On June 10, 1942, Alamogordo Army Airfield was
established six miles west of Alamogordo, New Mexico. Initially designed to support the British
Overseas Training program where the British government hoped to train their aircrews in the skies
of New Mexico far from the interference of German Luftwaffe fighters and bombers. This is why
Alamogordo has its unique runway layout since it was patterned after Royal Air Force bases.
However, on December 7, 1941, the surprise attack launched by Japanese Imperial Forces against the
Pearl Harbor naval base in Hawaii the fate of Alamogordo Army Airfield altered significantly. The
United States Army Air Force recognized the area as an ideal location to train its rapidly
expanding air force. On February 6, 1942, construction began on the airfield with the first
training groups arriving in May 1942.
From 1942 to 1945, Alamogordo Army Air Field served as one of several western training
airfields for groups flying B-17 Flying Fortress', B-24 Liberators, and fighters like the P-47
Thunderbolt. Typically, these groups were stationed at the airfield for approximately six months
while the unit's personnel trained to operate and maintain the aircraft they would take into combat
in the European, Mediterranean, or Pacific Theaters of operations.
After World War II ended the future of the base became uncertain especially when rumors began
circulating around the airfield and the surrounding communities concerning the closure of the site.
These rumors were further fueled by the almost complete cessation of flying operations. However,
after a brief period in a caretaker status and after the Air Force became an independent service in
1947, Air Materiel Command announced it had selected Alamogordo as its primary test and development
site for unmanned aircraft, guided missiles, and other research programs. For the next 25 years the
site, now redesignated as the Holloman Air Development Center, and later the Air Force Missile
Development Center, tested, developed, and launched a wide variety of missiles which included Tiny
Tim, Rascal, V-1 Loon, V-2, XQ-2 Drone, Falcon, Mace, Matador, and Shrike.
On January 13, 1948, Alamogordo Air Base was redesignated as Holloman AFB, in honor of the late
Colonel George V. Holloman, an early pioneer in aircraft automatic landing systems and remotely
In the 1950s and 1960s Holloman AFB became a center for aviation and missile pioneering, discovery,
and development. On December 10, 1954, Lieutenant Colonel (Dr.) John P. Stapp received the nickname
"The Fastest Man Alive" when he rode a rocket propelled test sled named Sonic Wind No. 1 to a
record speed of 632 miles per hour. On August 16, 1960, in another aviation first, Captain Joseph
W. Kittinger Jr. stepped out of an open balloon gondola at 102,800 feet, in an experiment to
evaluate high altitude bailout techniques. Captain Kittinger's jump lasted 13 minutes reaching a
velocity of 614 miles per hour. His historic leap broke four world records: highest open gondola
manned balloon flight, highest balloon flight of any kind, highest
Unoffic ir Base emblem
bailout, and longest free fall. On January 31, 1961, Ham (Holloman Aero-Medical), one of six
chimpanzees selected and trained as flight candidates at the Holloman Aero-Medical laboratory, was
placed in his specially fitted biopack couch and secured inside a Mercury capsule on top of a
Redstone booster. The Mercury/Redstone launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida on a 16 minute 39
second suborbital flight. Ham's capsule completed its suborbital flight, splashing down in the
Atlantic where Ham and his Mercury capsule were safely recovered. What differentiated Ham's mission
from all the other primate flights to this point was that he was an active participant and not
merely a passenger proving that tasks could be accomplished in space. The results from this test
flight led directly to the suborbital flight Alan Shepard made five months later on May 5, 1961
aboard his Mercury capsule named Freedom 7. After Shepard's flight, on November 29, 1961, Enos (Man
in Hebrew), another chimpanzee trained at the Holloman Aero-Medical laboratory, became the first
U.S. specimen launched into orbit. Enos was launched in a Mercury capsule mated to a larger Atlas
booster that completed two orbits around the earth and was safely recovered three hours, 21 minutes
later. This proved that the Mercury/Atlas launch system was safe for human space flight and would
later carry Astronauts Gus Grissom and John Glenn on their historic Mercury spaceflights.
On July 12, 1963, the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing briefly moved to Holloman AFB from Chaumont Air
Base, France where the unit had served as a conventional strike force in Europe. The 366th arrived
in their venerable F-84s, flying them for another two years before converting to the newer F-4
Phantom II in 1965. After the unit completed their transition to the new aircraft the wing moved to
Phan Rang Air Base, South Vietnam in March 1966 to support ongoing combat operations in Vietnam. In
1972, after six years of combat operations the 366th finally returned to the United States and was
reassigned to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho
Two years after the departure of the 366th, on July 1, 1968, the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing arrived
at Holloman AFB after a record setting mass unit move that garnered the 1969 Mackay trophy for the
flawless deployment of 72 F-4D Phantom IIs from Spangdahlem Air Base, West Germany, to Holloman
AFB, New Mexico without a single abort and completing 504 successful air-to-air refuelings on the
5,000 mile trip. The 49th's F-4 Phantom IIs introduced a new era of tactical fighter aircraft
operations and training that would continue for the next three decades. In May 1972, the 49th
deployed their F-4 aircraft and 2,600 personnel to Takhli Air Base, Thailand. During Operation
CONSTANT GUARD, the 49th flew more than 21,000 combat hours over battle zones from An Loc to vital
installations in the Hanoi vicinity. During five months of combat, the wing did not lose any
personnel - a testament to the training and proficiency of all members of the 49th.
In 1977 the 49th transitioned to the Air Force's top air superiority fighter, the F-15. History was
made in February 1980, when two pilots from the 49th flew their F-15s, 6,200 miles in just over 14
hours, establishing a record for the longest flight of a single-seat fighter aircraft. The flights
required six aerial refuelings, thus proving the global reach of the 49th. The 49th again
demonstrated the unit's capabilities in the fall of 1988, winning top honors at the William Tell
air-to-air weapons competition. The wing outscored the wing's closest rival by more than 2,000
points over the course of the competition. The 49th won a variety of awards during William
Tell-1988, including the coveted "Top Gun" for best fighter pilot.
Since 1958 the German Air Force has been training aircrews at various bases throughout the United
States before moving to Holloman AFB, New Mexico, mid 1992 after the closure of George AFB,
California. The German Air Force Tactical Training Center formally activated as a tenant unit at
Holloman AFB on May 1, 1996. The 49th Fighter Wing's 20th Fighter Squadron trained German pilots
and weapon system officers to operate the F-4F Phantom II (German Air Force variant). Additionally,
the 20th conducted the Flight Instructor (IP) and the Fighter Weapons Instructor Course (FWIC) for
the F-4. The German government paid all of the expenses of this program. The 20th Fighter
Squadron was inactivated on December 20, 2004 as the German Air Force transitioned into the Panavia
Tornado. The training program, based on a memorandum of understanding between the two governments
and financed by the German Federal Ministry of Defense, is unique in the way that it allows the
German Air Force to deploy and station their fighter/ground attack aircraft permanently at Holloman
On July 1, 1999 the German Air Force Tactical Training Center at Holloman AFB was redesignated as
the German Air Force Flying Training Center (GAF FTC) which better represented their expanding
training mission. In addition to training German Air Force pilots and weapon system officers to
utilize first the F-4F Phantom II and then the Tornado as an effective weapon system the GAF FTC
also conducted advanced combat tactical training and a Fighter Weapons Instructor Course for the
Tornado. This unique international training program continues to the present day and is expected to
remain here for the foreseeable future.
On May 9, 1992, Holloman AFB once again attracted national and international attention with the
arrival of the Air Force's most technologically advanced aircraft, the F-117A Night Hawk. Seven
years later, from February 21 through July 1, 1999, the 8th and 9th Fighter Squadrons deployed The
49th Fighter Wing's F-117 pilots participated in Operation ALLIED FORCE and attacked some of the
most valuable, and highly protected targets in Serbia . It was during Operation ALLIED FORCE that
the 49th also gained the dubious distinction of being the only unit to lose a stealth fighter to
enemy action. However, even this seeming disaster had profound positive effects on Air Force pilot
survival training and how combat search and rescue operations were conducted. The people, aircraft,
and equipment of the 49th Wing continued to play a key role supporting our allies in conflicts and
humanitarian efforts around the globe. The wing's F- 117s made the first attacks against Iraqi
leadership targets and air defenses on March 19, 2003 during the opening phases of Operation IRAQI
FREEDOM (OIF). The 49th Fighter Wing flew more than 80 missions in support of OIF and deployed
approximately 300 of its airmen to maintain the wing's operations in theater. Other wing units like
the 49th Material Maintenance Groups BEAR (base expeditionary airfield resources) Base unit
supported construction of airfields and temporary living quarters while members of the 49th Civil
Engineering Squadron's explosive ordinance disposal unit assisted with route clearance and the
movement and disposal of unexploded ordinance.
In 2008 the Air Force retired the F-117 to recallable climate controlled storage at their original
base, Tonopah Test Range Airfield, Nevada. With that retirement the mission of the 49th Fighter
Wing returned to air superiority with the arrival of the F-22A Raptor and coincidentally making the
49th Fighter Wing the only active Air Force unit to have operated two different stealth platforms.
On October 23, 2009, the 49th picked up the unique remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) training
mission which trained RPA pilots, sensor operators, and maintenance technicians for the MQ-1
Predator and MQ-9 Reaper. This added these two new aircraft types to the inventory of the 49 Wing
and to the skies over Holloman AFB.
On June 25, 2010, the 49th Fighter Wing was redesignated yet again and became the 49th Wing.
In April 2012, the 7th Fighter Squadron departed on what became the first and longest deployment of
the F-22A Raptor to Southwest Asia in support of contingency operations in and around the Persian
Gulf region. The squadron remained deployed for approximately 10 months finally returning to
Holloman on January 22, 2013.
The 54th Fighter Group activated on March 11, 2014, marking the next chapter in history of Holloman
AFB and the 49th Wing. The 54th Fighter Group, a geographically separated tenant unit at Holloman,
is part of the 56th Fighter Wing at Luke AFB, Arizona which trains F-16 pilots and maintainers.
That training mission will bring an additional 800 personnel to the base as the two training
squadrons of F-16s ramp up their flight and maintenance operations.
On April 8, 2014, the 49th Wing sent the last of its F-22A Raptors to Tyndall AFB, Florida,
completing a long delayed move that centralized F-22 training and consolidated the F-22 Raptor
fleet maximizing available combat aircraft and squadrons for contingencies while enhancing overall
On May 2, 2014, the 7th Fighter Squadron inactivated leaving the 9th Attack Squadron as the only
historically attached 49th Wing unit. Thus with the departure of the F-22 Holloman AFB returned to
its World War II roots as a training base.
Today, Holloman AFB and the 49th Wing continue to serve at the forefront of military operations,
with its MQ-1 and MQ-9 RPA training supplying the Air Forces growing need for
qualified RPA pilots, sensor operators, and maintenance technicians.