Holloman Air Force Base
(an informal history)

    What would eventually become Holloman Air Force Base began life as Alamogordo Army Air Field on Jun 10, 1942..  The base's original purpose had been to provide a location for the British Overseas Training Program.  With America's entry into World War Two those plans were scrapped and Alamogordo AAF became a training field for B-17 and B-24 air crews.  Nineteen Bomb Groups and one Fighter Group would eventually cycle through AAAF before the end of hostilities.  The future of the field was in doubt after the end of the war until  it was announced that Air Material Command would use the area for  research and development.  This is one of the missions that has continued into the present era.

    With the formation of the United States Air Force it was not too long before Alamogordo Army Air Field would get a new name and that happened on January 13, 1948 when the field was renamed Holloman Air Force Base  in honor of Col. George Vernon Holloman.  Col. Holloman had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for work for conducting the first instrument only landing of an aircraft.  Tragically he was killed in the crash of a B-17 on the island of Formosa while enroute from China to the Philippines. Col. Holloman had been a leader in the field of guided missile research and it was a fitting name for a base that has been at the forefront of missile development ever since.  Some of the numerous missiles and rockets tested at Holloman included airborne systems like the  AIM-120 AMRAAM and ground based missiles like the SM-62 Snark.  In the case of the Snark development suffered when testing was moved to the Atlantic Missile Range.  With Holloman's close proximity to White Sands Missile Range and Fort Bliss, the base played an important role in the development of the Army's MIM-104 Patriot missile system.

    Holloman probably first came to the public's awareness with L. Col. John Stapps  rocket sled ride on December 10, 1954 when he sped along at 632 miles per hour on tracks that would provide for a good deal of testing over the years.  Holloman was also the launching point of Project MOGUL balloons that might have been the basis for the 1947 "Roswell Incident".

    The official Holloman AFB web site provides a good synopsis:

On June 10, 1942, an event occurred that permanently changed the face of the Tularosa Basin -- Alamogordo Army Air Field was established at a site six miles west of Alamogordo, New Mexico. Initial plans called for the base to serve as the center for the British Overseas Training program; the British hoped to be able to train their aircrews over the open New Mexico skies. However, everything changed when the Japanese launched a surprise attack against the Hawaiian Islands on December 7, 1941. The British decided to no longer pursue its overseas training program, and the United States military saw the location as an opportunity to train its own growing military. Construction began at the airfield on February 6, 1942 and forces began to move in on May 14, 1942.

    From 1942-1945, Alamogordo Army Air Field served as the training grounds for over 20 different groups, flying primarily B-17s, B-24s, and B-29s. Typically, these groups served at the airfield for about six months, training their personnel before heading to combat in either the Pacific or European Theater. The 450th Bombardment Group was one of the many to cut its teeth at Alamogordo. After training, the group went on to serve in nearly every major combat operation in Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, and the Balkans. During their combat service, the 450th garnered two distinguished unit citations and 11 campaign credits.

    After World War II, the future of the base was uncertain. In fact, rumors spread concerning the closure of the site, fueled by the fact that most operations had ceased. However, in 1947, a new era began when Air Materiel Command announced the air field would be its primary site for the testing and development of pilot less aircraft, guided missiles, and other research programs. For the next 25 years the site, which became known as the Holloman Air Development Center, and later the Air Force Missile Development Center, launched many missiles including Tiny Tim (the first Army rocket), Rascal, V-2, XQ-2 Drone, Falcon, MACE, Matador, and Shrike.

    On January 13, 1948 the Alamogordo installation was renamed Holloman Air Force Base, in honor of the late Col. George V. Holloman, a pioneer in guided missile research. 

    Holloman Air Force Base wrote its name into the annals of American history in the 1950s and 1960s. On December 10, 1954, Lt. Col. (Dr.) John P. Stapp received the nickname "The Fastest Man Alive" when he rode a rocket propelled test sled, Sonic Wind No. 1, to a speed of 632 miles per hour. Additionally, Captain Joseph W. Kittinger Jr. stepped out of an open balloon gondola at 102,800 feet on August 16, 1960, in an attempt to evaluate techniques of high altitude bailout. Capt. Kittinger's jump lasted 13 minutes reaching a velocity of 614 miles per hour. That jump broke four world records: highest open gondola manned balloon flight, highest balloon flight of any kind, highest bailout, and longest free fall. A final noteworthy event occurred on November 29, 1961, when ENOS, a chimpanzee trained at Holloman's HAM facility (Holloman Aero-Medical laboratory), was the first U.S. specimen launched into orbit. ENOS was launched in a Mercury-Atlas capsule that completed two orbits around the earth and was safely recovered three hours, 21 minutes later.

    On 12 July 1963, after serving at Chaumont Air Base, France as a conventional strike force in Europe, the 366th Tactical Fighter Wing moved to Holloman Air Force Base. The 366th arrived armed with the F-84 and converted to the F-4 in 1965. In support of combat operations in Vietnam, the wing moved to Phan Rang Air Base, South Vietnam in March 1966.

    Another new era began in the Tularosa Basin on 1 July 1968, when the 49th Tactical Fighter Wing arrived at Holloman Air Force Base. The 49th's F-4 Phantom IIs introduced a new era of fighter aircraft training and operations, which continued for the next three decades and until today. In 1977 the 49th transitioned to the F-15 Eagle, the Air Force's top air-to-air weapon. In 1992, Holloman Air Force Base again garnered national attention when the Air Force's most technological fighter, the F-117A Nighthawk made its new home at Holloman.

    The German Air Force Tactical Training Center (GAF TTC) was activated as a tenant unit at Holloman AFB May 1, 1996. This program, based on a memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the two governments and financed by the German Federal Ministry of Defence (FMOD), is unique by the way that it allows the German Air Force to deploy and station their TORNADO A/C permanently at Holloman AFB, NM. With the activation, 300 German military personnel and 12 Tornado aircraft joined Team Holloman. The mission was to conduct a Fighter Weapons Instructor Course (FWIC) for the TORNADO and advanced tactical training in preparation for combat.

    The Tactical Training Center was redesignated the German Air Force Flying Training Center (GAF FTC) July 1, 1999 in conjunction with their growing mission. In addition, German Air Force pilots and WSOs are now learning to fly the TORNADO at Holloman AFB and instructor aircrews are being trained as well. As of July 2007 there are 600 German military personnel and 21 Tornado aircraft assigned to Holloman AFB, NM. These numbers may increase up to 900 personnel and 42 A/C, depending on the actual training needs.

    There are numerous reasons the German Air Force trains here. The area offers great flying weather and has suitable air space. Other reasons are the proximity of Holloman AFB to the German Air Force Air Defense Center (GAF ADC) at Ft. Bliss, TX and the centralizing of German aircrew training for the TORNADO at a single location.

    The GAF FTC consists of two Groups, the Training Group and the Support Group. The Training Group holds the administrative staff which is necessary to plan and support the flying courses. Within the Training Group the Training Squadron is home of all the instructors and the students.

    The Support Group consists of three squadrons witch are the First Line Maintenance Squadron, the Second Line Maintenance and Electronic Squadron and the Supply Squadron.

    The German Air Force has been training its aircrews in the United States since 1958. This training took place on various bases throughout the states before moving to Holloman Air Force Base, NM, mid 1992.

    German Air Force pilot candidates learn to fly in Texas at U.S. Air Force undergraduate pilot training. The future Weapon System Officers (WSO) attend undergraduate navigator training at Pensacola NAS, Fl.

    The U.S. Air Force's 20th Fighter Squadron at Holloman trained German pilots and WSOs to fly the F-4F PHANTOM. In addition, the 20th conducted the Flight Instructor (IP) and the Fighter Weapons Instructor Course (FWIC). The German government paid the full cost of this program. The 20th Fighter Squadron was inactivated on December 20, 2004.

    Today, Holloman Air Force Base continues to serve at the forefront of military operations, with its F-22 Raptor aircraft and serving as the training center for the German Air Force's Tactical Training Center."

    In October, 2009 the Air Force announced that Holloman AFB is a candidate for the F-35 when it enters service and on 9 April 2010 the 301st Fighter Squadron  stood up at Holloman as a reserve F-22 squadron.  The 301st  along with the
44th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron are attached to the 44th Fighter Group.  It seems a safe bet that Holloman AFB will maintain an important role in the defense of this nation for the foreseeable future.

    On 29 July, 2010 the Department of the Air Force announced that the F-35 training program will be located at Luke AFB.  Additionally, the 49th FW is to lose the F-22 and pick up the F-16 training mission from Luke.  The timeline for this has yet to be announced.

Alamogordo AAF 1943

Alamogordo AAF 1942

Holloman AFB 2006

Holloman Photos.

B-24 used for training at Alamogordo AAF

    B-24s at Alamogordo AAF during the Second World War.  (
Clarence E. Schurwan via Paul Webber)

The USAF Heritage Flight at Holloman's open house, October, 2009.  (CB)

Base Operating Units:

Holloman Air Development Center

10 October 1952 - 1 September 1957

Air Force Missile Development Center

1 September 1957 - 1 August 1970

359th Base HQ and Air Base Squadron

Jun 10, 1942 - Mar 24, 1944

 231st AAF Base Unit

Mar 25, 1944 -  Mar 15, 1947


4145th AAF Base Unit

Mar 16, 1947 -  Sep 20, 1949


2754th Experimental Wing

Sep 20, 1949 -  Jun 30, 1951


6540th Missile Test Wing

Jun 30, 1951 -  Sep 1, 1952


6580th Missile Test Wing

Sep 1, 1952 -   Oct 1, 1953


6580th Test Support Wing

Oct 1, 1953 -  Sep 1, 1954


6580th Air Base Wing

Sep 1, 1954 -  Feb 1, 1955


6580th Air Base Group

Feb 1, 1955 -  Aug 1, 1970


49th Combat Support Group

Jan 1, 1971 -  Oct 1, 1981


833rd Air Division

Oct 1, 1981 -  Nov 15, 1991




366th Tactical Fighter Wing
366th Tac Fighter Wing
15 July 1963 - 11 March 1966

4758th DSES
4758th DSES

8 August 1966 -  31 October 1970

Det 1, 4677th DSES

4677th DSES

31 October 1970 - 1 Jul 1974

48th Rescue Squadron

1 May 1993 - 1 February 1999

49th Tactical Fighter Wing
49th Tactical Fighter Wing

1 July 1968 - 30 September 1991

49th Fighter Wing
49th Fighter Wing (Modern era)

1 October 1991 - 25 June 2010

49th Wing
25 June 2010 - Current

6585th Test Group

6585th Test Group

1 August 1970 - 30 September 1992

46th Test Group

46th Test Group

1 October 1992 - 1 October 2012

96th Test Group

                              Test Group emblem

1 October 2012 - Current

479th Tactical Training Wing

1 January 1977 - 26 July 1991

4th Space Control Squadron

16 April 1996 - Current

German Air Force Flying Training Center

1 May 1996 - Current

44th Fighter Group

44th Fighter Group

1 February 2010 - Current

A more complete list of units.

For comments, corrections and suggestions....

My guest book is on the main page.

Clifford Bossie

Page created 07-04-08
Modified 02-22-13