27th Special Operations Wing

27th Special Operations Wing
Active 1947–present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Role Special Operations
Part of U.S. Special Operations Command
Air Force Special Operations Command
Garrison/HQ Cannon Air Force Base
Decorations DUC
Albert M. "Buck" Elton II
Lance L. Smith
Edwin A. Doss
Units, people and aircraft of the 27th Special Operations Wing

The 27th Special Operations Wing (27 SOW) is a wing of the United States Air Force stationed at Cannon Air Force Base, New Mexico. It is assigned to the Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).

The mission of the 27 SOW includes infiltration, exfiltration and resupply of special operations forces; air refueling of special operations rotary wing and tiltrotor aircraft; and precision fire support. These capabilities support a variety of special operations missions including direct action, unconventional warfare, special reconnaissance, counter-terrorism, personnel recovery, psychological operations and information operations.

The 27 SOW also is responsible for the Melrose Range, an air training range near the neighboring town of Melrose, New Mexico.

The Wing's origins date to 1939 as the 27th Bombardment Group. The group fought in the Pacific Ocean and Mediterranean, Middle East and African theatres. Its ground personnel fought as infantry in the 1941–1942 Battle of Bataan with the survivors being forced to march as prisoners in the Bataan Death March. Its air echelon went on to be awarded five Distinguished Unit Citations and a Philippine Presidential Unit Citation. The Airmen of the 27th were among the most decorated USAAF units of the war. The 27th Special Operations Group carries the lineage and history of its highly decorated World War II predecessor unit.

The commander of the 27th Special Operations Wing is Colonel Benjamin Maitre.


3d Special Operations Squadron (3 SOS) - MQ-1 Predator
12th Special Operations Squadron (12 SOS) - MQ-9 Reaper
16th Special Operations Squadron (16 SOS) - AC-130H Spectre
20th Special Operations Squadron (20 SOS) - CV-22A Osprey
26th Special Tactics Squadron
27th Special Operations Support Squadron (27 SOSS)
33d Special Operations Squadron (33 SOS) - MQ-9 Reaper
73d Special Operations Squadron (73 SOS) - AC-130W Stinger II
318th Special Operations Squadron (318 SOS) - PC-12
522d Special Operations Squadron (522 SOS) - MC-130J Commando II
524th Special Operations Squadron (524th SOS) - C-146A
551st Special Operations Squadron (551st SOS) - Formal Training Unit (FTU) for AC-130H, AC-130W, MC-130J, CV-22A
Det. 1, 25th Intelligence Squadron (Det 1 25 IS)
27th Special Operations Logistics Readiness Squadron
27th Special Operations Force Support Squadron
27th Special Operations Civil Engineer Squadron
27th Special Operations Contracting Squadron
27th Special Operations Security Forces Squadron
27th Special Operations Communications Squadron
27th Special Operations Maintenance Squadron (27 SOAMXS)
27th Special Operations Aircraft Maintenance Squadron
27th Special Operations Equipment Maintenance Squadron
27th Special Operations Component Maintenance Squadron
27th Special Operations Medical Operations Sq
27th Special Operations Aerospace Medicine Sq
27th Special Operations Medical Support Sq


Postwar era

Established as 27 Fighter Wing on 28 July 1947 at Kearney AAF, Nebraska with the 27th Fighter Group as its operational component. Fighter Squadrons of the 27th were the 522nd, 523rd and 524th.

The 27th was initially equipped with the North American P-51D Mustang, and in 1948 was upgraded to the new North American F-82E Twin Mustang. In June 1948 the designation "P" for pursuit was changed to "F" for fighter. Subsequently, all P-51s were redesignated F-51s. The mission of the 27th Fighter Wing was to fly long-range escort missions for SAC Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers. With the arrival of the F-82s, the older F-51s were sent to Air National Guard units.

F-82Es 46-294 and 46-296 about 1948 with external tanks

The first production F-82Es reached the 27th in early 1948, and almost immediately the group was deployed to McChord AFB, Washington, in June where its squadrons stood on alert on a secondary air defense mission due to heightened tensions over the Berlin Airlift. It was also believed that the 27th would launch an escort mission, presumably to the Soviet Union, if conflict broke out in Europe. From McChord, the group flew its Twin Mustangs on weather reconnaissance missions over the northwest Pacific, but problems were encountered with their fuel tanks. Decommissioned F-61 Black Widow external tanks were found at Hamilton AFB, California that could be modified for the F-82 which were fitted on the pylons of the Twin Mustang that solved the problem. With a reduction in tensions, the 27th returned to its home base in Nebraska during September where the unit settled down to transition flying with their aircraft.[1]

Four F-82s were deployed to Alaska from McChord where the pilots provided transition training to the 449th Fighter (All Weather) Squadron which used Twin Mustangs in the air defense mission. They remained in Alaska for about 45 days, returning to rejoin the rest of the group at the beginning of November 1948.[1]

In January 1949, Eighth Air Force planned a large celebration at Carswell AFB. All of its assigned units were to participate in a coordinated flyover. Most of SAC's bombers were to participate, along with SAC's only "Long Range" fighter group, the 27th. The weather in Nebraska in January that year was especially horrible, with most airports in the Midwest weathered in the day of the display. At Kearney AFB, the base was socked-in with a blizzard. Nevertheless, the crews had an early morning mission briefing, the aircraft in the hangars were preflighted and prepared for the flyover mission. Paths were cut though the snow for the aircraft to taxi and somehow the F-82s got airborne, with the 27th's Twin Mustangs joining up with SAC bombers over Oklahoma on schedule. The flyover by the Twin Mustangs was a tremendous success, with SAC leadership being amazed that the F-82 was truly an "all weather" aircraft and the 27th being able to carry out their mission despite the weather.[1]

In early 1949, the 27th began carrying out long-range escort profile missions. Flights to Puerto Rico, Mexico, the Bahamas and nonstop to Washington D.C were carried out. For President Truman's 1949 inauguration, the 27th FEW launched 48 aircraft to fly in review, along with several other fighter units, in formation down Pennsylvania Avenue. Another flyover over the newly -dedicated Idlewild Airport in New York City soon followed, with the aircraft flying non-stop from Kearney AFB.[1]

With the tight defense budgets in the late 1940s, the decision was made by Strategic Air Command decided to close Kearney AFB in 1949. The 27th Fighter Wing was transferred to Bergstrom AFB Texas on 16 March.

At Bergstrom, the 27th transitioned to jet aircraft with Republic Aviation F-84E Thunderjet in 1950, and was redesignated the 27th Fighter-Escort Wing on 1 February. The wing won the Mackay Trophy for successful deployment of 90 F-84s from Bergstrom AFB, to Furstenfeldbruck Air Base West Germany, in September 1950, via Labrador, Greenland, Iceland, and England. This was the Second (the first being the 20th FG flying 64 F-84Ds on 20 July 1950 during Operation "READY" from Shaw AB, SC to RAF Manston, UK) long-range mass flight of jet aircraft in aviation history.

Korean War

See 27th Fighter-Escort Group for more information about the wing's combat duties during the Korean War
: 27th Fighter-Escort Wing F-84Gs at Hickam AFB, October 1952.

The Korean War began in June 1950 and by November the wing was transferred with the advance echelon landing at Taegu AB, South Korea on 5 December and the rear echelon at Itazuke AB, Japan on 1 December. Combat operations in support of the UN ground forces began immediately and continued after the advance echelon was transferred to Itazuke in late January 1951.

The 27th Fighter Escort Wing was one of the first F-84 units to see combat action in Korea and earned numerous honors and awards for their combat record during the Korean War. The 27th flew missions in support of ground forces, earning another DUC for missions between 26 January and 21 April 1951. Among these missions was close support of the largest paratroop landing in the Korean War and escort for B-29 Superfortress bombers on raids over North Korea, including air-to-air combat with enemy MiG-15 fighters.

For its Korean War service, the 27th Fighter-Escort Wing received the Distinguished Unit Citation, covering the period of 26 January through 21 April 1951, for their actions in Korea.

The 27th was relieved of its duties supporting U.N. forces in Korea and returned to Bergstrom on 31 July 1951. Re-equipped with F-84G Thunderjets, the wing redeployed to Misawa Air Base, Japan, for a tour in providing air defense of the Japanese home islands. This mission made stops at Travis AFB, California; Hickam AFB, Hawaii Territory, and Midway Island. At Misawa, the 27th relieved the 31st FEW which had been performing the air defense mission. The 27th was itself relieved at Misawa on 13 February 1953 by the 508th Strategic Fighter Wing and reutnred to Bergstrom where they were re-equipped with new F-84F Thunderstreaks.

Cold War

On 20 January 1953 the wing was redesignated as the 27th Strategic Fighter Wing. From June 1953 – June 1957 the 27th had air refueling as an additional mission, with the 27th Air Refueling Squadron flying the KB-29P aerial tanker.

Wing pilot Capt Forrest W. Wilson, in an F-84G, won the Allison Trophy jet aircraft race of the National Aircraft Show at Dayton, Ohio, on 6 September 1953, flying the 110.3-mile course at an average speed of 537.802 mph in 12:17.2 minutes.

Due to the phasing out of the B-50 and B-36 and the arrival of the B-47 Stratojet and B-52 Stratofortress into the SAC inventory, SAC began to phase out its strategic fighter program in 1956. It was felt that the long-range fighter escorts were no longer necessary for the new fast jet bombers. On 1 July 1957, the 27th was redesigned the 27th Fighter-Bomber Wing and was assigned to Tactical Air Command along with Bergstrom AFB.

Under TAC, the Wing was assigned to the Twelfth Air Force was re-equipped with the new McDonnell F-101A Voodoo. Consisting of the 481st, 522nd, and 523rd Fighter-Bomber squadrons, the mission of the 27th FBW was to deliver a centerline nuclear bomb to a target. The F-101A was capable of little else and although designated as a fighter aircraft, it had poor aerial combat capabilities and would not have fared well in any air-to-air combat against enemy aircraft. Maj Adrian E. Drew, wing F-101 project officer, broke the world speed record on 12 December 1957 when he flew an F-101A over a Mojave Desert course at 1,212.8 mph in one direction and 1,207.5 mph in the opposite direction.

HQ USAF redesignated the wing the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing on 1 July 1958 as part of a worldwide naming change. On 18 February 1959, the 27th was inactivated, as SAC reacquired Bergstrom as a B-52/KC-135 base. The 27th was immediately transferred and reactivated at Cannon AFB, New Mexico, being equipped with the North American F-100 "Super Sabre", replacing the 312th Tactical Fighter Wing.

Vietnam War

North American F-100F-10-NA Super Sabre Serial 56-3867 of the 524th TFS in Vietnam-Era camouflage.

During the Vietnam War, the 27th TFW deployed individual F-100 squadrons to Southeast Asia, which included Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.

Units from Cannon deployed the first F-100 squadron to Thailand in 1962–1963, and South Vietnam in 1964. Beginning in 1964 and throughout the Vietnam War years squadrons from the 27th TFW were deployed and detached to Air Force units and bases around the world. The 27th did not recombine as a cohesive wing until 1973.

In December 1965, with most of its operational squadrons deployed, the mission of the 27th changed from a Tactical Fighter Wing to a replacement training unit. The 27th Tactical Fighter Wing became the largest such unit in TAC. The 4585th Student Squadron was initially activated on 1 January 1966 to perform this mission. Later, the 4429th Combat Crew Training Squadron was activated on 15 May 1968 as a 2nd training squadron, replacing the deployed 523rd TFS.

Many F-100 pilots that flew in the Vietnam War were trained at Cannon AFB. From Cannon, the aircrews were transferred to the F-100 bases in South Vietnam Phù Cát Air Base (37th TFW); Phan Rang AB (35th TFW) and Tuy Hoa AB (31st TFW).

The 27th also trained forward air controllers (FACs) and air liaison officers (ALOs) [2] in Lockheed T-33 Shooting Stars from 1969 to 1976. The 4468 Tac Control Squadron initially performed this mission. In 1969, the 4468th was replaced by the 609th Tactical Control Squadron. The 609th TCS operated the Westinghouse AN/TPS-43 long-range, air surveillance radar as its primary mission equipment. The AN/TPS-43 is a transportable 3-dimensional air search radar produced in the United States originally by Westinghouse Defense and Electronic Division, which was later purchased by Northrop-Grumman. The 609th TCS was inactivated on 15 June 1976.

Post-Vietnam era

27th TFW General Dynamics F-111F Serial 72-1451 in the early 1990s
429th ECS General Dynamics EF-111A Ravens being retired at Davis-Monthan AFB Arizona upon arrival at AMARC, 1 April 1988. Serials 67-052 and 66-050 identifiable.

With the withdrawal of the F-100 from Vietnam in 1970, and the phaseout of the aircraft from the active Air Force inventory, the 27th TFW began conversion to the General Dynamics F-111D "Aardvark".

In July 1969, on loan from Nellis AFB Nevada, 10 F-111As facilitated training while the wing waited for its own planes. F-111Es began arriving in October 1969, but their stay was short. In the summer of 1971 wing aircrews ferried the last of them to RAF Upper Heyford England. In 1971, the 27th TFW received the first of its F-111Ds, and in July 1972, the last operational active duty Air Force F-100s were transferred from the 27th TFW to the Air National Guard.

The mission of the 27th TFW expanded in 1988 as a result of decisions made by the Defense Department Base Realignment and Closure Commission (BRAC) when the 27th was equipped with the F-111G. (The "G" model was a conversion of the SAC FB-111A all-weather strategic bombing version of the F-111, which was originally intended as an interim successor to the Boeing B-52 Stratofortress and Convair B-58 Hustler.) These aircraft, less their nuclear delivery capability, were transferred to Cannon following the disbandment of SAC's 509th Bomb Wing at Pease AFB New Hampshire and the 380th Bomb Wing at Plattsburgh AFB, New York.

The F-111Gs were used primarily for training, but was scheduled to be supplanted in the training role by the F-111E. This made the F-111G surplus to USAF requirements, and the F-111G began to be transferred to AMARC for storage in 1991 with the arrival of the "E" models with the 428th TFTS. The last G model was sent to AMARC in 1993.

Personnel of the 27th TFW played a role during Operation Desert Shield/Storm. Aircrews and aircraft of the 27th did not deploy to the region, but support personnel and a combat support group element of the wing's 27th Combat Support Group, commanded by Colonel David Benson, deployed to Taif. On 16 January 1991, when the U.S. led coalition force initiated the Desert Storm air campaign against Iraq, the 27th TFW had 325 personnel serving in the Persian Gulf region in combat support roles.

1990s to today

On 1 November 1991, the 27 TFW was re-designated the 27th Fighter Wing as part of an Air Force-wide reorganization. As part of the implentation of the "Objective Wing" concept adapted by the Air Force The 27th Operations Group was bestowed the lineage, honors and history of its predecessor history and honors of the 27 Tactical Fighter Group and its predecessor units. The 27 OG took control of the wings fighter squadrons upon activation.

In June 1992, the 27 FW became part of a new major command Air Combat Command. ACC was created when SAC, TAC, and the Military Airlift Command merged to form two commands, ACC and the Air Mobility Command.

After enemy attacks on New York and Washington in 2001, the wing deployed personnel and aircraft globally in operations associated with the War on Terror. On 11 September 2001 the day terrorists attacked the World Trade Center and The Pentagon, aircraft from 522nd FS, 523rd FS and 524th FS went on alert. Less than two weeks after the 9/11 attacks the 27 Civil Engineer Squadron deployed members to build a bare base in direct support of Operation Infinite Justice later changed to Operation Enduring Freedom. This made the 27th one of the first bases to take the fight to the enemy. In December 2002, the 524 FS deployed to Kuwait and participated in the 2003 invasion of Iraq, dropping nearly a million pounds of precision guided munitions, more than any other F-16 Block 40 squadron in history.

On 13 May 2005, the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) Commission recommended that Cannon Air Force Base be closed. However, on 25 August 2005, the BRAC Commission overturned the recommendation that Cannon AFB be closed, but upheld the withdrawal of the base's F-16 fighter aircraft. The Air Force had until 31 December 2009 to come up with a new use for Cannon AFB, otherwise the base would be closed in 2010. Cannon AFB attempted to reopen a rejected EIS alternative, by substituting an Environmental Assessment. Comments were accepted through 4 October 2010.

On 20 June 2006, it was announced that Cannon AFB would transfer from Air Combat Command and become an Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC) installation. Initial word was that the 16th Special Operations Wing would transfer from Hurlburt Field, Florida. However, it was later decided that the 27th Fighter Wing would transfer from ACC to AFSOC and become the 27th Special Operations Wing. This action would entail expanding and realigning some aspects of both the 16th Special Operations Wing and Air Force Special Operations Command, also headquartered at Hurlburt Field. This designation meant that the base would receive new aircraft to replace the F-16s lost in the BRAC realignment. Jurisdiction was formally transferred to AFSOC on 1 October 2007.

New airframes, including the CV-22A Osprey, were assigned to the 27 SOW at Cannon. Other aircraft included the AC-130H Spectre gunship, the MC-130J Commando II, the PC-12, the C-146A and various remotely piloted aircraft (RPA).


See 27th Special Operations Group for additional history and lineage information


Organized on 15 August 1947
Redesignated: 27th Fighter-Escort Wing on 1 February 1950
Redesignated: 27th Strategic Fighter Wing on 20 January 1953
Redesignated: 27th Fighter-Bomber Wing on 1 July 1957
Redesignated: 27th Tactical Fighter Wing on 1 July 1958
Redesignated: 27th Fighter Wing on 1 October 1991
Redesignated: 27th Special Operations Wing on 1 October 2007.


Attached to Far East Air Forces, 19–29 November 1950
Attached to Fifth Air Force, 30 November 1950 – 15 July 1951
Attached to Far East Air Forces, 6–13 October 1952
Attached to 39th Air Division [Defense], 13 October 1952-c. 13 February 1953
Attached to 7th Air Division, 7 May-17 August 1955
Attached to 834th Air Division, 15 July 1958 – 18 February 1959

Attached to 3 Air Division [Provisional], 21 October-1 December 1962


Dornier C-146A of the 524th Special Operations Squadron






See also


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

External links

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