Airpower Over Altus 2017 – The 75th Anniversary of Altus AFB
Report and photos by Scot Meek
November 5, 2017
On the 9th of September, Altus AFB celebrated its 75th Anniversary, along with the 70th Anniversary of the United States Air Force. Altus AFB is located in the Southwest corner of Oklahoma. In attendance were many types of WWII era and the larger aircraft of today’s United States Air Force. Many of the fighter and attack aircraft that were on the list of static aircraft were unable to attend due to the (at the time) immediate threat of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma.
The aircraft that did make the show were:
B-52H Minot AFB
B-1B Ellsworth AFB
T-38A Langley AFB
T-38C Sheppard AFB
C-17A Altus AFB
KC-135R Altus AFB
The aerial acts that performed for the crowd:
C-17A Globemaster III Demo
KC-135R/C-17A Air-To-Air Refueling Demo
B-2A Spirit Fly-Over
B-25 Mitchell (Super Rabbit)
P-51 Mustang (Miss America)
Adam ‘Shake-N-Bake’ Baker
Randy W. Ball
USAF Academy Glider Demo Team
C-47 Skytrain/C-17A Globemaster Heritage Flight
Wings Of Blue USAF Parachute Team
Altus AFB started in 1943 as a training location for America’s Army Air Corps Aviators. During the days of World War II, future aviators used the Cessna AT-17, Curtiss AT-9 and the Beechcraft AT-7 for training. Once the students had mastered their training aircraft, they were awarded their wings and then proceeded to their next assignment of learning to employ the aircraft that they would fly over the skies of Europe and the Pacific theater. After the WWII conflict, and before the Cold War began, Altus AFB was actually inactivated and ceased training operations until August of 1953. Since that time however, the base has underwent several mission changes. After reactivation, the base operated under the direction of the Tactical Air Command supporting the missions flown with the Douglas C-47 Skytrain. That role was very short lived though, with the (then) all new jet powered B-47 Stratojet coming on line…the base switched roles to accommodate the new bombers and became the location of a new Strategic Air Command Wing.
During the 1950’s and 1960’s, the Cold War began to gain momentum and the base changed roles several times over the years. KC-97 Stratofreighter’s, B-52 Stratofortresses and KC-135 Stratotanker’s would dominate the ramp spaces at Altus AFB. With the nuclear threat always looming, tanker crews and B-52 crews alike, would train hard…often being ‘scrambled’ on nuclear launch alerts to carry out mock nuclear bombing missions at a moment’s notice. As the Cold War continued and the situation in Vietnam looking more and more grim and the need for moving large amounts of men and equipment to Southeast Asia, was selected by the Air Force to be the new training installation for the crews that would be operating the new C-141 Starlifter and C-5 Galaxy transport aircraft and take on the mission of airborne transport. With the flat terrain and 300 average flying days per year…Altus was the ideal location for the mission training. By the beginning of the 1970’s, the B-52’s had been relocated. The KC-135, C-141 and the C-5 were the most common aircraft to be seen in the skies above Altus.
In 1996 the C-17 Globemaster III arrived at Altus, ushering in the retirement of the C-141 after 32 years of dedicated service to the USAF. The C-5 Galaxy continued to operate at Altus AFB until 2007. During that year, the C-5 training syllabus, along with the USAF Loadmaster school and Basic Refueling Boom Operator courses were transferred to Lackland AFB, Texas, under the command of the USAF Reserve. Currently the the KC-135 Stratotanker and the C-17 Globemaster III training syllabus under the guidance of the USAF Air Education and Training Command use Altus AFB as its premier Air Mobility training location. Altus AFB is also slated to train future KC-46 Pegasus crews and with the KC-46 nearing production, provisions for the training and airframes are currently being made. With the retirement of the KC-135R currently scheduled well into the 2020’s, the C-17, KC-135 and KC-46 together ensures that Altus AFB will be a tremendous asset for America’s global reach for many, many decades to come.
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