Strategic Air Command

Early History

Strategic Air Command (SAC) was founded on May 8th 1945 as a further development of the Eighth Air Force that had previously commanded heavy bombers operating out of Russian bases. The major difference between SAC and the 8th AF was that the latter was subordinate to the theater commander(s) under which it operated. The commander of Strategic Air Command reported directly to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and received its instructions from the Joint Chiefs only. The initial JCS instructions to the first SAC Commander, General Curtis LeMay were quite simple. They read “Prepare for, and then execute, the nuclear destruction of Nazi Germany.” Between its foundation in May 1945 and The Big One on June 6th 1947, the organization did nothing else other than to pursue that simple objective.

Organization 1945

Initially, SAC was divided into three Air Divisions. First Air Division operated Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses, Second Air Division operated Boeing B-29 Superfortresses and Third Air Division operated the Consolidated B-36 Peacemaker. In 1945, First Air Division was in process of being re-equipped with B-36s although it was publicly described as a coastal patrol and training outfit using the remaining B-17s. Second Air Division was the only formation actually in combat. Third Air Division was the primary B-36 operating and training force although for public consumption it also was a B-29 force being assigned to the Pacific.

Table Of Organization and Equipment SAC December 1945.

  • First Air Division

2nd Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
19th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
35th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
40th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
58th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
73rd Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
305th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
306th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
56th Photographic Group (RB-27)
90th Photographic Group (RB-23/RB-27)
51st Strategic Fighter Group (P-49 Lightning)
52nd Strategic Fighter Group (P-49 Lightning)

  • Second Air Division

5th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-29)
6th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-29)
9th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-29)
11th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-29)
3rd Photographic Group (RB-29)
315th Photographic Group (RB-29)
64th Strategic Fighter Group (P-49 Lightning)
77th Strategic Fighter Group (P-49 Lightning)

  • Third Air Division

91st Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
92nd Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
93rd Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
94th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
98th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
99th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
100th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
106th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
43rd Photographic Group (RB-27)
45th Photographic Group (RB-27)
121st Strategic Fighter Group ( P-49 Lightning)
142nd Strategic Fighter Group (P-49 Lightning)

Thus, in theory, each Air Division had eight Bomb Groups, two Strategic Reconnaissance Groups and two Strategic Fighter Groups. Each group had an authorized unit equipment of 75 aircraft; in practice, during 1945, the organization was vastly under-strength. The four B-29 groups in Russia had a nominal total of 300 bombers; in reality heavy combat losses meant they rarely had more than 200 on strength. The 16 B-36 groups in the First and Third Air Divisions were supposed to have 1,200 aircraft on strength, in fact they had barely 400, none of which were combat ready. The Photographic Groups assigned to the First and Third Air Divisions had no RB-36s at all; they were equipped with RB-27s and even some old RB-23s.

Each group contained three combat wings, each of which had 24 aircraft with the Group headquarters flight of three making up the total of 75. The B-36 groups were organized in formations of three aircraft (called a Hometown). Each B-36 Bomb Wing therefore had eight Hometowns available to it of which it was required to have five available at any one time. Thus, each Bombardment Group could put up 15 Hometowns, each Air Division could put up 120. In June 1947 it would be the 240 Hometowns of the First and Third Air Divisions that carried out The Big One.

Building The Force 1946 – 1947

The ill-equipped and under-strength SAC of 1945 was literally just a shell of what was to come. At the time, General LeMay remarked that not a single one of the Bombardment Groups was actually combat capable. However, even at this stage, he laid down two guiding principles that hold good for SAC operations to this day. One was that the organization had to be ready to go to war at any time. It would not mobilize nor would it build up strength prior to going to war, it would be ready to go when war started. The other was that the organization would use what it had to maximum effect, improvising and making do where formal equipment was lacking.

However, in December 1945, B-36 production was only just getting under way. During 1946, an amazing total of 2,100 B-36E, F and G aircraft were produced (an average of 60 aircraft per month per production complex). Older B-36s were converted to new roles, most notably the KB-36 airborne refueling tanker and the first of the RB-36 strategic reconnaissance aircraft. Strategic Fighter Groups started to receive the new F-84B Thunderjet fighters. By the end of the year, two new Air Divisions had been formed, the Fourth Air Division and the Fifth Air Division.

Table Of Organization and Equipment SAC December 1946.

  • First Air Division

2nd Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
19th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
35th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
40th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
58th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
73rd Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
305th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
306th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
56th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
90th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
51st Strategic Fighter Group (F-49 Lightning)
52nd Strategic Fighter Group (F-49 Lightning)

  • Second Air Division

5th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-29)
6th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-29)
9th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-29)
11th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-29)
3rd Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-29)
315th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-29)
64th Strategic Fighter Group (F-49 Lightning)
77th Strategic Fighter Group (F-49 Lightning)

  • Third Air Division

91st Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
92nd Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
93rd Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
94th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
98th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
99th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
100th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
106th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
43rd Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
45th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
121st Strategic Fighter Group (F-84B Thunderjet)
142nd Strategic Fighter Group (F-84B Thunderjet)

  • Fourth Air Division

310th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
311th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
314th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
315th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
319th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
322nd Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
330th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
345th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
397th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
398th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
121st Strategic Fighter Group (F-84B Thunderjet)
142nd Strategic Fighter Group (F-84B Thunderjet)

  • Fifth Air Division

401st Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
409th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
410th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
416th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
417th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
445th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
446th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
498th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
482nd Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
483rd Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
333rd Strategic Fighter Group (F-84B Thunderjet)
335th Strategic Fighter Group (F-84B Thunderjet)

In October 1946, production switched to the B-36H model, designated as the aircraft that would carry out the nuclear attacks on Germany. By June 1947, 2,400 aircraft of this type had been delivered, equipping the First, Third, Fourth and Fifth Air Divisions. The older aircraft were either cascaded down to the last B-36-equipped Air Division to be formed, the Sixth Air Division, or converted to other roles, mostly tankers. In addition, three additional SAC headquarters units were formed, three composite GB-36/F-85 units (each with 18 GB-36s and 54 F-85 Goblins) and a flying command unit (with 12 EB-36Hs) that enabled General LeMay to supervise the operations of his force from the front line.

Table Of Organization and Equipment SAC June 6, 1947 “The Big One”.

  • SAC Headquarters Units

501st Headquarters Group (EB-36)
509th Composite Group (GB-36/F-85)
510th Composite Group (GB-36/F-85)
511th Composite Group (GB-36/F-85)

  • First Air Division

2nd Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
19th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
35th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
40th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
58th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
73rd Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
305th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
306th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
56th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
90th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
51st Strategic Fighter Group (F-84D Thunderjet)
52nd Strategic Fighter Group (F-84D Thunderjet)
671st Air Refueling Group (KB-36)

  • Second Air Division

5th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-29)
6th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-29)
9th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-29)
11th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-29)
3rd Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-29)
315th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-29)
64th Strategic Fighter Group (P-49 Lightning)
77th Strategic Fighter Group (P-49 Lightning)

  • Third Air Division

91st Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
92nd Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
93rd Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
94th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
98th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
99th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
100th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
106th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
43rd Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
45th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
121st Strategic Fighter Group (F-84D Thunderjet)
142nd Strategic Fighter Group (F-84D Thunderjet)
731st Air Refuelling Group (KB-36)

  • Fourth Air Division

310th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
311th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
314th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
315th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
319th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
322nd Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
330th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
345th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
397th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
398th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
121st Strategic Fighter Group (F-84D Thunderjet)
142nd Strategic Fighter Group (F-84D Thunderjet)
780th Air Refueling Group (KB-36)

  • Fifth Air Division

401st Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
409th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
410th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
416th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
417th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
445th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
446th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
498th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
482nd Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
483rd Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
333rd Strategic Fighter Group (F-84B Thunderjet)
335th Strategic Fighter Group (F-84B Thunderjet)

  • Sixth Air Division

491st Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
494th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
495th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
496th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
497th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
545th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
546th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)
547th Heavy Bombardment Group (B-36)

On June 6th 1947, the day of The Big One, SAC had reached its greatest-ever numerical strength. It had 40 heavy bombardment groups with a total of 3,000 B-36s on strength, four groups with 300 B-29s, 8 Strategic Reconnaissance Groups with 600 RB-36s, 8 Strategic Fighter groups with 600 F-84s and four aerial refueling groups with approximately 200 KB-36s. Of these forces, the First and Third Air Divisions carried out the nuclear strikes on Germany, the Fourth Air Division carried out conventional bombing of targets in the U.K. while the Fifth hit targets in France. Finally, the understrength and recently-inaugurated Sixth Air Division hit targets in Belgium and the Netherlands. Germany collapsed under the hammer blows; strategic bombing had finally fulfilled the promises made by its supporters.

Adjusting To Peace 1947 – 1950

The situation the United States faced in June 1947 was unique. On the evening of June 5th, the country had gone to bed locked into a stalemated war. On the morning of June 7th it woke up to a war that was decisively won. The problems the country faced were only just beginning though; it was apparent that the switch from war to peace would be neither easy nor pain free. There was a massive economic depression looming at a time when millions of men would be released from the armed forces and returned to civilian life. America was demobilizing and much of SAC would demobilize with it.

The early casualties of the demobilization process included the Sixth Air Division which was stood down in July 1947, barely two months after it had been declared operational. This was perhaps inevitable; the formation had the oldest B-36s, including some modernized D and E models and it had no strategic reconnaissance or fighter units. It was followed in October 1947 by the Second Air Division whose B-29s had been reclassified as medium bombers the day after The Big One. All four B-29 groups left their aircraft in Russia as a gift to the Russian Air Force (not least because they were not considered worth bringing back to the United States. The 5th Medium Bombardment Group was assigned to be re-equipped with the new North American B-45 Tornado while the 3rd Strategic Reconnaissance Group was assigned for conversion to the RB-45. The rest of the Second Air Division was stood down. These two units were attached directly to SAC headquarters and were essentially training units for jet bombers and aggressors for the Red Sun Air Defense Exercises.

The fate of SAC was a major issue in the 1948 Presidential elections. The Democrat Party wanted immediate and deep-reaching cut-backs in SAC strength, effectively reducing the force to a few dozen bombers. The extreme wing of that Party, lead by Joseph P Kennedy wanted the heavy bomber force abandoned completely. In the final event, this stand probably cost them the election, to the American people, the B-36s had brought their boys home from the Russian Front. The traumatic shock of the million plus dead on that front combined with the sense that the bombers could make equivalent sacrifices in future unnecessary to turn the electoral tide. President Dewey was re-elected and SAC was maintained as the nation’s primary striking arm.

Strategic Air Command, however, went through a major overhaul at this time. A cosmetic change was the abbreviation of the group titles from “Heavy Bombardment Group” to “Heavy Bomb Group”. The structure of SAC was more significantly changed. The Air Divisions had been seen as independent mini-air forces, capable of virtually autonomous operations. This was proved to be an inefficient way of organizing the force and the Air Divisions lost their fighters, strategic reconnaissance aircraft and tankers to centrally-controlled forces. In a way, the Air Divisions lost their bombers as well. Instead of having groups rigidly assigned to them, the five air divisions became geographical commands that operated and maintained the bomber bases in their assigned areas. The bomb groups would simply fly from those bases.

In 1948, SAC had a total of 32 Bomb Groups, 8 Strategic Reconnaissance Groups, 8 Strategic Fighter Groups, three Composite (parasite fighter) Groups, Eight Air Refueling Groups and one command and control group. By 1950, this had been reduced to 27 Bomb Groups, 8 Strategic Reconnaissance Groups and 7 Strategic Fighter Groups (including the three Composite Groups). The Air Refueling Group was thought to be too large for convenience so those groups were split down into four Air Refuelling Squadrons. There were forty such squadrons in the Air Order of battle. The B-36 group structure had also changed with the headquarters flight from each Group being deleted, reducing the Groups to 72 aircraft each.

Table Of Organization and Equipment SAC June 6, 1950

  • Bomber Force

2nd Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
19th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
35th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
40th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
58th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
73rd Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
91st Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
92nd Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
93rd Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
94th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
98th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
99th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
100th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
106th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
305th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
306th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
310th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
311th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
314th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
315th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
319th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
322nd Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
330th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
345th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
445th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
446th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
498th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)

  • Strategic Reconnaissance Force

43rd Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
45th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
56th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
90th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
397th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
398th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
482nd Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
483rd Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)

  • Strategic Fighter Force

51st Strategic Fighter Group (F-84F Thunderstreak)
52nd Strategic Fighter Group (F-84F Thunderstreak)
121st Strategic Fighter Group (F-84F Thunderstreak)
142nd Strategic Fighter Group (F-84F Thunderstreak)
509th Strategic Fighter Group (GB-36/F-85)
510th Strategic Fighter Group (GB-36/F-85)
511th Strategic Fighter Group (GB-36/F-85)

  • Air Refueling Force

4011st Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4012nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4013rd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4014th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4091th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4092nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4093rd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4094th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4101st Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4102nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4103rd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4104th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4161st Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4162nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4163rd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4164th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4171th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4172nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4173rd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4174th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4181st Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4182nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4183rd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4184th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
5461st Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
5462nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
5463rd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
5464th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
6711st Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
6712nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
6713rd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
6714th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
7311st Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
7312nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
7313rd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
7314th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
7801st Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
7802nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
7803rd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
7804th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)

Into The Jet Age (1950 – 1956)

Even at the time of The Big One, it was apparent that the unexpected invulnerability of the high-flying B-36 to fighter attack would be limited. Certainly in 1947 no fighter could mount a credible defense against the B-36 and the ability to do so would take another six years to develop, however that such a capability would emerge was accepted as inevitable. Accordingly a new generation of jet-powered bombers would be needed. Two aircraft were offered for this purpose. One was the B-60 Devastator, essentially a jet powered version of the B-36, the other was an entirely new development from Boeing, the B-52 Stratofortress. Each offered different advantages, the B-60 was cheaper and would be available sooner, the B-52 offered much superior performance. In the end, the B-60 was purchased as an interim solution while the B-52 was regarded as the primary strike aircraft for the period up to 1960. The need for these aircraft was demonstrated in the 1953 Red Sun exercises when seven B-36 aircraft were “shot down” by F-94C Starfire interceptors.

Fortunately that same year, the first B-60 bombers were delivered to SAC and these proved to have a performance margin that was just adequate to counter the new generation of interceptors. The operative word was just; it was obvious that the B-60 didn’t have the same level of immunity that the B-36 had enjoyed in its prime and the level it did have would decline rapidly. In the absence of other factors, logic would dictate that the B-52 be rushed into the bomb groups as quickly as possible. Those other factors were critical in overturning that logic. The strategic reconnaissance groups were still flying RB-36s and they needed superior performance even more than the bomber groups. So, priority for the new B-52s was given to the Strategic Reconnaissance Groups and Bomb Groups made do with the B-60 until five of the Strategic Reconnaissance Groups were fully equipped with RB-52s.

With the Bomb and Strategic Recon Groups converting to jets, another problem became apparent. The Air Refuelling Squadrons were still equipped with the KB-36, conversions of older-model B-36s that, in some cases, dated back to 1945/46. In addition to their age, they were too slow and there simply were not enough of them. The 40 Air Refuelling Squadrons were supposed to have 800 tankers in total; in fact they had barely 550 and the serviceability rates were low. A new tanker was badly needed.

Again, the two offerings came from Convair and Boeing. Convair offered the KB-60, which was not, despite its designation, a direct derivative of the B-60. Convair had produced a civilian version of the C-99 transport as the CV-660 Cloudliner and had followed the success of that aircraft with the CV-990, a civilian airliner that took the wings of the B-60 and combined them with a lengthened version of the fuselage from the CV-660. Air Bridge Command had turned the CV-990 down but SAC procured a modified version of the design as a tanker, designating it the KB-60T. Boeing were also producing a high-capacity transport based on the B-52, designated the Boeing 707. This took the wings and tail of the B-52 and combined them with a new, 550 seat fuselage. A tanker version of this was also procured by SAC as the KC-135A.

Finally, the Strategic Fighter Groups were also in need of updating. The F-84F and the GB-36/F-85 combination were both utterly obsolete. One fighter group, equipped with the F-88A/B Voodoo had joined the force in 1952. This was the 555th Strategic Fighter Group that had been converted from a tactical outfit, bringing the Strategic Fighter force up to eight groups. The four F-84F groups remained in service for a short period but they, along with the 555th were re-equipped with the F-88C by 1956. The three composite GB-36/F-85 groups were effectively withdrawn from operations and were used primarily for testing air-launched missiles and other experimental work, the number of aircraft they had on charge declining sharply as the GB-36s wore out.

Despite the influx of new equipment, the SAC order of battle for 1956 still showed that nearly half the front-line bomber fleet was the obsolete B-36, an aircraft that Curtis LeMay had described in 1954 as “fit only for the scrap heap.”

Table Of Organization and Equipment SAC June 6, 1956.

  • Bomber Force

2nd Heavy Bomb Group (B-52A/C)
19th Heavy Bomb Group (B-60B)
35th Heavy Bomb Group (B-60B)
40th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
58th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
73rd Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
91st Heavy Bomb Group (B-60B)
92nd Heavy Bomb Group (B-60B)
93rd Heavy Bomb Group (B-60B)
94th Heavy Bomb Group (B-60B)
98th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
99th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
100th Heavy Bomb Group (B-52D)
106th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
305th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
306th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
310th Heavy Bomb Group (B-60E)
311th Heavy Bomb Group (B-60E)
314th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
315th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
319th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
322nd Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
330th Heavy Bomb Group (B-36)
345th Heavy Bomb Group (B-60E)
445th Heavy Bomb Group (B-60A)
446th Heavy Bomb Group (B-60B)
498th Heavy Bomb Group (B-60B)

*Strategic Reconnaissance Force
43rd Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
45th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
56th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-52B)
90th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-52B)
397th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-52B)
398th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-52B)
482nd Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36)
483rd Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-52B)

*Strategic Fighter Force
51st Strategic Fighter Group (F-88C Voodoo)
52nd Strategic Fighter Group (F-88C Voodoo)
121st Strategic Fighter Group (F-88C Voodoo)
142nd Strategic Fighter Group (F-88C Voodoo)
509th Strategic Fighter Group (GB-36/F-85)
510th Strategic Fighter Group (GB-36/F-85)
511th Strategic Fighter Group (GB-36/F-85)
555th Strategic Fighter Group (F-88C Voodoo)

*Air Refueling Force
4011st Air Refueling Squadron (KB-60T)
4012nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-60T)
4013rd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-60T)
4014th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-60T)
4091th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-60T)
4092nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-60T)
4093rd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-60T)
4094th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-60T)
4101st Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
4102nd Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
4103rd Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
4104th Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
4161st Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4162nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4163rd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4164th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4171th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4172nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4173rd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4174th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4181st Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4182nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4183rd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
4184th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
5461st Air Refueling Squadron (KB-60T)
5462nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-60T)
5463rd Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
5464th Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
6711st Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
6712nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-135A)
6713rd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
6714th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
7311st Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
7312nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
7313rd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
7314th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
7801st Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
7802nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
7803rd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)
7804th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-36)

An End To Propellers (1956 – 1959)

It was obvious in 1956 that the B-36 was now so obsolete that it could no longer be considered a front-line aircraft. Fortunately, the B-52 and B-60 were flowing off the production lines and within a few years, the bomber version of the aircraft would be history. The strategic reconnaissance aircraft were also on their last legs with the few remaining RB-36 units earmarked for conversion to the new RB-58 Hustler. A force change was made at this time, with two Heavy Bomb Groups, the 305th and 306th, being converted into Strategic reconnaissance units, thus reducing the bomber fleet from 27 to 25 groups while increasing the Strategic Reconnaissance Groups from eight to ten. By 1959, the first of these was already receiving its RB-58s, amongst them being the famous RB-58C Marisol. By 1959, the GB-36 units were finally being stood down, the first of these being the test unit for the new XF-108 Rapier long range escort fighter. Finally, the number of Air Refuelling Squadrons was reduced from 40 to 30, the capability of the new jet tankers more than making up for the numerical shortfall.

Thus, by 1959, SAC had effectively converted to an all-jet formation. The only remaining B-36 units were non-operational and (in most cases) existed as names only and were preparing for transition to new roles and new aircraft. SAC was about to take the next great jump forward, going supersonic.

Table Of Organization and Equipment SAC June 6, 1959.

  • Bomber Force

2nd Heavy Bomb Group (B-52A/C)
19th Heavy Bomb Group (B-60B)
35th Heavy Bomb Group (B-60B)
40th Heavy Bomb Group (B-52D)
58th Heavy Bomb Group (B-52D)
73rd Heavy Bomb Group (B-52D)
91st Heavy Bomb Group (B-60B)
92nd Heavy Bomb Group (B-60B)
93rd Heavy Bomb Group (B-60B)
94th Heavy Bomb Group (B-60B)
98th Heavy Bomb Group (B-52D)
99th Heavy Bomb Group (B-52D)
100th Heavy Bomb Group (B-52D)
106th Heavy Bomb Group (B-52D)
310th Heavy Bomb Group (B-60E)
311th Heavy Bomb Group (B-60E)
314th Heavy Bomb Group (B-52D)
315th Heavy Bomb Group (B-52D)
319th Heavy Bomb Group (B-52D)
322nd Heavy Bomb Group (B-52E)
330th Heavy Bomb Group (B-52E)
345th Heavy Bomb Group (B-60E)
445th Heavy Bomb Group (B-52E)
446th Heavy Bomb Group (B-52E)
498th Heavy Bomb Group (B-52E)

*Strategic Reconnaissance Force
43rd Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-58C Hustler)
45th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-58C Hustler)
56th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-52B)
90th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-52B)
305th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-58C Hustler)
306th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36) (not operational)
397th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-52B)
398th Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-52B)
482nd Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-36) (not operational)
483rd Strategic Reconnaissance Group (RB-52B)

*Strategic Fighter Force
51st Strategic Fighter Group (F-88C Voodoo)
52nd Strategic Fighter Group (F-88C Voodoo)
121st Strategic Fighter Group (F-88C Voodoo)
142nd Strategic Fighter Group (F-88C Voodoo)
509th Strategic Fighter Group (F-108 Rapier)
510th Strategic Fighter Group (GB-36/F-85) (not operational)
511th Strategic Fighter Group (GB-36/F-85) (not operational
555th Strategic Fighter Group (F-88C Voodoo)

*Air Refueling Force
4011st Air Refueling Squadron (KB-60T)
4012nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-60T)
4013rd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-60T)
4014th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-60T)
4091th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-60T)
4092nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-60T)
4093rd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-60T)
4094th Air Refueling Squadron (KB-60T)
4101st Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
4102nd Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
4103rd Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
4104th Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
4181st Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
4182nd Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
4183rd Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
4184th Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
5461st Air Refueling Squadron (KB-60T)
5462nd Air Refueling Squadron (KB-60T)
5463rd Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
5464th Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
6711st Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
6712nd Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
7311st Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
7312nd Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
7313rd Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
7314th Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
7801st Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
7802nd Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
7803rd Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)
7804th Air Refueling Squadron (KC-135A)

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