Zweibrücken Air Base

Zweibrücken Air Base

Infobox Military Structure
name=RCAF Station Zweibrücken
Zweibrücken Air Base
location= Located near Zweibrücken, Germany
coordinates= coord|49|12|00|N|7|25|4|E|region:DE-HE_type:airport

caption=38th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron RF-4C photo of Zweibrücken Air Base, photographed on 18 September 1979.
type=Air Force Base
controlledby=Royal Canadian Air Force (1953-1969)
United States Air Force (1969-1991)

Zweibrücken Air Base was a NATO air base in West Germany. It was located 35 miles SSW of Kaiserslautern and 2 miles mi SE of Zweibrücken. It was assigned to the Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF) and the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) during its operational lifetime.

The facility was closed down in 1991 after the Cold War ended.


Construction of the base was initiated by French Army engineers and German contractors in 1950 on a section of the former Siegfried Line. The crumpled remains of many of the bunkers of the old line are still in evidence on where the base used to stand, even today. It was designed by French engineers and completed by German contractors in late 1952. Construction was funded from USAF sources, however, the RCAF assumed control of Zweibrucken AB on 6 January 1953.

RCAF Station Zweibrücken

On 6 January 1953, the 3rd Wing, (also known as 3(F) Wing) Royal Canadian Air Force (RCAF), commanded by Group Captain A.C. Hull, arrived to assume control of RCAF Station Zweibrücken. The 3rd wing operated the station for over 16 years.

RCAF Station Zweibrücken was one of four RCAF bases of No. 1 Air Division Europe that were established to support NATO during the Cold War. Other bases were located in Marville, France; Grostenquin, France; and Baden-Soellingen, West Germany.

Three squadrons flying F-86 Sabres were located at Zweibrücken: 413, 427, and 434. No. 413 Squadron was replaced in 1957 by 440 Squadron flying the new CF-100 all-weather interceptor.

In 1959 Canada adopted a new and controversial nuclear strike roll in accordance with NATO's doctrine of "limited nuclear warfare" and began re-equipping with the new CF-104 Starfighter that could handle the delivery of nuclear weapons. This aircraft also had a reconnaissance role.

In the fall of 1962 the Sabre squadrons of the Air Division, including those at 3 Wing, began flying Starfighters. No. 440 Squadron was disbanded in December 1962. No. 430 Squadron moved to Zweibrücken from Grostenquin when 2 Wing closed down in 1964.

During this time, the Canadian Forces established excellent relations with the local German community through their hockey team, the RCAF Flyers (Europe).

The RCAF left Zweibrücken 27 August 1969 as an austerity measure following unification of the Canadian Armed Forces. Before leaving, they erected a west coast Indian totem pole as a token of their friendship with the local German citizens. At the top of the pole was the Thunderbird, the god who watches over all creation. Below it was a double headed sea monster, the warrior's symbol; the third figure was of a little man who had grown from boyhood to become a warrior, and the fourth figure was that of the same warrior, grown to maturity as a tribal chief.

Upon the departure of the RCAF, control of the station was transferred to the United States Air Force Sixteenth Air Force, USAFE.

Zweibrücken Air Base

Upon taking conrol of Zweibrücken Air Base, the United States Air Force either renovated or enlarged all base facilities, and procured off-base housing for most base personnel. The base was assigned to USAFE as an off-base installation of Ramstein AB on 29 August 1969, and the facility assumed primary installation status on 1 May 1970.

86th Tactical Fighter Wing

The 86th Tactical Fighter Wing was reactivated at Zweibrücken on 1 November 1969. It received its first flying unit, the 17th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, on 12 January 1970. The 17th TRS and its McDonnell Douglas RF-4C Phantom IIs came to Zweibrucken from the deactivating 66th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing at RAF Upper Heyford, England. Squadron tail code for the 17th TRS was initially "ZS", then was recoded to "ZR" in 1971.

For 18 months the 17th was the only operational squadron on the base. On 12 June 1971, the 81st Tactical Fighter Squadron with its Electronics Counter-Measures (ECM) equipped McDonnell EF-4C Phantom II "Wild Weasel" fighters was transferred to Zweibrucken from the 50th TFW at Hahn AB when the 50th switched to a strike-attack role, with air defense as a secondary mission. (Note: The EF-4C designation was not official. The aircraft were officially F-4C models).

The 81st TFS, however remained a part of the 50th TFW but was detached from the wing's operational control and attached to the 86th Tactical Fighter Wing for support. Squadron tail code for the 81st TFS was "ZS".

In 1972, tail codes for all 86th TFW aircraft at Zweibrücken were standaridzed as "ZR", per AFM 66-1, when squadron tail codes were eliminated.

On 15 January 1973, the 81st TFS was reassigned to Spangdahlem Air Base under operation "Battle Creek". The last of this variant of the Phantom returned to the USA in 1979/1980 and was replaced by the F-4G Wild Weasel at Spangdahlem.

On the Northern side of Zweibrücken was Kreuzberg Kaserne, home to the U.S. Army Materiel Command, Europe (MATCOM). Matcom was replaced by the USA Material Management Agency, Europe in 1973.

26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing

As part of operation "Creek Action", a command-wide effort to realign functions and streamline operations, HQ USAFE transferred the 26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing from Ramstein Air Base to Zweibrucken, and the 86th Tactical Fighter Wing from Zweibrucken to Ramstein on 31 January 1973. Operational squadrons of the 26th TRW were:

* 7th Special Operations (C-130, UH-1)
* 17th Tactical Reconnaissance (RF-4C) (Red tail fin stripe)
* 38th Tactical Reconnaissance (RF-4C) (Yellow tail fin stripe)

Note: 7th SOS reported directly to HQ USAFE. 17th & 38th RF-4Cs carried tail code "ZR".

For nearly five years the wing remained stable at Zweibrucken. Then on 1 October 1978, the 417th Tactical Fighter Squadron was activated with a single F-4D aircraft and assigned to the 26 TRW. USAFE planned on equipping the squadron with F-4Es, however, inadequate munitions storage compelled the command to reverse its decision and consequently reassigned the 417th TFS without personnel or equipment to the 86th TFW at Ramstein AB on 1 November 1978, being placed in not operational status.

Later that month, on 20 November, the 17 TRS was inactivated due to budetary cutbacks leaving the 38 TRS as the wing's only in-place operational squadron. High-hour RF-4C aircraft were sent to AMARC, others were reassigned to the 38th TRS or to existing Bergstrom, Shaw, RAF Alconbury or Air National Guard squadrons.

Deployments from the United States included EB-57E aircraft from 17 DSES,based at Malmstrom AFB,Montana in April/May 1976 and September 1977.RF-4C Phantom aircraft from 67 TRW(Tactical Reconnaissance Wing)in July 1981 and RF-4C from 123 Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron,Kentucky Air National Guard arriving on Saturday June 28,1986 for a two week deployment.

In 1976/1977 a US Army unit,the 2d Military Intelligence Battalion (Aerial Reconnissance and Surveillance) (MIBARS) flew the U-21A Ute twin turbo-prop airplane(around 6 airplanes)for a short period. The Combat Intelligence Company (Imagery Interpretation)(CBTI Co(II)) was the parent unit of the U-21's. The CBTI Co(II) was a component of the 2d MI Bn.

From 5 April to 7 July 1979 the base also hosted the 86th TFW while Ramstein AB's runways were closed for extensive repairs.

On 10 August 1987, the 26 TRW became the only tactical reconnaissance wing in USAFE, when the 10 TRW at RAF Alconbury was redesignated the 10th Tactical Fighter Wing and assigned to fly A-10 attack aircraft. This left NATO and US Forces in Europe the services of just one US tactical reconnaissance unit and one squadron of RF-4Cs.

The wing continued to conduct reconnaissance operations in support of NATO, USAFE, and the US Army in Europe (USAREUR). The wing also engaged in operational employment and development of advanced reconnaissance systems to further enhance the military posture of NATO in Europe.

Military airlift command activities

On 9 November 1983, the Military Airlift Command (MAC) activated the 10th Military Airlift Squadron (MAS). The 10 MAS flew the C-23 "Sherpa", a small cargo plane that needed only a little bit of runway and less fuel than larger cargo aircraft. A total of 18 C-23A Sherpa aircraft were delivered to the 10 MAS.

The 10 MAS though under the direction of the 322nd Air Division (MAC) at Rhein-Main AB, became an associated unit of the 26th drawing support from it. The 26 TRW provided the 10 MAS all of its facilities and logistical support required to operate the European Distribution System (EDS). The EDS was organized to give the units in Europe a quicker way to receive small equipment items or supplies on a round-the-clock basis, without the expense of the larger cargo aircraft.

609th Contingency Hospital

In 1985, another role was added to the wing's mission. On 15 October 1984, the 609th Contingency Hospital was activated by HQ USAFE. The mission of the 609th was to provide a turnkey hospital operation, where the equipment, and supplies were already in place and all the organization needed was the people to operate it, when called upon.This hospital, an old "krankenhaus" was activated in January 1991 in support of Operation Desert Storm and was used at least through March 1991. Some victims of the scud missile attack in Saudi Arabia received interval medical care at the 609th en route back to the U.S. Note that the Hospital was in the nearby small town, not on Zweibrucken Air Base.

601st Tactical Control Squadron

In the fall of 1988, HQ USAFE began planning to move two more units to Zweibrücken and increase the support mission of the 26th TRW. HQ USAFE planned to move the 601st Tactical Control Squadron (TCS) and the 612th Tactical Control Flight (TCF) from Prum Air Station, Germany to Zweibrücken . The mission of the 601st and the 612th was to provide a line of radar detection systems wherever USAFE or NATO needed them. The two units arrived in June 1989, increasing the number of associate units on the base and diversifying the mission even more.

USAFE closure

With the end of the Cold War, the USAF presence at Zweibrücken was gradually phased down. In addition, the 1960s-era RF-4C Phantoms were increasingly costing more and more to maintain. Tactical reconnaissance was being handled more and more by other means, and the need for the 26th TRW was becoming less and less critical to USAFE planners. As a result, the RF-4Cs of the 38th TRS were sent to AMARC on 1 April 1991 and the squadron was inactivated.

The 26th TRW was inactivated on 31 July 1991, and Zweibrücken Air Base was closed. The facility was turned over to the German government civil authorities.

Current status

Today, Zweibrücken Airport airport codes|ZQW|EDRZ, or Flughafen Zweibrücken is used as a regional airport. Along with the civil airport, a private industrial park has been developed for commercial businesses. Most of the buildings such as the TabVees are still standing and are being used for purposes ranging from storage to industry.In the front of the airbase where the fuel depot was formerly located now stands groups of factory outlet stores.

At the time the base closed in 1991, the only visible reminders of the 3rd Wing RCAF was the totem, the stained glass windows of the Protestant Chapel, and the Peter Cunningham Memorial Arena.

As of 2007 the stained glass in the Protestant chapel has been removed and the totem relocated to the "Rose Garden" in the city of Zweibrücken. Only the Peter Cunningham Memorial Arena still remains.

ee also

* Royal Canadian Air Force
* United States Air Forces in Europe
* United States Air Force In Germany


* Fletcher, Harry R. (1989). Volume 2: Air bases outside the United States of America on 17 September 1982. USAF Reference Series, Office of Air Force History, United States Air Force, Washington, D.C. ISBN 0912799536; 0160022614
* 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.
* Martin, Patrick (1994). Tail Code: The Complete History of USAF Tactical Aircraft Tail Code Markings. Schiffer Military Aviation History. ISBN 0887405134.
* Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0912799129.
* 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 []

External links

* Royal Canadian Air Force Squadrons at RCAF Station Zweibrücken
** [ 413 Squadron History]
** [ 427 Squadron History]
** [ 434 Squadron History]
** [ 440 Squadron History]
* [ The 26th SPS] The online home of the 26th Security Police Squadron
* [ Zweibrucken Air Base] at []
* [ The Sherpa Society] (10th Military Airlift Squadron]
* [ McDonnell RF-4C Phantom II]
* [ McDonnell EF-4C Phantom II]
* []

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