Under New Command fOR MORE THAN FORTY years Strategic Air Command was the sole operator of the US Air Forces fleet of bombers and the majority of its tankers. However on June 1, 1992 SAC, along with Military Airlift Command (MAC) and Tactical Air Command (TAC) were replaced by two new organisations. Air Combat Command (ACC) and Air Mobility Command (AMC) were formed that day to help streamline USAF operations as the twenty first century approaches. ACC is based broadly along the lines of TAC even to me extent of having its headquarters located in the former Tactical Air Command building at Langley AFB, Virginia. AMC operates from Scott AFB, Illinois from the building previously housing the headquarters of MAC.

All aircraft formerly assigned to MAC, SAC and TAC and which are home based in the continental United States have been transferred to one of the two new Commands, resulting in new markings and colour schemes being applied. Whereas ACC has assumed virtually all of TAC’s assets and AMC has been given the majority of MAC’s aircraft types, the 1,000 plus bombers and tankers of SAC have been divided between the two organisations.

As its title suggests Air Combat Command has the primary role of strike and air defence with an area of responsibility encompassing not just the United States but also an overseas commitment with a rapid reaction force to deploy at short notice to bolster US troops in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific region. The Command has become the sole operator of all SAC’s bombers and reconnaissance assets plus approximately one fifth of its tankers, the latter in six Air Refueling Squadrons. The remainder of SAC’s tankers have been reassigned to AMC.

Those SAC aircraft which have joined ACC, including the B-1B Lancer, B-52G and H models of the Strotofortress, plus the KC-135A and Q versions of the Stratotanker are in the process of applying two letter identification tail codes. In addition their serial presentation has changed to the tactical style with the fiscal year followed by the last three, e.g. KC-135Q 59-1471 presented as 91471 by SAC, but as 59-471 with ACC.

Fourteen units have had tail codes allocated with the majority physically applying them to all of their aircraft. The majority of tail codes are an abbreviation of the home base or the state in which the base is located, although there are, of course, exceptions to this rule. The 9th Reconnaissance Wing has applied tail code ‘BB’ to its KC-135Qs to indicate Beale Bandits. Similarly code ‘OZ’ has been assigned to the B-lBs of the 384th BW based at McConnell AFB, Kansas as the story of the Wizard of Oz was set in the state of Kansas.

Even the reconnaissance community hove begun displaying their allocated code with a U-2R seen during mid August wearing ‘BB’ on the tail and at least one RC-135 has been reported wearing ‘OF’, as depicted in the photo on the next page. The only ACC bomber unit which has not opted for this form of unit identity is the 379th BW which has elected to retain their world war two style marking consisting of a large letter ‘K’ in a triangle. The formation of the first rapid response unit is taking place at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho under the 366th Wing with an initial composition of F-l5s and F-l6s. However a single B-52G squadron is being added although this will initially be located at Castle AFB, California. The B-52s assigned to this squadron will display tail code ‘MO’ rather than ‘CA’ of the resident 93rd Wina.

On June 1, 1992 Air Mobility Command took control of the six Air Refueling Wings of the 15th Air Force along with their eleven squadrons of KC-lOAs and KC-135A, Q and R models. However the Command has also become responsible for ten squadrons of tankers whose parent Wing has joined ACC, with a number of Air Refueling Groups formed by AMC to enable the KC-1 Os and KC-135s to operate independently.

At Fairchild AFB, for example, the 92nd Bombardment Wing has the 325th Bombardment Squadron operating the B-52H under ACC control, while the two KC-135R squadrons of the 43rd and 92nd ARSs, have joined AMC with the 453rd ARG formed to administer activities locally.

Air Mobility Command has squadrons located at eighteen bases, twelve of which are ACC facilities. Therefore a system of Groups has been established to liaise between the parent Wing and the Air Refueling Squadrons. The tenant tanker units with a single ARS in residence are responsible to an Operations Group established at Wing HQ. However those tenants with two ARSs have an Air Refueling Group and an Operations Group in residence at the same location as the tanker aircraft themselves.

For example, the 43rd ARW at Malmstrom AFB, Montana has the 43rd Operations Group located at Wing HQ to control the ARSs at Malmstrom (91st ARS), Ellsworth AFB (28th ARS) and Minot AFB (906th ARS). In addition the same Wing also has the 453rd ARG/453rd Ops Group at Fairchild AFB to oversee the 43rd and 92nd ARSs.

There is, of course, always an exception to the rule, with the 340th ARW at Altus AFB which has the 340th Ops Gp at Wing HQ and the 398th ARG/398th Ops Group at Castle AFB to administer the single squadron of KC-135s of the 93rd ARS.

AMC KC-135s have had the Command emblem applied on both sides of the nose, while their KC-1 Os have gradually seen the logo ‘AMC’ appear on the tail particularly on their white and mid grey examples. AMC has adopted a revised version of the ‘MAC band’ which was so familiar during the 1960s and ’70s.

Whereas the former version was a broad blue stripe outlined in yellow, the AMC band is a simplified version with just a pair of parallel stripes positioned midway across the tail. The abbreviation AMC has been positioned above the band rather than inside it. This may indicate the Command will permit elaborate designs within the band, as a 60th AW C-5A has been observed with the addition of a black section containing three white chevrons alongside Travis’ in gold I

Nine months before its demise, SAC implemented a change in the designation of its units which were equipped with bombers and tankers. These units became simply Wings with the role prefix eliminated. However following the transfer to ACC, those units which lost their tankers to ACM reverted to Bombardment Wing status. The two Reconnaissance Wings have also followed a similar alteration in title, even though both units still perform diverse roles.

Prior to the formation of the two new Commands the Air Force hod decided to drop the ultra-low visibility European One colour scheme on transport, bombers and tankers in favour of a mid grey pattern. Freshly painted aircraft have gradually emerged from the Air Logistics Center in the new colour scheme following major overhaul including the B-l, B-52, C-5, C-130, C-l41, KC-10 and KC-135. However the process of repainting more than 2,000 large aircraft in the new colour scheme will take several years to accomplish, and is likely to have been overtaken by a further change long before completion.

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