Elmendorf Air Force Base

Coordinates: 61°15′05″N 149°48′23″W / 61.25139°N 149.80639°W / 61.25139; -149.80639 (Elmendorf Air Force Base)
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Elmendorf Air Force Base
Anchorage, Alaska in the United States of America
A F-22 Raptor of the 3rd Wing at Elmendorf AFB in 2010
A F-22 Raptor of the 3d Wing at Elmendorf AFB during 2010
Elmendorf AFB is located in Alaska
Elmendorf AFB
Elmendorf AFB
Elmendorf AFB is located in North America
Elmendorf AFB
Elmendorf AFB
Elmendorf AFB is located in North Pacific
Elmendorf AFB
Elmendorf AFB
Coordinates61°15′05″N 149°48′23″W / 61.25139°N 149.80639°W / 61.25139; -149.80639 (Elmendorf Air Force Base)
TypeUS Air Force base
Site information
OwnerDepartment of Defense
OperatorUS Air Force
Site history
Built1940 (1940) (as Elmendorf Field)
In use1940 – 2010
2010 – present (as Joint Base)
FateMerged in 2010 to become an element of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson
Airfield information
IdentifiersIATA: EDF, ICAO: PAED, FAA LID: EDF, WMO: 702720
Elevation64.9 metres (213 ft) AMSL
Direction Length and surface
06/24 3,048 metres (10,000 ft) asphalt
16/34 2,283.8 metres (7,493 ft) asphalt
Source: Federal Aviation Administration[1]

Elmendorf Air Force Base (IATA: EDF, ICAO: PAED, FAA LID: EDF) is a United States Air Force (USAF) facility in Anchorage, Alaska. Originally known as Elmendorf Field, it became Elmendorf Air Force Base after World War II.

It is the home of the Headquarters, Alaskan Air Command (ALCOM), Alaskan NORAD Region (ANR), Eleventh Air Force (11 AF), the 673d Air Base Wing, the 3rd Wing, the 176th Wing and other tenant units.

In 2010, it was amalgamated with nearby Fort Richardson to form Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. The adjacent facilities were officially combined by the 2005 Base Closure and Realignment Commission. Its mission is to support and defend U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world by providing units who are ready for worldwide air power projection and a base that is capable of meeting United States Pacific Command's theater staging and throughput requirements.


Aerial image of Elmendorf during 2002.
Aerial image of Elmendorf during 2002

The installation hosts the headquarters for the United States Alaskan Command, 11th Air Force, U.S. Army Alaska, and the Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region.

Major units assigned are:

Activated on 30 July 2010 as the host wing combining installation management functions of Elmendorf AFB's 3rd Wing and U.S. Army Garrison Fort Richardson. The 673d ABW comprises over 5,500 joint military and civilian personnel, supporting America's Arctic Warriors and their families. The wing supports and enables three USAF total-force wings, two U.S. Army Brigades and 55 other tenant units. In addition, the wing provides medical care to over 35,000 joint service members, dependents, Veterans Affairs patients and retirees throughout Alaska. The 673d ABW maintains an $11.4B infrastructure encompassing 84,000 acres, ensuring Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson remains America's premier strategic power projection platform.
Responsible for maximizing theater force readiness for 21,000 Alaskan servicemembers and expediting worldwide contingency force deployments from and through Alaska as directed by the Commander, United States Northern Command.
U.S. Army Alaska executes continuous training and readiness oversight responsibilities for Army Force Generation in Alaska. Supports U.S. Pacific Command Theater Security Cooperation Program. On order, executes Joint Force Land Component Command functions in support of Homeland Defense and Security in Alaska.
To support and defend U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world by providing units who are ready for worldwide air power projection and a base that is capable of meeting PACOM's theater staging and throughput requirements.
Composite wing of the Alaska Air National Guard flying the C-17 Globemaster, C-130 Hercules, HC-130 Hercules and HH-60 Pavehawk. Previously located at the former Kulis Air National Guard Base until relocated to Elmendorf per BRAC action.
Air Force Reserve Command "Associate" unit to the active duty 3d Wing; operates and maintains the F-22 Raptor.
  • Alaskan Norad Region
The Alaskan NORAD Region (ANR) conducts aerospace control within its area of operations and contributes to NORAD's aerospace warning mission.
Provide ready warriors and infrastructure for homeland defense, decisive force projection, and aerospace command and control


Historical population
U.S. Decennial Census[2]

Elmendorf Air Force Base appeared once on the 1970 U.S. Census as an unincorporated area. Because it was located within the confines of the Anchorage Census Division, it was consolidated into the City of Anchorage in 1975.


Elmendorf Air Force Base sign outside of Government Hill Gate
A C-17 Globemaster III taking off from Elmendorf Air Force Base on 26 March 2010
31st Fighter Interceptor Squadron Convair F-102A-75-CO Delta Dagger 56-1281, 1965. Aircraft crashed 12/27/67.

World War II[edit]

Construction on Elmendorf Field began on 8 June 1940, as a major and permanent military airfield near Anchorage. The first United States Army Air Corps personnel arrived on 12 August 1940. On 12 November 1940, the War Department formally designated what had been popularly referred to as Elmendorf Field as Fort Richardson. The air facilities on the post were named Elmendorf Field in honor of Captain Hugh M. Elmendorf, killed on 13 January 1933, while flight testing the experimental Consolidated Y1P-25, fighter, 32-321, near Wright Field, Ohio.[3][4]

The first Army Air Corps unit to be assigned to Alaska was the 18th Pursuit Squadron, which arrived in February 1941. The 23d Air Base Group was assigned shortly afterward to provide base support. More units from the United States Army Air Forces (which legally changed its name in June 1941) poured into Alaska as the Japanese threat developed into World War II in the aftermath of the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor in December 1941. The Eleventh Air Force was formed at Elmendorf AFB in early 1942. The field played a vital role as the main air logistics center and staging area during the Aleutian Islands Campaign and later air operations against the Kurile Islands.

After World War II, the Army moved its operations to the new Fort Richardson and following the separation from the Army in 1947, the newly-formed United States Air Force (USAF) assumed control of the original Fort Richardson and renamed it Elmendorf Air Force Base.

Cold War[edit]

Following World War II, Elmendorf assumed an increasing role in the defense of North America as the uncertain wartime relations between the United States and the Soviet Union deteriorated into the Cold War. The Eleventh Air Force was redesignated as the Alaskan Air Command (AAC) on 18 December 1945. The Alaskan Command, established 1 January 1947, also headquartered at Elmendorf, was a unified command under the Joint Chiefs of Staff based on lessons learned during World War II when a lack of unity of command hampered operations to drive the Japanese from the western Aleutian Islands of Attu and Kiska.

The uncertain world situation in late 1940s and early 1950s caused a major buildup of air defense forces in Alaska. The propeller-driven P-51s were replaced with F-80 jets, which in turn were replaced in succession by F-94s, F-89s, and F-102s interceptor aircraft for defense of North America. The Air Force built an extensive aircraft control and warning radar system with sites located throughout Alaska's interior and coastal regions. Additionally, the USAF of necessity built the White Alice Communications System (with numerous support facilities around the state) to provide reliable communications to these far-flung, isolated, and often rugged locales. The Alaskan NORAD Regional Operations Control Center (ROCC) at Elmendorf served as the nerve center for all air defense operations in Alaska.

The U.S. Air Force Security Service (USAFSS) activated the 6981st Security Group tasked with monitoring, collecting and interpreting signals intelligence of concern to the region, including installation of an AN/FLR-9 antenna array as part of a worldwide network known collectively as "Iron Horse".

Air defense forces reached their zenith in 1957 with almost 200 fighter aircraft assigned to six fighter interceptor squadrons located at Elmendorf AFB and Ladd AFB. Eighteen aircraft control and warning radar sites controlled their operations. Elmendorf earned the motto "Top Cover for North America". AAC adopted the motto as its own in 1969.

The late 1950s, 1960s, and early 1970s brought about a gradual, but significant decline in air defense forces in Alaska due to mission changes and the demands of the Vietnam War. The USAF inactivated five fighter squadrons and closed five radar sites. In 1961, the Department of Defense (DoD) consigned Ladd AFB to the Army which renamed it Fort Wainwright. The Alaskan Command was disestablished in 1975. Elmendorf began providing more support to other USAF commands, particularly Military Airlift Command C-5 Galaxy and C-141 Starlifter flights to and from the Far East.

Despite a diminished number of personnel and aircraft, a turning point in Elmendorf's history occurred in 1970 with the arrival of the 43d Tactical Fighter Squadron in June 1970 from MacDill AFB, Florida flying the F-4E Phantom II. The squadron gave AAC an air-to-ground capability which was further enhanced with the activation of the 18th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Elmendorf (also with the F-4E) on 1 October 1977.

The strategic importance of Elmendorf AFB was graphically realized during the spring of 1980 when the 18th Tactical Fighter Squadron deployed eight of its F-4Es to South Korea to participate in exercise Team Spirit. It was a historical first and underlined an increasing emphasis AAC placed on its tactical role. The strategic location of Elmendorf AFB and Alaska made it an excellent deployment center, a fact that validated the contention of Billy Mitchell who, in 1935, stated that "Alaska is the most strategic place in the world". Deployments from Elmendorf AFB and Eielson AFB to the Far East are now conducted on a routine basis.

The 1980s witnessed a period of growth and modernization of Elmendorf AFB. During 1982, the 21st Tactical Fighter Wing converted from F-4Es to F-15A/B Eagles. The 18th Tactical Fighter Squadron was assigned to Eielson AFB where it was equipped with A-10 Thunderbolt IIs. The 54th Tactical Fighter Squadron, of Aleutian Campaign fame, activated once again in 1987. Operating two F-15 squadrons (43rd and 54th TFS), the F-15s were housed next to the 5021st Tactical Operations Squadron's T-33 Shooting Stars. Rounding out the modernization program was the construction of an enhanced Regional Operations Control Center (completed in 1983), and the replacement of the 1950s generation aircraft control and warning radars with the state of the art AN/FPS-117 Minimally Attended Radars. The integrated air warning and defense system became fully operational in mid-1985. Alaska's air defense force was further enhanced with the assignment of two E-3 Sentry AWACS aircraft to Elmendorf AFB in 1986. The Alaskan Command was reestablished at Elmendorf in 1989 as subunified joint service command under the Pacific Command in recognition of Alaska's military importance in the Pacific region.

The Elmendorf AFB is a site of one of the now decommissioned FLR-9 Wullenweber-class antennas, a node of the now obsolete High Frequency SIGINT direction finding system.

From 1991[edit]

President George W. Bush speaks to troops at Elmendorf in 2005
Six Blue Angels F/A-18 Hornets flying in delta formation into the rainy mists surrounding Elmendorf AFB during Arctic Thunder, August 2006

That importance was further recognized when the F-15E Strike Eagle equipped 90th Tactical Fighter Squadron was reassigned to Elmendorf AFB from Clark Air Base in the Philippines in May 1991. The Pacific Regional Medical Center moved from Clark to Elmendorf and construction of a new, greatly expanded hospital began in 1993. The early 1990s also saw major organizational changes and an expansion of Elmendorf's importance. In 1991, the 21st Tactical Fighter Wing was reorganized as an objective wing and all the major tenant units on Elmendorf were placed under it. The 21st Wing was inactivated and the 3d Wing was reassigned from Clark AB to Elmendorf AFB on 19 December 1991. This was in keeping with the USAF's policies of retaining the oldest and most illustrious units during a period of major force reductions. It was also an alternative landing site for the Space Shuttle.

The base also contains the headquarters of the Alaska Wing of the Civil Air Patrol.[5]

The DoD proposed a major realignment of the base as part of the Base Realignment and Closure recommendations announced on 13 May 2005. Under the plan, one F-15E and one F-15C squadron were replaced with the F-22, and the C-130 fleet has been replaced with the C-17 Globemaster III.

Major commands to which assigned[edit]

  • Alaskan Defense Force (June 1940 – February 1941)
  • Alaskan Defense Command (February – May 1941)
  • Air Field Forces, Alaskan Defense Command (May – December 1941)
  • Alaskan Air Force (December 1941 – February 1942)
  • Eleventh Air Force (February – September 1942)
  • Alaskan Air Command (December 1945 – August 1990)
  • Pacific Air Forces (August 1990 – present)

Base operating units[edit]

Major units assigned[edit]

Aviation accidents[edit]

On September 9, 1958, a USAF Douglas SC-47 stalled after takeoff from Elmendorf AFB and crashed, killing 13 of 20 occupants. Engine failure was blamed as the cause of the crash.[6]

On December 26, 1968, a commercial Pan American Boeing 707 landed at Elmendorf AFB instead of Anchorage International Airport because of weather conditions. Clearance was delayed several times to accommodate other traffic. When they finally got clearance, the crew didn't lower their wing flaps as required to achieve successful takeoff because the pre-takeoff checklist lacked a vital item to lower flaps, and the captain had raised flaps during the taxiing phase to prevent icing as required by the carrier's cold weather operations procedures. The jet crashed just off the west end of the runway, killing all crew members. Cargo consisting of mail and food packages was largely consumed by ground fire following impact. The National Transportation Safety Board's report found the probable cause to be (a) the defective checklist, (b) the 707's defective takeoff warning hardware, (c) ineffective implementation of Boeing's Service Bulletins, and (d) stress caused by a rushed flight schedule.[7]

On 22 September 1995, a Boeing E-3 Sentry Airborne early warning and control aircraft with 22 USAF personnel and two RCAF air crew members crashed after ingesting a flock of Canada geese, killing all on board.[8][9] The aircraft, serial number 77-0354, and using call sign Yukla 27, lost power in two of the four engines, subsequently crashing into a wooded area less than a mile from the end of the runway.[10]

On 28 July 2010, a USAF Boeing C-17 Globemaster III cargo aircraft practicing for an upcoming airshow crashed into a wooded area within the base, killing all four air crew members; three from the Alaska Air National Guard and one from the USAF.[11][12] The cause of the accident has been reported to be pilot error. The pilot performed an aggressive righthand turn and ignored the aircraft's stall warning, continuing the turn until the aircraft stalled due to lack of airspeed. The low altitude of the turn made it impossible for the crew to recover from the stall in time to avoid impacting the ground.[13]

On 16 November 2010, a USAF Lockheed Martin F-22 Raptor took off for a training mission. At approximately 1900 hrs., the base reported that the aircraft was overdue and missing. USAF rescue teams were reported to be concentrating their search for the missing plane and pilot in Denali National Park. The F-22's crash site was found about 100 miles north of Anchorage near the town of Cantwell, Alaska. The pilot, of the 525th Fighter Squadron, was killed in the crash.[14]

See also[edit]


Public Domain This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency

  1. ^ "Airport Diagram – Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson (PAED)" (PDF). Federal Aviation Administration. 5 December 2019. Retrieved 16 December 2019.
  2. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". Census.gov. Archived from the original on May 7, 2015. Retrieved June 6, 2013.
  3. ^ "1930–1937 USAAS Serial Numbers". Joebaugher.com. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
  4. ^ "1933 USAAC Accident Reports". Aviationarchaeology.com. Retrieved 2011-11-22.
  5. ^ "Contact". Alaska Wing Civil Air Patrol Official Website. Retrieved 7 November 2015.
  6. ^ "43-15345". aviation-safety.net. Retrieved September 5, 2022.
  7. ^ Aircraft Accident Report: Pan American World Airways, Inc. Boeing 707-321C N799PA Elmendorf Air Base Anchorage, Alaska, December 26, 1968 (PDF). Washington, DC.: National Transportation Safety Board. 1969.
  8. ^ "Cargo plane crashes and burns on Elmendorf". adn.com. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
  9. ^ "AWACS crash kills 24 crew members". cnn.com. Archived from the original on 2011-06-28. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
  10. ^ "Air Safety Network". Retrieved 4 January 2020.
  11. ^ "Four Dead in Alaska Air Force Base Crash". cbsnews.com. 29 July 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
  12. ^ "Military plane crashes on training mission in Alaska, killing 4 airmen". cnn.com. 29 July 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-29.
  13. ^ D'Oro, Rachel (December 13, 2010). "Pilot error blamed in July C-17 crash". Anchorage Daily News. Archived from the original on December 13, 2010. Retrieved December 13, 2010.
  14. ^ "Alaska Military Base Searching for Overdue F-22". cbsnews.com. 17 November 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-17.
  • 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.
  • Hyde, Terri Asendorf; Callina, Phyllys; Martin, Casey. Historic American Landscapes Survey Alaska Air Depot (PDF) (Report). National Park Service. Retrieved 5 March 2020.
  • 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.

External links[edit]