Torrejon AB

Madrid-Torrejón Airport
IATA: TOJ - ICAO: LETO
Summary
Airport typeCivilian
Elevation AMSL 2026 ft (620 m)
Coordinates 40° 29' 48" N
3° 26' 45" W
Runways
Direction Length Surface
ft m
05/23 13,4004,085Asphalt
Madrid-Torrejón Airport (IATA: TOJICAO: LETO) is a commercial airport in Spain. It is a joint-use facility between the Spanish Ministry of Defence and the Ministry of Public Works. It is dedicated primarily to executive and private aviation. The airport is located 15mi/24km NE of Madrid, 5mi/8km W of Alcalá de Henares, and 1mi/2km NE of Torrejón de Ardoz. In the Torrejon de Ardoz Air Base are based the official planes of the President of the Government of Spain and the King of Spain.

History

During the Cold War the facility was known as Torrejon Air Base and was the headquarters of the United States Air Forces in Europe Sixteenth Air Force as well as the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing.

Aircraft based at Torrejon were rotated to other USAFE airbases at Aviano AB, Italy, and at Incirlik AB, Turkey. Torrejon was, in addition, a staging, reinforcement, and logistical airlift base. The USAF withdrew its forces on 21 May 1992.

Torrejon Air Base was originally the home of the Spanish National Institute of Aeronautics, however following the U.S.-Spanish Defense Agreement of 26 September 1953, construction began at Torrejon on a new 13,400-ft concrete runway to replace the existing 4,266-ft grass airstrip and on a massive concrete apron and other necessary maintenance and shelter facilities to accommodate the largest United States Air Force Strategic Air Command bombers, supporting SAC Reflex missions.

Torrejón was one of three major USAF Cold War airbases in Spain, the others being Zaragoza Air Base near Zaragoza and Morón Air Base near Seville.

Strategic Air Command

USAF support activities began under the 7600th Air Base Group located in Madrid in July 1956, to support construction and base organizational functions. Torrejon Air Base opened officially on 1 June 1957 with the SAC activating the 3970th Strategic Wing on 1 July 1957.

Torrejon Air Base was a major SAC command base, hosting Sixteenth Air Force as well as SACs 65th Air Division (Defense) where it cooperated with Spanish Air Force units in the Air Defense Direction Centers (ADDCs). The 65th Air Division directed base construction, and the establishment of off-base housing and radar sites. The division's fighter squadrons flew air defense interceptions over Spanish airspace. The division also controlled the operations of numerous attached tactical fighter squadrons that were deployed to Spain for temporary duty. Assigned or attached units of the division participated in numerous exercises with the Spanish Air Defense Command, and in some instances, with the U.S. Sixth Fleet.

In addition to the command and control mission, Torrejon Air Base base hosted SAC reflex operations. Reflex operations consisted of rotating Boeing B-47 Stratojet wings overseas for extended duty as part of a dispersal program. Another reason for establishing Reflex bases was the relatively short range of the B-47, unlike the intercontinental range of the Convair B-36 "Peacemaker" and Boeing B-52 Stratofortress which could remain based permanently in the United States. Also, in this way SAC could spread out its potential as a Soviet target by placing its aircraft, weapons, and personnel on many more bases, with each bombardment wing having two additional installations to which it could disperse.

Reflex bases located from Greenland to North Africa projected American nuclear might to within striking distance of the Soviet Union heartland.

497th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron

On 5 July 1958 the Air Defense Command 497th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron arrived at Torrejón from Geiger AFB Washington with North American F-86D Sabres and an Air Defense Mission.

On 26 April 1960, the 497th FIS transisitioned to the F-102 Delta Dagger and operated under SAC control until its transfer to the USAFE 86th Air Division (Defense) at Ramstein Air Base West Germany on 1 July 1960. This transfer was made in order that all USAF fighter assets in Europe could be concentrated in one command. It operated F-102s until 3 June 1964, when the squadron was reassigned to the 8th TFW at George AFB, California as a F-4C Tactical Fighter Squadron. Its F-102 aircraft were transferred to other USAFE FIS squadrons.

United States Air Forces in Europe

Enlarge picture
McDonnell F-4D-32-MC Phantom Serial 66-8768 of the 307th TFS. This aircraft is now on permanent display in front of VFW post in Pastro, TX. (Photo taken at Ramstein Air Base, West Germany
Enlarge picture
General Dynamics F-16A Block 15H Fighting Falcon Serial 81-0788 of the 612th TFS. After the 401st was transferred from Torrejon, this aircraft was sent to AMARC in 1996
With the phaseout of the B-47 from SAC in the mid 1960s, the need for SAC European bases diminished. The Sixteenth Air Force was turned over to the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) on 15 April 1966 and the mission of Torrejon changed to tactical aircraft operations.

Prior to 1966, Torrejon AB hosted TDY squadrons of tactical aircraft rotating from CONUS TAC bases which would perform 30-day rotations to Aviano Air Base Italy and Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. With the USAFE takeover of the base, Tactical Air Command transferred the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing from England Air Force Base Louisiana to USAFE on a permanent basis to Torrejon on 27 April to perform host functions at the base and to support the rotational TDY duty to Italy and Turkey for NATO alerts.

The 401st TFW's initial operational squadrons at Torrejon were:
  • 307th Tactical Fighter (1966 - 1971) (Tail Code: TJ)
  • 353d Tactical Fighter (1966 - 1971) (Tail Code: TK)
  • 613th Tactical Fighter (1966 - 1993) (Yellow/Black Tails, Tail Code: TL)
401st TFW squadrons flew the North American F-100D/FSuper Sabre.

Due to the demands of the Vietnam War, the 401st had deployed two of its three permanently assigned fighter squadrons (612th, 614th) to South Vietnamese bases (Phan Rang AB, Phu Cat AB). To provide the 401st a full operational capability at Torrejon, aircraft and personnel were transferred on a permanent basis to the 401st TFW from Homestead AFB, Florida (307th TFS) and Myrtle Beach AFB South Carolina (353d TFS).

As well as the USAFE tactical aircraft, SAC retained a presence at Torrejon with the 98th Strategic Wing flying Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers from the base. The 98th SW replaced the 3970th Strategic Wing on 25 June 1966. The 98th SW was deactivated at Lincoln Air Force Base Nebraska that same day with the closure of Lincoln AFB.

The 98th SW had no permanently assigned aircraft assigned, however CONUS-based SAC wings deployed aircraft to provide air refueling sup-port to meet the operational, alert, and exercise commitments of SAC, TAC, USAFE, and NATO in an area including the eastern Atlantic, most of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East.

Even though not assigned to the base, when a B-52 crashed off the coast of Spain in 1966 and lost its nuclear weapons, Torrejon became the focal point for the search.

Military Airlift Command (MAC) operated the 625th Military Airlift Support Squadron at Torrejon to function as a major terminal for MAC transatlantic flights.

In 1970 the 401st TFW upgraded to the McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantom II. In September 1973, an equipment change to the F-4C model took place, then in 1978 to the F-4D.

As a result of the withdrawal of USAF forces in South Vietnam, in 1972 the 307th and 353d fighter squadrons were returned to their home bases, and the 612th and 614th TFSs were assigned to Torrejon. Also in 1972, squadron tail codes were eliminated and "TJ" became the tail code for all 401st TFW aircraft.

On 31 December 1976 the 98th Strategic Wing was deactivated with its air refueling mission being taken over by the 306th Strategic Wing, based at Ramstein Air Base West Germany.

In 1983 the 401st upgraded to the General Dynamics Block 15 F-16A/B Fighting Falcon. Operational squadrons were:
  • 612th Tactical Fighter Squadron (blue tail stripe)
  • 613th Tactical Fighter Squadron (yellow tail stripe)
  • 614th Tactical Fighter Squadron (red tail stripe)
The F-16s were upgraded to the Block 30 F-16C/D in July 1988.

USAF withdrawal

As the time approached in 1987 for the renegotiation of the existing base agreement, which had entered into force in 1983 for a five-year period, pressures mounted for a reduction of the United States military presence in Spain. Communist political groups and elements of the PSOE had campaigned against the bases. Moreover, the base agreement had become a symbol of United States cooperation with the former Francisco Franco regime. It was important to many Spaniards to eliminate vestiges of this history by converting Spain's long-standing bilateral relations with the United States into a multilateral undertaking through NATO.

The outcome of the 1986 referendum on membership in NATO committed the Spanish government to negotiate the reduction of the United States military presence in Spain. Spain insisted that the F-16 aircraft be removed from Torrejon as a condition for renewal of the base agreement, and the Spanish government threatened to expel all United States forces in Spain if this demand were not accepted. The United States felt that the Spanish military contribution was minimal and the Spanish government was permitting domestic factors to dictate a weakening of NATO defenses. Even though Italy subsequently agreed to station the F-16 wing at Aviano Air Base, the cost of transfer would be high, and the unit would be in a more exposed position to Warsaw Pact forces.

In January 1988, Spain and the United States announced jointly that agreement had been reached in principle on a new base agreement with an initial term of eight years, essentially meeting the conditions demanded by Spain. The F-16s were to be removed from Torrejon within three years, by mid-1991. It was expected that this step would reduce the number of United States personnel in Spain by nearly one-half.

Implementation of this agreement was delayed by the 1990/91 crisis in Kuwait, when the 401st TFW was one of the first American fighter wings to respond, with the 612th TFS deploying to its wartime base at Incirlik Turkey and the 614th TFS becoming the first US Military unit to deply to the Persian Gulf State of Qatar. Both squadrons flew a large number of operational missions during Operations Desert Shield and Storm.

After the 1991 cease-fire in Iraq, plans proceeded to close Torrejon Air Base. on 28 June, the 613th TFS was deactivated and its aircraft sent to Air National Guard squadrons in the United States. The 612th TFS deactivated on 1 October, and the 614th TFS on 1 January 1992.

In accordance with the 1988 agreement, the USAF portion of the base was returned to the Spanish government on 21 May 1996, with the 401st Tactical Fighter Wing being transferred to Aviano Air Base Italy without personnel or equipment.

See also

References

  • Donald, David, Century Jets - USAF Frontline Fighters of the Cold War.
  • Endicott, Judy G., USAF Active Flying, Space, and Missile Squadrons as of 1 October 1995. Office of Air Force History
  • Fletcher, Harry R., Air Force Bases Volume II, Active Air Force Bases outside the United States of America on 17 September 1982, Office of Air Force History, 1989
  • Martin, Patrick, Tail Code: The Complete History Of USAF Tactical Aircraft Tail Code Markings, 1994
  • Menard, David W., "Before Centuries. USAFE Fighters 1948-1959", 1992.
  • Menard, David W., "USAF Plus Fifteen, A Photo History 1947-1962", 1993.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A., Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977, Office of Air Force History, 1984
  • Rogers, Brian, United States Air Force Unit Designations Since 1978, 2005
  • USAAS-USAAC-USAAF-USAF Aircraft Serial Numbers—1908 to present
  • The Lucky Devils in the Gulf War
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Torrejón de Ardoz is a town in the urban area of Madrid, Spain, and has about 110,000 inhabitants.

It is a town 20 km east of Madrid on the NII highway (Madrid-Barcelona). It is essentially a dormitory town, mostly consisting of apartments. It can be reached by bus from Av.
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Sixteenth Air Force was a Numbered Air Force under the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) major command of the United States Air Force.

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Sixteenth Air Force was originally activated on 20 May 1954 as the Joint United States Military Group, Air Administration
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Zaragoza Airport (IATA: ZAZ, ICAO: LEZG) is a commercial airport near Zaragoza, Spain. It is located 10 mi (16 km) west of Zaragoza, 168 mi (270 km) west of Barcelona, and 163 mi (260 km) northeast of Madrid.
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Morón Air Base (IATA: OZP, ICAO: LEMO) is located at in southern Spain, approximately 35 miles (56 km) southeast of the city of Seville and 75 miles (121 km) northeast of Naval Station Rota.
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