The McConnell Air Force Base property has played an important role for nearly a century in the development of the aviation industry and in our national defense. Wichita’s flat, open land and location at the center of the country quickly made it a favored place to stop during early transcontinental journeys, spurring construction of the Wichita Municipal Airport in 1929. A relationship between the U.S. Department of War and the Boeing Company, enhanced by Boeing’s proximity to the adjacent Wichita Municipal Airport, elevated the company and the City of Wichita to new production levels in the years leading up to and during WWII. In 1951, the U.S. Air Force acquired the Wichita Municipal Airport and converted it into its primary training facility for pilots and crew of Boeing’s B-47 bomber. Construction of the new base was rapid and comprehensive. The USAF erected a wide range of structures, including hangars, simulators, classrooms, barracks, warehouses, and recreation facilities, many of which are still in use today. The base continued to evolve to meet the needs of the military through the end of the Cold War and into the decades that followed.
Click here to view McConnell Air Force Base, A Brief History booklet for full information about each section below.
MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE ORIGINS
Although McConnell AFB was officially established in 1951, its roots as an airfield – both municipal and military – extend nearly three decades prior.
The first air exhibition in the Wichita area was held in an alfalfa field north of Wichita in 1911. Aviation fever began to spread, and a year later, 250 Wichita amateur pilots and aviation enthusiasts organized one of the nation’s first Aero Clubs.
WORLD WAR II
U.S. government concern about events in Europe during the late 1930s led to increased production of military supplies and equipment, including military aircraft. With its secure mid-continent location and proximity to major aircraft manufacturing plants, the Wichita Municipal Airport became central to the nation’s defense.
THE AIR FORCE ESTABLISHES MCCONNELL AIR FORCE BASE
In 1951, the USAF entered into negotiations with Wichita to acquire the Wichita Municipal Airport in order to establish a training center for B-47 Stratojet combat crews. In June 1951, the USAF acquired the Wichita Municipal Airport in exchange for funds sufficient to build the Wichita another municipal airport, eventually named the Mid-Continent Airport.
McConnell AFB jumped into an essential and defining role early in the Korean Conflict. Training B-47 combat crews for ATC, the 3520 CCTW was instrumental in readying crews to fly the B-47 Stratojet – the plane that launched the USAF’s age of jet bombers.
POST COLD WAR
As the Cold War ended in 1989, McConnell AFB began to adjust to a changed political climate. Before personnel could process the implications of the new geopolitical boundaries and the effect this would have on their mission, a natural disaster tested the command and organization. The April 25, 1991 tornado that traversed the base destroyed nine major facilities, including the hospital, and most of the base services facilities.
The 22 ARW is the host wing at McConnell, with the 184th Wing and 931st Air Refueling Wing as primary tenants. McConnell AFB plays an integral role in the future of the USAF as it readies itself for the beddown of the KC-46A Pegasus, the next refueling platform. McConnell AFB continues to interact with the surrounding community of Wichita through personal links with the city and on an economic level through jobs and services. There are few bases that can claim such a wide variety of weapons systems, missions, and skillsets as those that McConnell AFB has based since WWII. However, this is hardly the end of such an impressive history; the page turns to yet another chapter. Team McConnell serves as the nation’s first KC-46A operational base, fulfilling a critical mission and continuing McConnell AFB’s rich USAF heritage.