Kirtland Air Force Base

Kirtland Air Force Base

:"For the civil airport use of this facility, see Albuquerque International Sunport"Infobox Airport
name = Kirtland Air Force Base
nativename = Part of Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC)

image-width = 250
caption = Kirtland AFB, 6 October 1996
type = Military/Public
owner =
operator = United States Air Force
city-served =
location = Albuquerque, New Mexico
elevation-f = 5300
elevation-m = 1600
coordinates = coord|35|02|25|N|106|36|33|W|type:airport_region:US-NM|display=inline,title
website = []
r1-number = 8/26
r1-length-f = 13,793
r1-length-m = 4,204
r1-surface = Concrete
r2-number = 3/21
r2-length-f = 10,000
r2-length-m = 3,048
r2-surface = Concrete
r3-number = 17/35
r3-length-f = 10,000
r3-length-m = 3,048
r3-surface = Asphalt/Concrete
r4-number = 12/30
r4-length-f = 6,000
r4-length-m = 1,829
r4-surface = Concrete
footnotes =

Kirtland Air Force Base airport codes|ABQ|KABQ is a major United States Air Force base located in the southeast quadrant of Albuquerque, New Mexico, USA, adjacent to the Albuquerque International Sunport. The military and the international airport share the same runways, making ABQ a joint civil-military airport.

The base is the third largest installation in Air Force Materiel Command, covering 51,558 acres (209 km²) and employing over 23,000 people, including more than 4,200 active duty, 3,200 part-time Air Force Reserve and 1,000 Air National Guard personnel.

Kirtland is the home of the Air Force Materiel Command's Nuclear Weapons Center (NWC). The NWC is the center of expertise for nuclear weapon systems, ensuring safe, secure and reliable nuclear weapons are available to support the National Command Structure and Air Force. The NWC's responsibilities include acquisition, modernization and sustainment of nuclear system programs for both the Department of Defense and Department of Energy.

The NWC is composed of two wings -- the 377th Air Base Wing and 498th Armament Systems Wing along with five groups and 17 squadrons.

Kirtland is also home to the 58th Special Operations Wing (58 SOW), an Air Education and Training Command (AETC) unit that provides formal aircraft type/model/series training to the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) special operations forces (SOF) and Air Combat Command (ACC) combat search and rescue (CSAR) communities. The 58 SOW operates the MC-130 Combat Talon I/II and Combat Shadow, HC-130 Hercules, MH-53 Pave Low IV, HH-60G Pave Hawk and CV-22 Osprey aircraft.

The 150th Fighter Wing of the New Mexico Air National Guard, an ACC-gained unit, is also home-based at Kirtland, operating the F-16 Fighting Falcon.


Kirtland Air Force Base was named for Colonel Roy C. Kirtland (1874-1941) in February 1942. Colonel Kirtland learned to fly in 1911 in one of the first Wright airplanes at Dayton, Ohio. During World War I he organized and commanded a regiment of mechanics, and served as an inspector of aviation facilities. Recalled from retirement in 1941 at the age of 65, the oldest military pilot in the Air Corps, he died of a heart attack on 2 May 1941 at Moffett Field, California.

Previous names of Kirtland Air Force Base were:
* Albuquerque Army Air Base, 8 Mar 1941
* Kirtland Field, 24 Feb 1942

Major Commands

* AF Combat Command, c. 8 Mar 1941 - 6 Dec 1941
* West Coast Air Corps Training Command, 6 Dec 1941 - 23 Jan 1942
* Air Corps Flying Training Command, 23 Jan 1942 - Mar 1942
* AAF Flying Training Comd, Mar 1942 - 31 Jul 1943
* AAF Training Comd, 31 Jul 1943 - 1 Mar 1945
* Second AF, 1 Mar 1945 - 21 Jan 1946
* Fourth AF, 31 Jan 1946 - 14 Apr 1945
* Continental Air Forces, 16 Apr 1945 - 21 Mar 1945
* Strategic Air Comd, 21 Mar 1945 - 1 Dec 1946
* Air Materiel Comd, 1 Dec 1946 - 1 Dec 1949
* Special Weapons Comd, 1 Dec 1949 - 1 Apr 1952
* Air Research and Development Comd, 1 Apr 1952 - 1 Apr 1961
* Air Force Systems Command, 1 Apr 1961 - 1 Jul 1977
* Military Airlift Command, 1 Jul 1977 - 1 Jul 1992
* Air Force Materiel Command, 1 Jul 1992 - Present

Base Operating Units

* 3d Air Base Sq, 11 Apr 1941 - 19 Jul 1942
* 3d Base HQ and Air Base Sq, 19 Jul 1942 - 1 May 1944
* 3007th AAF Base Unit, 1 May 1944 - 1 Mar 1945
* 237th AAF Base Unit, 1 Mar 1945 - 31 Jan 1946
* 428th AAF Base Unit, 1 Feb 1946 - 10 Mar 1949
* HQ and HQ Sq, 2758th AF Base, 10 Mar 1949 - 5 Jul 1949
* 3078th Air Base Gp, 5 Jul 1949 - 1 Dec 1949
* 4910th Air Base Gp, 1 Dec 1949 - 1 May 1955
* 4900th Air Base Gp, 1 May 1955 - 1 Apr 1976
* 4900th Air Base Wg, 1 Apr 1976 - 1 Jul 1977
* 1606th Air Base Wg, 1 Jul 1977 - 1 Jun 1993
* 377th Air Base Wing, 1 Jun 1993 - Present

Operational History

In 1939 the U.S. Army leased land east of Albuquerque airport to establish a flight training base. By early 1941 construction had begun. The following month the base got its first military aircraft, a lone B-18 Bolo and by summer the first troop train had arrived, along with 2,195 trainees for the new B-17 Flying Fortress.

During World War II Kirtland trained flight crews for the B-17, B-24 and B-29 bombers.

In February 1946, Kirtland was placed under the Air Materiel Command and it ceased its flight training activities. Kirtland's new role was to develop proper aircraft modifications for weapons delivery and to determine ballistic characteristics for nuclear weapons. Kirtland's role in the testing and evaluation of special weapons increased in 1947 when Kirtland Army Air Field, became Kirtland Air Force Base.

In September 1948 the first Convair B-36 was modified to carry nuclear weapons at Kirtland, followed by the first B-47 Stratojet in December of that year.

In December 1949, Kirtland became headquarters for the Air Force Special Weapons Center. In 1963, the Special Weapons Center gave up much of its research and development work to the newly created Air Force Weapons Laboratory.

April 11, 1950, – A B-29 bomber carrying a nuclear weapon, four spare detonators, and a crew of thirteen crashed into a mountain near Manzano Base in Albuquerque, New Mexico, three minutes after departure from the Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque. The crash resulted in a major fire which was reported by the New York Times as being visible from "fifteen miles." The bomb's casing was completely demolished and its high explosives ignited upon contact with the plane's burning fuel. However, according to the Department of Defense, the four spare detonators and all nuclear components were recovered. A nuclear detonation was not possible because the weapon's core, while being carried on-board, was not placed in the weapon for safety reasons. All thirteen crew members were killed. [4]

On July 1, 1971, Kirtland merged with Manzano Base and Sandia Base, its neighbors to the east.

Early in 1974, at the direction of the Air Force Chief of Staff, the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center was organized at Kirtland to direct and oversee operational testing of aircraft and other equipment.

The Air Force Special Weapons Center was dismantled on 1 April, 1976.

On 1 October, 1982, the Air Force Space Technology Center was activated at Kirtland. On 13 December, 1990, it was combined with three Air Force laboratories to become Phillips Laboratory. It recently joined other laboratories and became part of the Air Force Research Laboratory.

In 1992, the Kirtland Underground Munitions Storage Complex (KUMSC) was activated at Kirtland AFB. KUMSC is the largest storage facility for nuclear weapons in the world. The facility provides storage, shipping and maintenance for the United States Air Force and Navy. It is operated by the 898th Munitions Squadron (898 MUNS) and the 377th Security Forces Squadron (377 SFS). The facility is state of the art, with more than convert|300000|sqft|m2 located entirely underground. Total number of deliverable nuclear warheads stored there is over 3,000. The majority of the munitions include the B83 and B61 gravity bombs, and W80, W87, and W88 warheads for the Air Launched Cruise Missile (ALCM), Minuteman III and Peacekeeper ICBM's.

Also located on Kirtland AFB was the National Atomic Museum, which is open to the public and displays a number of missiles and rockets as well as a Boeing B-52 Stratofortress. However, due to Air Force security restrictions after 9/11, the museum was moved off base and now resides in downtown Albuquerque.

Around 2004, the "Laser Effects Facility" was featured on the documentary television series "UFO Files" episode "Alien Engineering".

Units located at Kirtland

Major Units

* Nuclear Weapons Center
* 377th Air Base Wing
The 377 ABW provides munitions maintenance, readiness and training, and base operating support to approximately 76 Federal government and 384 private sector tenants and associate units. Among these is the Defense Threat Reduction Agency's Defense Nuclear Weapons School, the mission of which is to provide nuclear weapons core competencies and chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, and high explosive (CBRNE) response training to DoD, other Federal and State Agencies, and National Laboratory personnel.
* 498th Armament Systems Wing
The 498th ABW is responsible for sustainment of nuclear munitions and cruise missiles, including operation of two munitions maintenance and storage complexes (at Kirtland AFB and Nellis AFB, Nev.) and the 498th Missile Sustainment Group at Tinker AFB, Okla. This encompasses the entire scope of nuclear weapon system support functions to include sustainment, modernization and acquisition support activities for both the Department of Defense and Department of Energy.
* Detachment 8, Air Force Research Laboratory
** Directed Energy Directorate
This lab develops, integrates, and transitions science and technology for directed energy to include high-power microwaves, lasers, adaptive optics, imaging and effects to assure the preeminence of the United States in air and space.
** Space Vehicles Directorate
This lab develops and transitions high pay-off space technologies supporting the warfighter while leveraging commercial, civil and other government capabilities.

Associate Units

*150th Fighter Wing (New Mexico Air National Guard) (1947-Present)
*58th Special Operations Wing (1994-Present)
*Air Force Inspection Agency
*Air Force Nuclear Weapons and Counterproliferation Agency
*Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center
*Air Force Safety Center
*Defense Reutilization and Marketing Service
*Defense Threat Reduction Agency
*Department of Energy, National Nuclear Security *Administration
*Detachment 1, 342 TRS Pararescue and Combat Officer Training *School
*Detachment 1, Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center
*Detachment 3, Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center
*Space Development and Test Wing ( Air Force Space and Missile System Center)
*Distributed Mission Operations Center
*Kirtland NCO Academy
*National Weapons Directorate
*Office of Aerospace Studies
*Sandia National Laboratoriesimmagine:Kirtland afb.jpg.estensione|didascaliaimmagine:K.afb-particolare.jpg|estensione|didascaliaImmagine:K.afb-particolare2.jpg.estensione|didascalia

See also

* Air Force Materiel Command
* Western Air Defense Force (Air Defense Command)
* Central Air Defense Force (Air Defense Command)
* New Mexico World War II Army Airfields
* 34th Air Division (United States)


* Much of this text in an early version of this article was taken from pages on the [ Kirtland Air Force Base Website] , which as a work of the U.S. Government is presumed to be a public domain resource. That information was supplemented by:
* 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 0912799129.

External links

* [ Kirtland Air Force Base website]
* [ Kirtland Base History]
* [ Defense Nuclear Weapons School]
* [ Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center]
* [ Det 12, Air Force Space and Missile Command]
* [ Air Force Nuclear Weapons and Counterproliferation Agency]

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