Strategic Air Command (1946-1992) was established as a Major Command of the United States Air Force in the aftermath of World War II on 21 March 1946.
With the end of fighting in the Korean War, President Eisenhower, who had taken office in January 1953, called for a "new look" at national defense. The result: a greater reliance on nuclear weapons and air power to deter war. His administration chose to invest in the Air Force, especially Strategic Air Command. During the Cold War, SAC became the most powerful air deterrent force to aggression ever created. Responsible for two "legs" of the defensive nuclear triad of the United States during the Cold War, over a million men and women served in SAC, its forces on alert 24 hours a day, every day, with a mission to preserve the peace and deter any aggressor nation from attacking the United States and its allies.
On 1 June 1992, when Strategic Air Command stood down, the Cold War which existed during much of its operational life was over, not by combat, but by consensus. SAC performed its mission not by using its tremendous force, but by its presence.
SAC had a myriad of wing types over its 46 year existence. These are the common abbreviations:
- ABW=Air Base Wing
- ANG=Air National Guard
- ATRW=Aerospace Reconnaissance Technical Wing
- ARW=Air Refueling Wing
- BG=Bombardment Group
- BW=Bomb Wing
- CCTW=Combat Crew Training Wing
- FIW=Fighter Interceptor Wing
- FW=Fighter Wing
- MW=Missile Wing
- RW=Reconnaissance Wing
- SAW=Strategic Aerospace Wing
- SFW=Strategic Fighter Wing
- SMW=Strategic Missile Wing
- SRW=Strategic Reconnaissance Wing
- SW=Strategic Wing
- SWW=Strategic Weapons Wing
- T&TW=Tactical and Training Wing
- TTW=Training and Testing Wing
Below are the emblems of most Strategic Air Command major units. Displayed in hierarchical precedence, then by numerical designation. Combat Groups are shown only for the 1946/1947 United States Army Air Forces units assigned to SAC.
Numbered Air ForcesEdit
Numbered Air Forces (NAF) were the major organizational unit of SAC in the organizational pyramid, reporting to HQ Strategic Air Command. Geographically-oriented, Eighth Air Force exercised command and control generally over SAC units east of the Mississippi River, and Fifteenth Air Force to the west. This changed in 1949 when Second Air Force was activated and controlled SAC units in the Southeast and the regional areas became less defined over the years. In addition to the Contiguous United States (CONUS), the NAF controlled various SAC overseas units. Eighth AF controlled units assigned to Newfoundland and Labrador in Canada, also units in Greenland and Europe; Fifteenth AF controlled units in Alaska and the Pacific; Second AF controlled units in Puetro Rico. Beginning in 1957, Sixteenth Air Force controlled SAC units deployed to North Africa and Europe at forward deployed REFLEX bases until its reassignment to USAFE in 1966. Twentieth Air Force was activated in 1991 to directly control ICBM Missile Wings.
Divisions were an intermediate command echelon of SAC, generally controlling groups of two or more combat wings and reported to their assigned NAF. Depending upon their mission, they could control groups of Aircraft (Air); ICBM Missile Wings (Missile) or a mixture (Strategic Aerospace). Divisions were also formed grouping wings of specific weapons systems (ex: B-47; B-52; Atlas ICBM), being activated or inactivated as these weapons systems were activated or retired over time, and redesignated as their component wings changed equipment or themselves were activated or inactivated.
Combat Wings in SAC were the primary level of command which were designed to engage in combat operations. Wings were structured to fulfill a mission from a specific base, and contain a headquarters, combat squadrons and various support groups and squadrons. In SAC they primarily reported to the Division level, but could and did report to Numbered Air Forces, and in some cases, directly to Headquarters SAC. Wings were designated by a combination of a number and weapons system or other identifier, the abbreviations listed above.
SAC had two types of wings assigned.
- Air Force-controlled (AFCON) organizations with a continuing lineage and history. Numbered and contain from one to three digits in the numerical part of their designation.
- Temporary major command-controlled (MAJCON) organizations without a continuing lineage or history. Numbered and contain four digits in the numerical part of their designation. Many of the SAC MAJCON wings were inactivated and replaced by AFCON wings.
STRATEGIC AIR COMMAND SUPPORT GROUPS (1950's - 1992)Edit
USAAF Combat GroupsEdit
SAC was established in March 1946, 18 months before the United States Air Force became a separate branch of the United States military. At that time, the Army Air Force Air Combat Group was the primary level of command which were designed to engage in combat operations. After the establishment of the USAF in September 1947, combat groups were assigned to a new level of command, the "Wing" as a subordinate unit. By 1952, most combat groups were inactivated, and the individual combat squadrons were assigned directly to the Wing Commander.
Most group emblems are presented, along with the date of assignment to SAC.
Note: * One of the initial ten bomb groups assigned to Strategic Air Command upon its activation.