A U.S. Air Force facility that serves as a base of operations for military aircraft.
The U.S. Air Force maintains bases in the United States and overseas. Within the continental United States, Texas holds the greatest number of bases with eight, followed by California with six and Florida with five. Overseas, Japan ranks first with three bases, followed by Germany, the United Kingdom, and South Korea, each with two.
Overseas, the bases are operated under bilateral agreements and Status of Forces agreements that reflect the United States’ rights and use.
The total worldwide cost of government investment in the bases (original acquisition plus improvements as of September 30, 2000) was $50,483,479,441. The oldest active Air Force base is the Francis E. Warren Air Force Base (AFB) in Laramie County near Cheyenne, Wyoming, which was established in 1867 by the U.S. Army as Fort D. A. Russell. The name of the 5,866-acre facility was changed by presidential degree to Fort Francis E. Warren in 1930. Warren, a former senator and governor, won the Medal of Honor in the Civil War. The Army relinquished jurisdiction of the facility to the Air Force in 1947. It now serves as home to the Ninetieth Space Wing, part of the Air Force Space Command, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado.
The second oldest installation is Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, which was activated as Ft. Crook in 1896. Dating from 1916, Kelly Air Force Base, Texas, was the oldest continuously active air base in the United States. Some other longstanding Air Force bases are Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, established in June, 1917; Bolling Air Force Base, Washington, D.C., established in October, 1917; Brooks Air Force Base, Texas, established in December, 1917; and Pope Air Force Base, North Carolina, established in 1919.
A recent “designated” base is Buckley Air Force Base, Denver, Colorado, in October, 2000. A recent “established” base is Schriever Air Force Base (formerly Falcon Air Force Base), Colorado Springs, Colorado, named for General Bernard A. Schriever, which was activated in September, 1985, and renamed in June, 1998.
The largest Air Force bases in terms of acreage are Eglin Air Force Base, Florida, located on Choctahatchee Bay a few miles from the Gulf of Mexico near the towns of Fort Walton Beach and Destin. Eglin is the sprawling home of the Air Warfare Center, which covers 463,452 acres. It was activated in 1940 and is named for Lieutenant Colonel Frederick Eglin, who was killed in an air crash near Anniston, Alabama, in 1937.
The largest base in terms of personnel is Lackland Air Force Base, in San Antonio, Texas, with approximately 23,500 military, Department of Defense civilians, and students.
The air bases are controlled by eight different Air Force commands. Two bases, the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Bolling Air Force Base, in the District of Columbia, are considered Direct Reporting Units (DRUs).
Twenty-six Air Force installations were closed and six were realigned as a result of the disposal authorities contained in the Base Closure and Realignment Acts of 1988, 1991, 1993 and 1995, following action by the Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commissions (BRAC).
In addition, there is the Air Force Reserve Command (AFRC) at Robins Air Force Base, in Macon, Georgia. The AFRC was established on February 17, 1997, and is staffed by 173,725 personnel. The Air National Guard, established on September 18, 1947, and composed of 111,633 personnel, is overseen by the National Guard Bureau in the Pentagon but is commanded by the governor in each state or territory and by the commanding general in the District of Columbia. Guard and Reserve units operate from active Air Force bases as well as from commercial airport facilities.
Because those two elements of the nation’s total military force play such an active part in fulfilling day-to-day as well as short- and long-term active duty requirements for the active Air Force, their more than eighty locations also might well be considered bases. For example, the Air Guard provides 100 percent of the Air Force interceptor force, 9 percent of the B-1B bomber force, 43 percent of the tactical airlift, 27 percent of the air-rescue capability, 30 percent of the tactical fighters, 25 percent of the tactical air support, 41 percent of the KC-135 refueling capability, and 9 percent of the strategic airlift capability, plus provides six aircraft for the Air Force’s special operations missions. On any given day, 95 percent of the reserve units are rated ready for combat. Of its unit-owned aircraft, in times of war or other special needs, 98 percent would be gained by the Air Combat Command or Air Mobility Command.
Cragg, Dan. Guide to Military Installations. Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 1997. A thorough review of U.S. military installations at home and abroad. Crawford, William “Roy,” L. Ann Crawford, R. J. Crawford, and J. J. Caddell. Military Space: Opportunities Around the World. Falls Church, Va.: Military Living, 1998. A listing of military air installations offering space-available flights to military personnel as well as facilities at each base. Evinger, William R. Directory of U.S. Military Bases. 3d ed. Phoenix, Ariz.: Oryx Press, 1998. An excellent directory of all military establishments in the United States and overseas, with information about their history, size, and assigned units.