Patrick Air Force Base, Florida
Construction of the Banana River Naval Air Station was authorized by the Hepburn Board, which was created by the Naval Expansion Act of 1938. The station was planned as an auxiliary operating base for the Navy's installation at Jacksonville. Both stations would be built to reinforce the Atlantic Coast Defense System. In June 1939, Commander W. M. Angus (Public Works Officer for the Seventh Naval District) conferred with civilian officials from Cocoa, Melbourne and Eau Gallie to select the site for the naval air station. Work began on the site in December 1939, and the station was commissioned on 1 October 1940. The station supported seaplane patrol operations during World War II. It also supported a PBM seaplane pilot training program and an advanced navigation school.
The Banana River Naval Air Station continued to operate as a Navy support base for two years after the war, but the installation was finally inactivated and placed in caretaker status on 1 August 1947. Normally, the Navy would have returned the property to the local community, but efforts were underway elsewhere to give the station a new lease on life.
In October 1946, the Joint Research and Development Board (under the Joint Chiefs of Staff) established the Committee on the Long Range Proving Ground to study possible locations for the Joint Long Range Proving Ground. The committee considered northern Washington state (with a range along the Aleutian Islands), El Centro California (with a range down the coast of Baja California), and the Banana River Naval Air Station (with launching sites at Cape Canaveral and a range over the Bahamas). The idea of an Aleutians range was rejected very quickly it would be too cold, too remote and too difficult to support. After weighing all the options, the committee selected El Centro as its first choice for the Joint Long Range Proving Ground. Cape Canaveral was offered as the committee's second choice. The choices were approved in September 1947, and the Joint Long Range Proving Ground Group was created to carry out the committee's recommendations.
The California range would have been very convenient for American aerospace contractors, but it had to be abandoned as an option after Mexico's President Aleman refused to allow missile flights over Baja California. The British, on the other hand, were willing to allow missile flights near the Bahamas, and they later agreed to lease land to the Americans for their range stations. As a potential hub for missile launching operations, the Cape was remote from heavily populated areas, but it was accessible and supportable by road, waterway and railway transportation. Aside from bouts of wet weather and thunderstorms, the climate was generally sunny and warm. The Banana River Naval Air Station was only 20 miles from the Cape, and it would make an excellent support base for the Eastern Range.
While negotiations with the British continued, enabling legislation for the Joint Long Range Proving Ground was passed by the 81st Congress and signed by President Truman on 11 May 1949. The Bahamian Agreement, which allowed the establishment of range stations in the Bahamas, was signed by the British on 21 July 1950. Anticipating those developments, the Navy transferred the Banana River Naval Air Station to the Air Force on 1 September 1948. The station remained in standby status, but it was renamed the Joint Long Range Proving Ground (JLRPG) Base on 10 June 1949. On 1 October 1949, the Advance Headquarters, Joint Long Range Proving Ground and the Air Force Division, Joint Long Range Proving Ground were established. The base was activated on the same date.
It must be emphasized that the Advance Headquarters, the Air Force Division and the JLRPG Base were three separate entities. Though the JLRPG Command was established by the Department of the Air Force under the direction of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, it was a joint service organization. As such, the JLRPG Commander could be selected from the Army, Navy or Air Force. Colonel Harold R. Turner, U.S. Army, assumed command of the Joint Long Range Proving Ground on 1 October 1949.
On the same date, the Joint Long Range Proving Ground Base was transferred from Air Materiel Command to the Air Force Division of the Joint Long Range Proving Ground. As Commander of the Air Force Division, Colonel Othel R. Deering assumed command of the base, which was essentially another command. Colonel Deering was: 1) the Air Force Division Commander and 2) the Base Commander.
In the spring of 1950, the Defense Department announced the re-delegation of guided missile test centers from joint service commands to separate branches of the military service. As a result of that decision, the Air Force Division, Joint Long Range Proving Ground was re-designated the Long Range Proving Ground Division on 16 May 1950. The Long Range Proving Ground Division replaced the JLRPG Command, and it gained jurisdiction over the launching area at Cape Canaveral and the Bahama downrange facilities. The Long Range Proving Ground Division was given major air command status, and, as such, it reported directly to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force. Its mission was to establish, operate and maintain the Long Range Proving Ground.
On 17 May 1950, the base was renamed the Long Range Proving Ground Base, but that designation lasted less than three months. Effective 1 August 1950, the base was renamed Patrick Air Force Base, in honor of Major General Mason M. Patrick. General Patrick had been Chief of the American Expeditionary Forces Air Services in World War I and Chief of the Air Service/U.S. Army Air Corps from October 1921 until his retirement on 13 December 1927. The official dedication ceremony for the newly named base was held on 26 August 1950.
Major General William L. Richardson assumed command of the Joint Long Range Proving Ground on 10 April 1950. He continued as Commander, Long Range Proving Ground Division and (later) Commander, Air Force Missile Test Center (AFMTC) through 31 July 1954. This was a period of rapid expansion for the Eastern Range, and it included significant changes in the Division and Center organizations.
On 9 May 1950, work began under a contract with the Duval Engineering Company (Jacksonville, Florida) to build the Cape's first paved access road and its first permanent launch site. Construction on Port Canaveral got underway in July 1950. The Bahamian Agreement was signed by the British on 21 July 1950, and that agreement permitted construction on the Eastern Range's first island stations. By July 1954, Cape Canaveral Auxiliary Air Force Base had missile assembly buildings, a central control station and four launch complexes to support MATADOR, BOMARC, SNARK and REDSTONE missile flights. Jupiter Auxiliary Air Force Base had been developed south of Patrick to help guide MATADOR flights downrange. By the end of 1954, the Eastern Range had an operational tracking station on Grand Bahama Island, and other stations were under construction on the islands of Eleuthera,, San Salvador, Mayaguana and Grand Turk. Range stations were also being built in the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico, approximately 1,000 miles southeast of the Cape.
On 14 May 1951, the Long Range Proving Ground Division was relieved as a separate operating agency under Air Force Headquarters, and it was assigned to the newly created Air Research and Development Command (ARDC). As such, the Division was equivalent to a numbered air force. In addition to staff agencies for personnel, materiel and finance, the Division had the Directorate of Technical Operations (manned principally by civilian technicians, but reinforced with one Air Force squadron). The Division also had the 6555th Guided Missile Wing and the Base Commander's organization. The Base Commander had divisions for supply, base operations, services, range support and air installations.
The Division was re-designated the Air Force Missile Test Center (AFMTC) on 30 June 1951. Over the next two months, the Center was reorganized to conform to ARDC guidelines. By early September 1951, AFMTC was composed of a headquarters and six wing-level organizations. The resources and functions of the old Directorate of Technical Operations were used to create three new wing-level organizations: 1) the 6541st Missile Test Wing, 2) the Technical Training Division and 3) the Technical Systems Laboratory. The Technical Training Division was discontinued on 1 February 1952, and the Technical Systems Laboratory was discontinued on 1 April 1954.
The 6541st Missile Test Wing was activated with nine squadrons numbered consecutively 6541st through 6549th. Those squadrons were created to operate range tracking systems on the Eastern Range's mainland and downrange stations. The 6548th and 6549th Missile Test Squadrons were discontinued on 25 November 1951, but the remaining seven squadrons were deployed between the Cape and Grand Turk by the end of 1952.* They were re-designated as operations squadrons when the 6541st Missile Test Wing became the 6541st Operations Group on 1 March 1953.
Though Air Force personnel operated tracking systems on the Eastern Range through December 1953, cost comparison studies undertaken two years earlier pointed out the desirability of letting contractors operate the Cape and the downrange stations. The first range contract was signed with Pan American World Services on 31 December 1953. Pan American signed its own contract with RCA to make the latter responsible for operating and maintaining range stations and tracking systems as of 28 February 1954. The Air Force Missile Test Center began transferring property and equipment to Pan American at the end of 1953. In the meantime, the 6541st Operations Group replaced three of its squadrons with detachments on 1 January 1954. Those detachments were discontinued along with the Group's remaining four squadrons on 1 July 1954. Pan American and RCA took over their functions.
The fourth new wing under AFMTC was the 6550th Air Base Wing. It was created from the Base Commander's organization, and so was the 6555th Air Base Group which was placed under it. The 6550th Air Base Wing was discontinued on 1 March 1953, but its resources were transferred to the 6550th Air Base Group. The 6550th Air Base Group became one of Patrick's longest lived units. Apart from two short periods (i.e., 1 April 1962 to 1 March 1964 and 1 February 1977 to 1 October 1979), it operated as the 6550th Air Base Group until 1 October 1990.** When the Eastern Space & Missile Center was transferred to Air Force Space Command on 1 October 1990, the 6550th was re-designated the 1040th Space Support Group, and it operated under that name until 12 November 1991. The 1040th Space Support Group was re-designated the 45th Support Group on 12 November 1991, and it continues to serve Patrick and the Cape under that designation.
The fifth wing was the 6540th Missile Test Wing, which was stationed at Holloman AFB, New Mexico. The 6540th and its base were placed under AFMTC's jurisdiction by the Air Research and Development Command on 3 July 1951, but the Wing was a self-sustaining unit with no substantive or long-term connection with AFMTC. Consequently, the 6540th and Holloman AFB were transferred to ARDC on 1 September 1952.
The Air Force Missile Test Center's sixth wing was the 6555th Guided Missile Wing. The 6555th supervised missile launch contractor operations at the Cape, and the unit's two guided missile squadrons (the 6555th and 6556th) participated in MATADOR and LARK test launches. As launches of those winged missiles continued, the Wing gained two new units the 1st and 69th Pilotless Bomber Squadrons in October 1951 and January 1952. Thereafter, the 6555th focused most of its efforts on assembling, testing and launching MATADORs so the 1st and 69th Pilotless Bomber Squadrons would be prepared for MATADOR operations in Europe. The 6555th Guided Missile Wing became the 6555th Guided Missile Group on 1 March 1953, and the 1st and 69th Pilotless Bomber Squadrons were reassigned to Tactical Air Command (TAC) on 15 January 1954. Since TAC agreed to train all other MATADOR squadrons at TAC's own MATADOR school in Orlando, Florida, the 6555th Guided Missile Group was little more than a squadron when the 69th completed its field training in the summer of 1954.
The 6555th Guided Missile Group was discontinued on 7 September 1954. Fortunately, the 6555th Guided Missile Squadron was allowed to survive as a MATADOR research and development testing unit, and it was reassigned to AFMTC Headquarters on 7 September 1954. The 6555th Guided Missiles Squadron became the 6555th Guided Missile Group (Test and Evaluation) on 15 August 1959, and it was reassigned to the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division (without any change of station) on 21 December 1959. Concurrent with its reassignment, the Group picked up the resources of the Air Force Ballistic Missile Division's Assistant Commander for Missile Tests.
For the next twenty years, the 6555th had a distinguished career launching and/or managing ballistic missiles, space launch vehicles and payloads for the Ballistic Systems Division, the Space Systems Division and the Space & Missile Systems Organization. As a Wing or a Group, the 6555th earned ten Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards between 21 December 1959 and October 1990. On 1 October 1979, the Group was transferred to the 45th Space Wing's immediate predecessor, the Eastern Space & Missile Center (ESMC). On 1 October 1990, ESMC (pronounced "east-mac") was transferred to Air Force Space Command (AFSPC), and most of the 6555th's resources were reorganized as the 1st Space Launch Squadron under ESMC and two Combined Task Forces (CTFs) serving AFSPC and Air Force Systems Command. Ultimately, the 6555th was deactivated on 1 July 1992 as Air Force Systems Command and Air Force Logistics command merged to form Air Force Materiel Command.
On 7 September 1954, a major reorganization of AFMTC discontinued four of the Center's five group-level organizations and consolidated most routine support functions in the hands of the 6550th Air Base Group. That action allowed the Headquarters to concentrate on policy matters, long-range planning and overall management, but it also heralded the demise of the 6555th Guided Missile Group and the 6541st Operations Group (Range) mentioned earlier. Though there were many organizational changes in the years that followed, the Center's functional role as planner and coordinator and the Air Base Group's role as base support agency were firmly established. Pan American and RCA operated the Eastern Range under contract to the Air Force for the next 34 years (until early October 1988). In 1988, the old Range Contract was divided into the Range Technical Services (RTS) and the Launch Base Services (LBS) contracts. The RTS Contract was awarded to Computer Sciences Raytheon (CSR) in June 1988, and the LBS Contract was awarded to Pan American World Services (later known as Johnson Controls) in August 1988.
The Air Force Missile Test Center reported to ARDC until the latter's reorganization and redesignation as Air Force Systems Command (AFSC) on 1 April 1961. The Center then reported to AFSC through 14 May 1964. On 2 January 1964, the National Range Division was organized within AFSC to establish a global range capability and realign range management within the Defense Department. Toward that end, AFMTC was re-designated the Headquarters, Air Force Eastern Test Range (AFETR) on 15 May 1964, and it was assigned to the National Range Division (NRD). When the NRD was inactivated on 1 February 1972, AFETR (pronounced "aff-eater") was reassigned to Air Force Systems Command and continued in that relationship until 1 February 1977.
The Air Force Eastern Test Range supported a wide variety of missile and space programs in the 1960s, but the demise of the APOLLO space program and the end of land-based ballistic missile development at the Cape signaled a downturn in AFETR's fortunes. While range support for the U.S. Navy's submarine ballistic missile programs continued, a dramatic shift in AFETR's responsibilities occurred on 1 February 1977. On that date, AFETR was inactivated and the 6550th Air Base Group assumed host responsibilities for Patrick AFB as the 6550th Air Base Wing. The Air Force Eastern Test Range's other resources were consolidated as Detachment 1 of the Space and Missile Test Center (SAMTEC). Detachment 1 became a tenant unit at Patrick, and it reported to SAMTEC at Vandenberg AFB, California.
Detachment 1 took no part in the 45th Space Wing's heritage, and it may be viewed as a short-term organizational experiment in an era of budget austerity. The Eastern Space & Missile Center succeeded Detachment 1 on 1 October 1979. The new center reported to the Space and Missile Test Organization (SAMTO) at Vandenberg. It was formed by gathering AFETR's splintered resources and adding the 6555th Aerospace Test Group as a subordinate organization. Under ESMC, the 6550th Air Base Wing's resources were reconstituted as the 6550th Air Base Group. Detachment 1's resources became a new group-level Eastern Test Range organization not to be confused with AFETR. The new ETR organization requested a group-level emblem in August 1986, and the Eastern Test Range shield was approved in April 1987.
On 1 October 1990, ESMC was transferred from Air Force Systems Command to Air Force Space Command in a ceremony at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The 6555th Aerospace Test Group remained with AFSC, but most of its resources were placed in Combined Test Forces serving both commands or in the 1st Space Launch Squadron under ESMC. The 6550th Air Base Group and its civil engineering and security police squadrons received "1040th" unit designations, and AFSC Hospital Patrick was re-designated USAF Hospital Patrick. On the same date, the 9th Space Division was created as an intermediate headquarters between ESMC and AFSPC.
During 1991, ESMC, the 9th Space Division, AFSPC and USAF Headquarters worked out the details of ESMC's transformation into an operational wing. Following the final resolution of loose ends, the new wing organization was approved. It was activated as the 45th Space Wing on 12 November 1991. Under the objective wing concept, the 45th Space Wing had four groups to carry out operations, support, logistics and medical functions. Following the 45th Medical Group's four squadron activations on 30 September 1994, the Wing had the following groups, squadrons and detachments assigned:
45th Operations Group, including the 1st, 3rd and 5th Space Launch Squadrons, 45th Range Squadron, 45th Operations Support Squadron, 45th Weather Squadron, and Detachments 1 and 2 (i.e., station command offices) on Antigua and Ascension.
45th Support Group, including the 45th Mission Support Squadron, 45th Civil Engineering Squadron, 45th Security Police Squadron, 45th Communications Squadron, 45th Services Squadron and Detachment 1, Cape Canaveral Air Station.
45th Logistics Group, including the 45th Logistics Support Squadron, 45th Maintenance Squadron, 45th Transportation Squadron and 45th Contracting Squadron.
45th Medical Group, including the 45th Aerospace Medicine Squadron, 45th Dental Squadron, 45th Medical Operations Squadron and 45th Medical Support Squadron
In addition to those resources, the Wing had the 45th Comptroller Squadron (which was activated on 6 June 1995) and staff offices for Small Business, Command Post, Protocol, Chaplain, History, Staff Judge Advocate, Manpower & Quality, Equal Employment Opportunity, Public Affairs, Quality Improvement, Safety, Social Actions and Plans.
There were several organizational changes in the Wing in 1997 and 1998. Detachments 1 and 2 of the 45th Operations Group were inactivated on Antigua and Ascension on 1 June 1997, but they were replaced by Detachments 1 and 2 of the 45th Logistics Group on the same day. The 45th Security Police Squadron was re-designated the 45th Security Forces Squadron on 1 July 1997, and the 45th Logistics Support Squadron was inactivated on 16 July 1997. (Resources from the latter were absorbed by the 45th Supply Flight or transferred to the Logistic Group's Performance Management Division.) The 5th Space Launch Squadron was inactivated at Cape Canaveral Air Station on 29 June 1998, and its resources were absorbed by the 3rd Space Launch Squadron. On 7 June 1998, the Joint Performance Management Office (JPMO) was established to administer the Joint Base Operations and Support Contract (J-BOSC).
On 4 June 1999, the 45th Maintenance Squadron was inactivated and its resources were transferred to the 45th Communications Squadron. The 45th Communications Squadron was reassigned from the 45th Support Group to the 45th Logistics Group on the same date. On 1 October 1999, the Department of Defense Manned Space Flight Support Office (DDMS) was taken off the books at U.S. Space Command and assigned to the 45th Space Wing.
Apart from an internal reorganization of the Wing Plans Office (45 SW/XP) to create the Joint Planning and Customer Service Office (JPCSO), there were no organizational changes to the Wing in 2000. Cape Canaveral Air Station was renamed Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on 4 February 2000.
On 11 July 2001, the 45th Transportation Squadron was inactivated at Patrick AFB, and the squadron's personnel were reassigned. Though a name change does not constitute an organizational change, it should be noted that the Joint Performance Management Office's title was changed to the Cape Canaveral Spaceport Management Office (CCSMO) on 25 October 2001. The CCSMO retained JPMO's old office symbol, "JP," and the Cape Canaveral Spaceport Planning and Customer Service Office retained the office symbol "JX". The justification for JX was the government's belief that commercial launch rates were rising. Unfortunately, this bonanza failed to materialize, and the 45th Space Wing Commander and the Kennedy Space Center decided to redefine their relationship by moving JX functions to other agencies in April 2004. While the 45th Space Wing's Plans and Programs agency became the "front door" for new range users, the 45th Mission Support Group, KSC Spaceport Services and the Florida Space Authority shared responsibility for master planning integration. The KSC Business Development and Planning Liaison Office cooperated with the 45th Space Wing on range planning, and it worked with the Florida Space Authority for state planning. As JX went away in the spring of 2004, Air Force personnel returned to Wing Plans, and NASA employees returned to various KSC agencies.
The 45th Space Wing began implementing a new standard wing organization (directed by the Air Force Chief of Staff) in October 2002. Effective 1 October 2002, the 45th Logistics Group became the 45th Maintenance Group, and the 45th Support Group became the 45th Mission Support Group. In addition, the 45th Supply Flight was re-designated the 45th Logistics Readiness Flight, and that flight moved from the 45th Maintenance Group to the 45th Mission Support Group. The 45th Contracting Squadron also moved to the 45th Mission Support Group from the 45th Maintenance Group (formerly the 45th Logistics Group). The 45th Range Management Squadron was activated and assigned to the 45th Maintenance Group at Cape Canaveral AFS. In accordance with the new wing structure, the 45th Communications Squadron was re-designated the 45th Space Communications Squadron effective 1 October 2002.
In order to handle space operations more effectively, senior officials at Air Force Space Command, 14th Air Force, the 30th Space Wing, and the 45th Space Wing agreed to fine tune the new standard wing organization in 2003. Following approval at the highest levels of the Air Force, an organizational transformation was implemented on 1 December 2003. As a result of the transformation, the 45th Maintenance Group was inactivated, and the 45th Launch Group was constituted and assigned to Air Force Space Command with further assignment to the 45th Space Wing. Detachment 8, Headquarters Space & Missile Center (Det 8, SMC) was inactivated, and the detachment's last commander became the 45th Launch Group Commander. The 5th Space Launch Squadron (inactivated 29 June 1998) was reactivated at Cape Canaveral on 1 December 2003. The 5th was placed under the 45th Launch Group, and the squadron was given responsibility for Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle (EELV) operations formerly held by Detachment 8. Other organizations changes included:
reassignment of the 45th Range Management Squadron and 45th Space Communications Squadron from the 45th Maintenance Group to the 45th Operations Group
reassignment of the 1st and 3rd Space Launch Squadrons from the 45th Operations Group to the 45th Launch Group
inactivation of the 45th Range Squadron and transfer of its resources to the newly activated 1st Range Operations Squadron
inactivation of Detachments 1 and 2, 45th Maintenance Group (i.e., the military units in charge of instrumentation stations on Antigua and Ascension)
activation of Detachments 1 and 2, 45th Operations Group (i.e., the new military units in charge of instrumentation stations on Antigua and Ascension)
The final ATLAS IIIB/CENTAUR and TITAN IVB missions were launched from Cape Canaveral in February and April 2005 respectively. Consequently, the 3rd Space Squadron -- which had been responsible for managing both launch programs -- was inactivated effective 30 June 2005. On the same date, the 45th Launch Support Squadron was activated and placed under the 45th Launch Group. The ceremony for both organizational changes was held at the Cape on the morning of 6 July 2005.
* Only the Cape, Jupiter and Grand Bahama were operational during that period. Eleuthera, San Salvador, Mayaguana and Grand Turk did not become operational until the summer of 1955.
** The 6550th Support Wing (Range) was designated and organized on 1 April 1962 to replace the Air Base Group as the administrative and logistical support unit for AFMTC. It was discontinued 1 March 1964. The 6550th Air Base Group was separated from the Air Force Eastern Test Range (AFETR) when the latter was inactivated on 1 February 1977. The 6550th subsequently operated as the 6550th Air Base Wing and served as Patrick's host unit until the Eastern Space & Missile Center was organized and activated on 1 October 1979.
History of the BOMARC at Lowry can be found here.