352d Special Operations Wing

352d Special Operations Wing

Emblem of the 352d Special Operations Group
Active 1944–1945; 1959–1961; 1970–1992; 1992–present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Role Air Commando
Part of Air Force Special Operations Command
Garrison/HQ RAF Mildenhall, Suffolk, England, UK

The 352d Special Operations Wing (352 SOW) is an operational unit of the United States Air Force Special Operations Command currently stationed at RAF Mildenhall, United Kingdom. The unit's heritage dates back to 1944 as an air commando unit.[1][2]

The 352 SOW serves as the focal point for all U.S. Air Force special operations activities throughout the European theater in support of U.S. European Command (USEUCOM), as well as Africa in support of U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) and Southwest Asia and the Middle East in support of U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM). The 352 SOW is prepared to conduct a variety of high priority, low-visibility missions supporting U.S. and allied special operations forces during peacetime, joint operations exercises, and combat operations. It trains and performs special operations primarily in the USEUCOM and USAFRICOM area of operations, including establishing air assault landing zones, controlling close air support by strike aircraft and gunships, and providing trauma care for wounded and injured personnel.

The group's origins date to 1944 as the 2d Air Commando Group. The unit was assigned to Tenth Air Force in India, whose elements operated in Burma flying a mixture of fighters, bombers, transports, military gliders and small planes performing operations behind the Japanese lines, and providing close air support for the British Fourteenth Army in the Burma Campaign.


It is made up of the:[3]


The group's lineage and honors have to be traced not just through its own history, but through the history of three earlier organizations, the 2d Air Commando Group (1944–1945); the 702d Strategic Missile Wing (ICBM-Snark) (1959–1961) and the 39th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery (later Special Operations) Wing (1969–1992).

World War II

The Air Commando Groups were born out of a simple need. That need was to support via light airplanes the evacuation and resupply requirements of British Long Range Penetration (LRP) groups, or Chindits, as they were affectionately called. Carrying the lethal firepower of both bombers and fighters combined with the logistical tentacles of a gamut of transports, gliders, and light aircraft, this organization would reach deep behind enemy lines to do battle.

Formed as the 2d Air Commando Group at Lakeland Army Airfield/Drane Field in Lakeland, Florida on 22 April 1944 and sent to India under Colonel Arthur DeBolt, USAAF. The group trained for operations with North American O-47s, P-51 Mustangs, C-47 Skytrains and L-5 Sentinel aircraft as part of Third Air Force and in addition to operations at Drane Field, also trained at the Army Air Force School of Applied Tactics at Orlando Army Air Base, Florida.

The 2d Air Commando Group moved to India during October-December 1944 where it was assigned to Tenth Air Force, the troop carrier squadron flying their C-47s to India, arriving by late October; a group advanced echelon arriving in mid-November; and the majority of the group arriving in mid-December. The unit then served in the China-Burma-India Theatre of operations, with the fighter units flying missions over Bangkok, Thailand. Between November 1944 and May 1945 the group dropped supplies to Allied troops who were fighting the Japanese in the Chindwin Valley in Burma; moved Chinese troops from Burma to China; transported men, food, ammunition, and construction equipment to Burma; dropped Gurka paratroops during the assault on Rangoon; provided fighter support for Allied forces crossing the Irrawaddy River in February 1945; struck enemy airfields and transportation facilities; escorted bombers to targets in the vicinity of Rangoon; bombed targets in Thailand; and flew reconnaissance missions.

After May 1945 the fighter squadrons were in training, and in June the group's C-47s were sent to Ledo to move road-building equipment. During June—July, most of its L-5s were turned over to Fourteenth Air Force. Following the collapse of the Japanese in Burma, the 2nd Air Commando Group was sent to Okinawa to prepare for the invasion of Japan, but the war ended. The unit was sent to the United States beginning in October 1945 and disbanded on 12 November 1945.[4]

Cold War

Emblem of the 702d Strategic Missile Wing (1959–1961)

The unit was reestablished in June 1958 and consolidated/merged with the 702d Strategic Missile Wing in July 1958. As the only SM-62 Snark missile wing in the USAF, the 702d Strategic Missile Wing performed intercontinental missile test operations from Patrick AFB, Florida, April–June 1959, and from the Atlantic Missile Range at Cape Canaveral AFS, Florida, c. December 1959 – June 1961. Its operational component was the 556th Missile Squadron. On 27 May 1959, the wing received its first operational missile at Presque Isle AFB, Maine. Ten months later, on 18 March 1960, the Snark missile officially went on alert status. Thirty are known to have been deployed.

The 702d was not declared fully operational until February 1961. In March 1961, President John F. Kennedy declared the Snark "obsolete and of marginal military value" and on 25 June 1961 the 702d was inactivated.

The 702d was redesignated as the 352d Special Operations Wing in July 1985, but remained inactive, redesignating as the 352d Special Operations Group in September 1992 and activating in December of the same year. In August 1998, the 352 SOG consolidated with the 39th Special Operations Wing (39 SOW). The 39 SOW was originally established as the 39th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Wing in 1969 as an Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Service (ARRS) unit under Military Airlift Command (MAC), to include rescue sorties during the Vietnam War from January 1970 until mid-1971, and also provided helicopter support to Strategic Air Command (SAC) intercontinental ballistic missile sites in the United States. After moving to Eglin AFB, Florida in June 1971, the wing assumed responsibility for numerous ARRS rescue detachments in the Western Hemisphere and Europe.

The 39 ARRW redesignated as the 39 SOW at Eglin AFB in 1989 and the unit trained and participated in special operations exercises, as well as continuing to fly rescue sorties. The wing headquarters and one squadron moved to Rhein-Main Air Base, West Germany in May 1989 and became the air component of Special Operations Command Europe (SOCEUR). In May 1990, following the establishment of Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC), the 39 SOW transferred from MAC claimancy to that of AFSOC.

Modern era

Emblem of the 39th Special Operations Wing (1988–1992)

In response to Iraq's invasion of Kuwait on 2 August 1990, the majority of the 39 SOW personnel deployed to Turkey (12–17 January 1991), and operated as part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force (JSOTF) ELUSIVE CONCEPT.

The wing moved to RAF Alconbury, England effective 1 January 1992 and continued to serve as the air component for SOCEUR. In December 1992, the 39 SOW inactivated, replaced by the current 352nd Special Operations Group (352 SOG) and consolidating activities from Rhein-Main AB and RAF Woodbridge. The 352 SOG trained for and performed special operations airland and airdrop missions in the U.S. European Command area of operations, including establishing air assault landing zones, controlling close air support by strike aircraft and gunships, and providing trauma care for wounded and injured personnel. Deployed elements also participated in Operation Provide Comfort II. During the 1990s, the group supported numerous humanitarian and combat operations in Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia, including Operations Provide Promise, DENY FLIGHT, and Allied Force in Yugoslavia, and PROVIDE COMFORT and Northern Watch over northern Iraq. In February 1995, the 352 SOG relocated from RAF Alconbury to its current home of RAF Mildenhall.

The 352 SOG rushed troops to Dubrovnik, Croatia, when an Air Force CT-43A carrying U.S. Commerce Secretary Ron Brown crashed into a mountain. Arriving in a nasty rainstorm, 21 SOS MH-53 Pave Low helicopters inserted the first search-and-rescue teams, followed by a 67 SOS Lockheed MC-130P. RAF Mildenhall crews remained on scene until the last body was removed.

In 2002, the 352 SOG took part in Operation Autumn Return, the non-combatant evacuation of American citizens from Abidjan, Cote d'Ivoire.[5]

Today, the 352 SOW develops and implements peacetime and wartime contingency plans to effectively use fixed wing, helicopter, and personnel assets to conduct infiltration, exfiltration, and resupply of U.S. and allied special operations forces. The 352d was upgraded to wing status in March 2015 with an anticipated move to Spangdahlem Air Base Germany in 2017, with the planned closure of RAF Mildenhall. [6]


Activated on 22 April 1944
Inactivated on 12 November 1945
Disestablished on 8 October 1948
Established on 17 June 1958
Activated on 1 January 1959
Discontinued, and inactivated on 25 June 1961
Activated on 1 December 1992
Established as the 39th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Wing on 20 October 1969
Activated on 1 January 1970
Redesignated as 39th Special Operations Wing on 1 March 1988
Inactivated on 1 December 1992
Activated on 1 December 1992


  • III Fighter Command, 22 April 1944
  • Army Air Forces, India-Burma Theater, c. 12 November 1944
  • Tenth Air Force, 10 July 1945
  • Army Air Forces, India-Burma Theater, c. 18 August–October 1945



Aircraft and missiles

World War II

Cold War

Modern era


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

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