The United States Air Force's 116th Air Control Wing (116 ACW) is a joint active duty/Air National Guard air control wing located at Robins AFB, Georgia.
The 116th ACW is the only Air National Guard unit operating the E-8C Joint Surveillance Target Attack Radar System (Joint STARS), an advanced ground surveillance and battle management system. Joint STARS detects, locates, classifies, tracks and targets ground movements on the battlefield, communicating real-time information through secure data links with U.S. Forces command posts.
World War II
The 116th Bomb Wing was formed in Mitchel Field, New York, on 28 September 1942, flying the P-47 Thunderbolt. Shortly afterwards on 1 October 1942, it was re-designated as the 353d Fighter Group and assigned to Eighth Air Force. They operated against the enemy in combat over Europe from August 1943 to April 1945, using P-47's until October 1944, and then converting to P-51 Mustangs for the remainder of the war. The unit regularly escorted bombers that attacked industrial establishments, marshaling yards, submarine installations, V-weapon sites, and other targets. They frequently strafed and dive-bombed buildings, troops, flak batteries, barges and tug boats, locomotives and rail lines, vehicles, bridges, and airfields while also flying numerous counter-air missions.
From August 1943 to February 1944, they provided escort for bombers that attacked targets in western Europe, made counter-air sweeps over France and the low countries, and dive-bombed targets in France. The wing participated in the intensive campaign against the German Air Force and aircraft industry during Big Week, 20 25 February 1944. Between March and May 1944, it increased its fighter-bomber activities. In June 1944, it provided cover over the beachhead and close support for the Normandy invasion.
In July 1944, it supported the breakthrough at Saint-L . It won a DUC for supporting the airborne attack on Holland, when the group contributed to the operation by protecting bombers and troop carriers and by strafing and dive-bombing ground targets during the period 17 23 September 1944. The wing continued its fighter-bomber, escort, and counter-air activities, participating in the Battle of the Bulge (December 1944 January 1945) and the airborne attack across the Rhine (March 1945).
The 116th remained in the theater until October 1945. It was inactivated in the US on 18 October 1945 at Camp Kilmer, New Jersey.
The 353d Fighter Group was re-designated as Headquarters, 116th Fighter Group allotted to the Georgia Air National Guard and stood up on 9 September 1946 under the 54th Fighter Wing at Dobbins (formerly Marietta) AFB.
In October 1950, after the start of the Korean War, the Group was activated and moved to George AFB, California where it reorganized under Tactical Air Command (TAC) as the 116th Fighter Bomber Wing flying the F-84 Thunderjet.
After several months of fighter/bomber tactical training, the wing deployed to Misawa Air Base, Japan in July 1951. The group was attached to the Far East Air Forces for operations in the Korean War. Beginning in December 1951 the wing flew attack missions against North Korean forces
Until July 1952, they flew interdiction and close-support missions, strafing and dive-bombing power plants, buildings, mine entrances, gun positions, bunkers, troops, rail lines, trains, bridges, and vehicles. During the same period the group provided air defense for Japan.
Relieved from active duty in July 1952, the group returned to control of the Georgia Air National Guard at Dobbins AFB, Georgia without personnel and equipment, and was re-designated the 116th Fighter-Interceptor Group, on 10 July 1952. It was subsequently re-designated the 116th Fighter-Bomber Group in December 1952.
At Dobbins AFB, Georgia, it continued to fly fighter aircraft until 1961, including F-51 Mustangs, F-84F Thunderstreaks, F-84D Thunderjets, and F-86L Sabres.
After flying fighters and bombers since its initial activation, the 116th became the Georgia ANG Air Transport Wing on 1 June 1961 and converted to the C-97 "Stratofreighter" transport, marking a major change in wing history. Later, in December 1966, it became the first ANG unit to receive the C-124 Globemaster.
Numerous combat support missions to every corner of the globe, including Vietnam, kept the 116th busy until it again became a fighter unit in 1974, equipped with the F-100D Super Saber. Designated as the 116th Tactical Fighter Wing, the 116th flew the Super Saber jets for six accident-free years until May 1979 when the last aircraft left Dobbins AFB for the "Bone-yard" at Davis Monthan AFB in Arizona. From then until 1996, the 116th flew F-105G Wild Weasels, F-4D Phantoms, and F-15A/B Eagles at Dobbins AFB, Georgia. During this period, the wing developed an impressive record of accomplishment and was awarded nine Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards.
Post Cold War
116th Bomber Patch After calling Dobbins AFB home for many years, the 116th was presented with a new challenge in 1996. The wing simultaneously converted from F-15 Eagle fighters to the B-1 Lancer bomber and moved 110 miles south to Robins AFB in Warner Robins, Georgia. Having to make the most of the available facilities, including the former Strategic Air Command alert facility, the 116th Bomb Wing was quickly up and running and participated in a number of deployments and exercises around the world in the B-1B.
In the summer of 2001, in order to streamline the B-1 Bomber program, the Department of Defense reorganized the B-1 fleet, eliminating the aircraft from the two Air National Guard bomb wings and consolidating the B-1 in Regular Air Force bomb wings, which required that the B-1 leave Robins AFB. Immediately the 116th began the initial stages of an untried process with a vast amount of potential benefit to the Air Force, transitioning into the first ever "blended wing". The new wing was to be composed of active duty and ANG personnel, facilities and equipment of both the 116th BW and the co-located active-duty 93d Air Control Wing (ACW), which operated the E-8C Joint STARS battlefield surveillance aircraft.
As a result of an effort by Donald Rumsfeld to reduce the B-1 fleet to 60 aircraft by moving the ones with the Georgia ANG to Dyess AFB, Texas, there was an uproar because of the directly and indirectly related jobs that would be lost in Georgia. To find middle ground, the General Accounting Office looked into a means to support 1172 military jobs in Georgia. As a result, the 116th Bomb Wing and 93d Air Control Wing merged to form the 116th Air Control Wing in Georgia. This wing currently supports operations around the world as the only U.S. Air Force organization operating the Joint STARS aircraft.
In 2006, the National Guard Bureau conducted a facility assessment and determined that the 116th CES was residing in the second worst engineering compound in the Air National Guard. This led to another building being identified for the squadron s new compound,and funding being appropriated for a concept study on how to adapt the facility for CES needs.
In April, 2010, The 116th Air Control Wing became the first ever Georgia Air National Guard unit to send a team to the Mountain Man Memorial March, held in Gatlinburg, Tenn. to honor those who have fallen in combat. The 116th ACW team sponsored Capt. Dixon L. Walters, who was shot down over Kuwait Jan. 31, 1991.
On November 24, 2010, the Chief of Staff of the Air Force Designated the 116th Air Control Wing as an "Active Associate" wing and reorganized the "blended" wing concept. As a result of this reorganization, a new active duty Associate Wing was formed. The structure is an Active Association, composed of the Georgia Air Guard's 116th ACW, and active duty's 461st Air Control Wing. They will continue to operate together to accomplish the shared J-STARS mission by integrating Air Guard and active duty personnel to the maximum extent possible in groups, squadrons, and shops. The Active Association model is one in which a reserve component (the Air Guard) has principal responsibility for the weapon system that it shares with one or more Active Duty Units.
Major Command/Gaining Command
- 116th Air Control Wing (2002 present)
- 116th Bomb Wing (1996 2002)
- 116th Fighter Wing (1995 1996)
- 116th Fighter Group (1992 1995)
- 116th Tactical Fighter Wing (1974 1992)
- 116th Air Transport Wing (1961 1974)
- 116th Fighter Bomber Wing (1950 1961)
- 116th Fighter Group (1946 1950)
- 353d Fighter Group (1942 1945)
- 128th Airborne Command and Control Squadron
- 12th Airborne Command and Control Squadron
- 16th Airborne Command and Control Squadron
- 330th Combat Training Squadron
- 116th Operations Support Squadron
- 116th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
- 116th Maintenance Operations Squadron
- 202nd Engineering Installation Squadron
- 116th Communications Squadron
- 116th Computer Systems Squadron
- 116th Maintenance Squadron
- 116th Logistics Readiness Squadron
- 129th Combat Training Squadron (Stood up 15 Oct 11)
- Robins AFB, Georgia (1995 present)
- Dobbins ARB, Georgia (1950 1995)
- E-8C Joint STARS (2002 present)
- B-1B Lancer (1996 2002)
- F-15A/B Eagle (1986 1995)
- F-4D Phantom II (1983 1986)
- F-105G Thunderchief (1979 1983)
- F-100D Super Sabre (1973 1979)
- C-124C Globemaster II (1966 1973)
- C-97G Stratocruiser (196? 1966)
- C-97F Stratocruiser (1961-196?)
- F-86L Sabre (1960 1961)
- F-84F Thunderstreak (1955 1960)
- F-84D Thunderjet (1952 1955)
- F-51 Mustang (1950 1952)
- USAF Organizations in the Korean War
- 314th Air Division
- Cross, Graham Edward. Jonah's Feet are Dry: The Experience of the 353rd Fighter Group During WWII. Hadleigh, Suffolk, UK: Thunderbolt Publishing, 2001. ISBN 0-9541164-0-2.
- Rust, Kenn C. and William N. Hess. The Slybird Group: The 353rd Fighter Group on Escort and Ground Attack Operations. Fallbrook, California: Aero Publishers, Inc., 1968.