS Corpus Christi, TX in 1975, the 323 FTW also began training U.S. Navy student Naval Flight Officers destined for land-based naval aircraft, NATO/Allied student naval flight officers under U.S. Navy responsibility also destined for land-based maritime aircraft, and U.S. Coast Guard enlisted navigators for that service's HC-130 aircraft starting in July 1976. Instructor Naval Flight Officers, mostly from the Navy's P-3 community, were administratively assigned to Naval Air Training Unit Mather (NAVAIRTU Mather) and embedded in the 323 FTW, teaching USAF, USN and NATO/Allied students.

Support of the Marine Aerial Navigation School (MANS) for U.S. Marine Corps enlisted KC-130 navigators also began in July 1976 when MANS moved from NAS Corpus Christi to Mather AFB. However, MANS conducted its own navigation training independently.

In view of this influx of naval personnel, Naval Air Training Unit Mather (NAVAIRTU Mather) was established in 1976. In order to place the Navy on par with the 323 FTW commander, a USN Captain or Captain-selectee naval flight officer who had already had been the commanding officer of an operational combat P-3 squadron was placed as the commanding officer of NAVAIRTU Mather, with administrative claimancy over all naval personnel (students, instructors and support staff) assigned to the 323 FTW.

The 323 FTW began training female USAF navigators in March 1977 and female USN naval flight officers in 1981. Female USAF instructor navigators followed in the 1983–84 time frame. In 1986, LT Kathryn P. Hire, USN a former navigator and aircraft mission commander in the RP-3D Orion oceanographic research aircraft, became the first female USN NFO Instructor in the 323 FTW. Of note is that in 1993, then-LCDR Hire would become the first female assigned to the combat version of the P-3C Orion, and as a CDR and CAPT, would become a NASA astronaut, flying the STS-90 mission in 1998 and the STS-130 mission in 2010.

On 15 December 1991, the 323d implemented the objective wing concept and the 449th, 450th, 451st, 452d and 432d FTSs were inactivated and the wing was reorganized to a single squadron of aircraft type. All T-43As were assigned to the 445 FTS and T-37Bs to the 455 FTS. On 1 July 1993, following the disestablishment of the Air Training Command, the wing was assigned to the new Air Education and Training Command (AETC).

Under AETC, the T-43 and T-47 aircraft assigned to the 454th and 455th FTSs were assigned tail codes of "NT", but due to the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC)-directed closure of Mather AFB on 30 September 1993, the 323 FTW was inactivated, with the wing's mission and most of its T-43 aircraft being reassigned to the 12th Flying Training Wing (12 FTW) and the 558th Flying Training Squadron (558 FTS) at Randolph AFB, Texas. Because of the presence of T-37B aircraft at Randolph AFB for T-37 Pilot Instructor Training (PIT), the Mather T-37s were sent to long-term storage at AMARC at Davis-Monthan AFB, Arizona.

Expeditionary operations[edit]

The Wing was provisionally activated for a NATO summit at Balotesti in Romania from 14 March to 30 April 2008.[2]

Lineage[edit]

  • Established as the 323d Bombardment Wing, Light on 10 May 1949
Ordered to active duty on 10 March 1951
Inactivated on 17 March 1951
  • Redesignated 323d Fighter-Bomber Wing on 9 May 1955
Activated on 8 August 1955
Inactivated on 1 September 1957
  • Redesignated 323d Flying Training Wing on 28 July 1972
Activated on 1 April 1973
Inactivated on 1 October 1993
  • Redesignated as 323d Air Expeditionary Wing and converted to provisional status 14 March 2008.

Assignments[edit]

Components[edit]

Groups

  • 323d Bombardment Group (later 323d Fighter-Bomber Group, 323d Operations Group), 27 June 1949 - 17 March 1951, 8 August 1955 - 1 September 1957, 15 December 1991 - 1 September 1957
  • 386th Fighter-Bomber Group, 8 April 1956 – 9 April 1957 (Attached)

Squadrons

Stations[edit]

Aircraft[edit]

References[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Petosky, Eric (26 March 2008). "Airmen augment Romanian security for NATO summit". 323rd Air Expeditionary Wing Public Affairs. Retrieved 19 December 2016. 
  2. ^ "323 Air Expeditionary Wing Lineage Document" (PDF). United States Air Force. Archived from the original (PDF) on 3 March 2016. Retrieved 19 December 2016. 

Bibliography[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.