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Whiteman Air Force Base
Sixty miles southeast of Kansas City, nestled among the wooded, rolling hills of west-central Missouri, two miles south of Knob Noster, is the bustling community of Whiteman Air Force Base. Whiteman is the home of the 509th Bomb Wing which is proud to serve as host to a number of associated units. These include the Air Force Reserve 442nd Fighter Wing, Missouri Army National Guard 1-135th Aviation Battalion, Missouri Air National Guard 131st Bomb Wing, Naval Reserve Unit-Maritime Expeditionary Security Squadron 11 Detachment D, and the 20th Reconnaissance Squadron.
The mission statement of the 509th Bomb Wing is “Skilled and proud Airmen providing full spectrum, expeditionary, B-2 global strike combat support capabilities to geographic commanders and the Commander, USSTRATCOM, while supporting Team Whiteman. World class Airmen executing their mission with pride, precision and perfection which ultimately leads to peace.”
Primary Weapon Systems
The 509th Bomb Wing is charged with America’s premier global reach and global power team by developing a B-2 combat force capable of delivering rapid, decisive and survivable air power anytime and anywhere. It brings massive firepower to bear, in a short time, anywhere on the globe through previously impenetrable defenses. Assigned aircraft include 20 B-2 Bombers, 14 T-38 Talons, 29 A-10 Thunderbolt II and 13 AH-64 Apache Longbow Helicopters.
B-2 Stealth Bomber
The B-2 Stealth Bomber, with two crew members, is a multi-role bomber capable of delivering both conventional and nuclear munitions. By possessing extreme unrefueled range and the ability to penetrate deep into enemy airspace undetected and unassisted, the B-2 can place at risk any fixed or movable target and expose the aircraft crew to limited hostilities while providing them with the necessary tools to complete their mission and return safely home. Once deployed, the B-2 renders enemy air defenses ineffective and serves as a deterrent to hostilities and a preserver of peace. The success of the B-2 was proven in Operation Allied Force in 1999 where it was responsible for destroying 33 percent of all Serbian targets in the first eight weeks by flying nonstop to Kosovo from its home base in Missouri and back. The aircraft was also called into combat service in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2001, Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003 and most recently Operation Odyssey Dawn in 2011, when three B-2s flying a single mission destroyed the entirety of the Libyan air force while it was still on the ground.
A-10 Thunderbolt II
The A-10 Thunderbolt II is a single-seat fighter jet designed to provide close air support for ground forces by attacking tanks and other armored vehicles. The A-10 was designed around the GAU-8 Avenger, a heavy rotary cannon that forms the aircraft’s primary armament. The cannon is capable of firing 3,900 rounds per minute. The A-10’s hull incorporates over 1,200 pounds of armor and was designed with survivability as a priority, with protective measures in place which enable the aircraft to continue flying even after taking significant damage. The A-10 can also employ a wide variety of conventional munitions, including general purpose bombs, cluster bombs, laser guided bombs, joint direct attack munitions (JDAM), and AGM-65 Maverick and AIM-9 Sidewinder missiles. The 442nd has been involved in the Berlin Crisis, the Cold War, Desert Storm and Operations Deny Flight, Southern Watch, Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom.
AH-60 Apache Longbow
AH-64 Apache is the Army’s heavy division/corps attack helicopter. The Apache conducts rear, close, and shaping missions including deep precision strikes. It also conducts distributed operations, precision strikes against relocatable targets, and provides armed reconnaissance when required in day, night, obscured battlefield and adverse weather conditions. The combination of the radars, advanced navigation and avionics suite of the aircraft provide increased situational awareness, lethality and survivability.
Air National Guard’s 131st Bomb Wing
In 2008, Whiteman AFB welcomed the Missouri Air National Guard’s 131st Bomb Wing into its midst as an associate B-2 unit. In this capacity, Missouri’s citizen-airmen work alongside active duty personnel to maintain and fly the nation’s most advanced bomber.
Air Force Reserve’s 442d Fighter Wing
The 442d Fighter Wing is comprised of nearly 1,800 members at Whiteman Air Force Base and two geographically separated units; the 917th Fighter Group, Barksdale Air Force Base, La., and the 476th Fighter Group, Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The wing is responsible for the combat readiness of 48 A-10 Thunderbolt II aircraft – all the A-10s in the Air Force Reserve. The 442d moved to Whiteman from Richards-Gebaur Air Force Base, Kansas City, Mo., in June 1994.
Army National Guard’s 1-135th Attack Reconnaissance Battalion
The 1-135th Attack Aviation Battalion’s mission is to conduct attack, reconnaissance and security operations that complement other maneuver forces. They control 13 AH-64D Apache Longbow Helicopters. The Missouri National Guard is the only component of the armed forces that has two missions. Our federal mission is to provide federal support when called upon by the president – this could be for overseas contingency operations or federal emergencies like Hurricane Katrina. Our state mission is to support the governor of the Missouri in times of state crisis.
Whiteman’s heritage dates back to 1942. U.S. Army Air Corps officials selected the current site to be the home of Sedalia Army Air Field. Following the end of the war, the airfield remained in service as an operational location for Army Air Force C-46 and C-47 transports. In December 1947, the base was inactivated. However, in 1951, the Strategic Air Command selected the base to be a site of one of its new bombardment wings, with both bombers and tankers assigned. In 1952, SAC activated the 340th Bombardment Wing. In 1955, members of the wing saw the base name change to Whiteman Air Force Base in honor of 2nd Lt. George A. Whiteman. Whiteman was one of the first American airmen killed in combat during World War II when his P-40 fighter, the Lucky Me, was shot down. In the 1960s its mission shifted from aircraft to the Minuteman Intercontinental Ballistic Missile. In 1961 officials selected the base to become the command’s fourth Minuteman missile wing, the 351st Strategic Missile Wing. Amazingly, the construction and equipping of the 150 missile sites and 15 launch control centers took only two years, two months and two weeks to complete. During the period of May 1965 to October 1967, the Minuteman I was upgraded to the Minuteman II. Other modernization programs in the following decades improved the system and increased the survivability of the missile. In the mid-1980s, the Minuteman Integrated Life Extension program improved the safety, maintainability and reliability of the missile facilities. In 1987, Congressman Ike Skelton announced the B-2 Advanced Technology Bomber would be based at Whiteman AFB. In preparation for a second wing, the Air Force activated the 100th Division in July 1990 to replace the 351st as the base host unit. Because the Air Force was preparing to eliminate its air divisions, this arrangement did not last long. Thus, in July 1991, the 100th was
inactivated and the 351st once again assumed its host unit role. The changes did not end there. On July 31, 1991, President George H.W. Bush and Premier Mikhail Gorbachev signed the historic Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) that called for dismantling and destruction of the Minuteman II ICBMs. The end of the Cold War spelled the end of the 351st and deactivation of the Minuteman II system began immediately. On January 8, 1993, the wing’s first launch control center, India-01, shut down operations. Five months later, the last reentry vehicle was removed from Golf-02 in Deepwater, St. Clair County. Later that year the wing imploded its first silo, India-02 in Leeton, Johnson County; and in 1995, the last Minuteman II missile, located at Juliet-03 in Chloe, Johnson County, was removed from its site. The 509th Bomb Wing traces its historical roots to its World War II ancestor, the 509th Composite Group that was formed with one mission in mind – to drop the atomic bomb. The group made history on August 6, 1945, when the B-29 Enola Gay, piloted by Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., dropped the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan. On August 9, 1945, the group again visited the Japanese mainland and unleashed the atomic inferno upon Nagasaki. Within days, the Japanese sued for peace, ending the war. In late 1945, the group settled into Roswell Army Air Base, New Mexico, where it became the core of the newly formed SAC. Twelve years later the 509th moved its personnel and equipment to Pease AFB, New Hampshire. By 1965, the B-47s and the 509th BW were slated for retirement. SAC, however, decided to keep the bomb wing alive and equip it with B-52s and KC-135s. On September 30, 1990, the 509th BW was transferred to Whiteman AFB and in July 1993 accepted host responsibilities for the base. During this same month the wing received its first fixed-wing aircraft, a T-38 complete with a B-2 style paint job.
On December 17, 1993, the 90th anniversary of Orville Wright’s historic first successful, controlled, heavier-than-air powered flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the world’s most sophisticated and advanced aircraft, the B-2 Advanced Technology Bomber Spirit of Missouri, arrived at Whiteman AFB. For more information, visit Whiteman AFB at www.whiteman.af.mil.