459th Air Refueling Wing

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459th Air Refueling Wing
459th Air Refueling Wing - Boeing KC-135R-BN Stratotanker 62-3556.jpg
459th Air Refueling Wing - Boeing KC-135R Stratotanker
AF Ser. No. 62-3556
Active 1 July 1943 (459 OG)
26 January 1955 — present (459 ARW)
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Type Wing
Role Air Refueling
Part of AFR Shield.svg  Air Force Reserve Command
Garrison/HQ Joint Base Andrews, Maryland
Decorations Air Force Outstanding Unit Award
Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm
David A. Owens Jr.
459th Air Refueling Wing emblem 459th Air Refueling Wing.png
Tail Code Black/Yellow check tail stripe "Andrews" in yellow
Aircraft flown
Tanker KC-135 Stratotanker

The 459th Air Refueling Wing (459 ARW) is a wing of the Air Force Reserve Command of the United States Air Force. It is assigned to the Fourth Air Force, Air Force Reserve Command, stationed at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland. If mobilized, the Wing is gained by the Air Mobility Command. The wing flys and maintains KC-135 Stratotankers, providing aerial refuelling.

The wing, over the years, is a six-time recipient of the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. There are about 1,200 traditional Reservists stationed at the wing. A full-time civilian and Air Reserve Technician staff of approximately 230 personnel provide wing day-to-day administration and management.


The 459th Air Refueling Wing consists of the following major units:

  • 459th Operations Group
756th Air Refueling Squadron
459th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron
  • 459th Maintenance Group
  • 459th Mission Support Group
69th Aerial Port Squadron
759th Logistic Readiness Flight
  • 459th Aerospace Medicine Squadron
  • 459th Aeromedical Staging Squadron


The World War II predecessor to the 459th Air Refueling Wing was the 459th Bombardment Group (Heavy). The 459th Air Refueling Wing is entitled to display the honors of the group by temporary bestowal.

The Reserve flying mission began at Andrews Air Force Base in the summer of 1954, when the 756th Troop Carrier Squadron was activated and equipped with the C-46 aircraft. Nearly 8 months later, the unit had grown enough to activate its parent organization, the 459th Troop Carrier Group (formerly 459th Bombardment Group) and its parent the 459th Troop Carrier Wing. Later that year, another squadron, the 757th Troop Carrier Squadron was activated at Byrd Field, Richmond, Virginia and assigned to the Group. A third flying unit, the 758th Troop Carrier Squadron, was added in 1957 and equipped with the C-119 "Flying Boxcar" at Greater Pittsburgh Airport, Pennsylvania. In November 1957, the 757th relocated from Byrd Field to Youngstown Municipal Airport, Ohio.

On 1 July 1966, the 459th was redesignated the 459th Military Airlift Wing and converted to a strategic, long-range mission with the C-124 Globemaster aircraft.

In June 1971, the 459th converted to the C-130 "Hercules" and was redesignated as the 459th Tactical Airlift Wing. In December 1974, with the consolidation of all Air Force strategic and tactical airlift resources under a single manager, the 459th's active duty gaining command switched from Tactical Air Command to Military Airlift Command.

In July 1986, the wing converted to the Lockheed C-141B "Starlifter" aircraft. The conversion resulted in an increase of wing personnel at Andrews from 900 to a level of almost 1,600.

459th ARW KC-135Rs at Andrews AFB in 2004.

In 1989, a 459th C-141 was the first aircraft to fly troops and supplies into Howard Air Force Base, Panama during Operation Just Cause; the following year the wing was named the Air Force Reserve Outstanding Unit of the Year by the Air Force Association. In August, 1990 wing aircrews were some of the first reservists activated in Support of Operation Desert Shield and many additional members were called to active service at the start of Operation Desert Storm with many deployed through the summer of 1991.

Post Cold War era

In 1993, the 459th continued to support Operation Restore Hope and mobilized members in support of the operations in Somalia. The wing provided humanitarian airlift relief in Rwanda and in support of the Cuban refugees at Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. In addition, 459th personnel supported Operation Uphold Democracy in Haiti as well as various other significant missions around the globe.

The 459th has been engaged in the Global War on Terrorism since September 2001. As a result of these operations, the Wing has participated in places around the globe to include: Iraq, Afghanistan, Qatar, Cuba, Bosnia, Kosovo, Turkey and Guam. Re-designated in 2003 as an air refueling wing, the 459th is equipped with KC-135Rs.


  • Established as the 459th Troop Carrier Wing, Medium on 30 December 1954
Activated in the Reserve on 26 January 1955
Redesignated 459th Military Airlift Wing on 1 July 1966
Redesignated 459th Tactical Airlift Wing on 29 June 1971
Redesignated 459th Military Airlift Wing on 1 July 1986
Redesignated 459th Airlift Wing on 1 February 1992
Redesignated: 459th Air Refueling Wing on 1 October 2003





  • Andrews Air Force Base (later Joint Base Andrews), Maryland, 26 January 1955 – Present



 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.