|53rd Electronic Warfare Group|
|Active||1941–1944; 1947–1949; 1952–1982; 1982–1991; 1993–1998; 1998–2021|
|Branch||United States Air Force|
|Motto(s)||Victoria per Observatiam Latin Victory through Observation|
|Engagements||American Theater of World War II Mediterranean Theater of Operations|
|Decorations||Air Force Outstanding Unit Award|
Air Force Organizational Excellence Award
|Patch with 53rd Electronic Warfare Group emblem[note 1]|
|Patch with 68th Electronic Warfare Group emblem|
|68th Air Refueling Wing emblem (approved c. December 1986)[note 2]|
|68th Air Refueling Group emblem (approved September 1982)|
|Patch with 68th Bombardment Wing emblem (approved 3 October 1952)|
|Emblem of the 68th Reconnaissance Group (approved 17 September 1942)|
The group was responsible for providing operational, technical and maintenance electronic warfare (EW) expertise for the combat air forces and for systems engineering, testing, evaluation, tactics development, employment, capability and technology assessment. This includes the wartime responsibility for emergency reprogramming and dissemination of EW system mission data software for combat aircraft. The group managed the Combat Shield Electronic Warfare Assessment Program for combat aircraft EW systems. Combat Shield provides operational units a system-specific capability assessment for their radar warning receivers, electronic attack pods, and integrated EW systems.
Established in 1941, the unit traces its lineage and heritage the 68th Strategic Reconnaissance Group; the 68th Air Refueling Group; the 68th Bombardment Wing, Heavy, and the 68th Electronic Combat Group.
The group was first established as the 68th Observation Group in 1941 at Brownwood Army Air Field, Texas, on 1 September 1941. Its primary mission was observation aircraft training and antisubmarine patrols. The group moved to several different U.S. locations in preparation for overseas deployment in 1942.
It moved to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations (MTO), October–November 1942, and became part of Twelfth Air Force. Shortly after the group began operations most of its squadrons were detached for separate duty in order to carry out diverse activities over a wide area. Operating from bases in North Africa until November 1943, the group, or elements of the group, engaged in patrolling the Mediterranean; strafing trucks, tanks, gun positions, and supply dumps to support ground troops in Tunisia; training fighter pilots and replacement crews; and flying photographic and visual reconnaissance missions in Tunisia, Sicily, and Italy to provide information needed to adjust artillery fire.
The group moved to Italy and became part of Fifteenth Air Force in November 1943. It continued visual and photographic reconnaissance and began flying weather reconnaissance missions in Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Hungary, and the Balkans. Also engaged in electronic-countermeasure activities, investigating radar equipment captured from the enemy, flying ferret missions along the coasts of Italy and southern France, and accompanying bomber formations to detect approaching enemy fighters. Inactivated in 1944,
The unit trained in the Reserve as the 68th Reconnaissance Group at Hamilton Field (later Hamilton AFB), California between, 1947–1949, when it was inactivated as a result of Continental Air Command's reorganization of its flying units under the Wing Base (Hobson) plan and its personnel transferred to units of the 349th Troop Carrier Wing.
The 68th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing was activated by Strategic Air Command (SAC) on 10 October 1951, with an initial cadre of 16 people from the 44th Bombardment Wing. The group was assigned as a subordinate unit to the new wing at Lake Charles Air Force Base, Louisiana. The wing was assigned to the 37th Air Division of Second Air Force. The group was activated as the 68th Strategic Reconnaissance Group, but it was a paper unit, with token personnel assigned on additional duty to keep it active and with its flying squadrons controlled by the wing. Support organizations for the wing were also activated, but they were located at Lockbourne AFB, Ohio and were not controlled by the wing.
It was not until May 1952 that the wing received Boeing RB-29 Superfortress aircraft. Its primary mission was gathering intelligence on the Soviet Union. In June the group was discontinued entirely. Under SAC's new Dual Deputate organization,[note 3] squadrons all flying and maintenance squadrons were directly assigned to the wing, so no operational group element was needed. It added a Boeing KC-97 refueling mission in November 1953.
The wing replaced its propeller-driven RB-29s with new Boeing B-47E Stratojet swept-wing medium bombers in October 1953 and was redesignated as the 68th Bombardment Wing. The B-47 was capable of flying at high subsonic speeds and primarily designed for penetrating the airspace of the Soviet Union. Becoming operationally ready with the B-47 in May 1954, the wing conducted strategic bombardment training and air refueling to meet SAC's global commitments. The wing performed Reflex deployments to RAF Fairford, England from 14 June to 7 August 1954 and to RAF Brize Norton, England from 27 September 1957 to 8 January 1958. The B-47s were reaching the end of their operational lifetime in the late 1950s, and the wing's aircraft were sent to Davis-Monthan Air Force Base in April 1963 with the closure of Chennault AFB. With the closing of Chennault, and in order to retain the lineage of 379th, Headquarters SAC received authority from Headquarters USAF to move the 68th without personnel or equipment to Seymour Johnson Air Force Base, North Carolina on 15 April where it replaced the 4241st Strategic Wing, which could not carry a permanent history or lineage
4241st Strategic Wing
SAC had organized the 4241st Strategic Wing at Seymour Johnson on 1 October 1958 and assigned it to Second Air Force as part of SAC's plan to disperse its Boeing B-52 Stratofortress heavy bombers over a larger number of bases, thus making it more difficult for the Soviet Union to knock out the entire fleet with a surprise first strike. The wing remained a headquarters only until 1 December 1959 when the 911th Air Refueling Squadron, flying Boeing KC-135 Stratotankers, three maintenance squadrons, and a squadron to provide security for special weapons were activated and assigned to the wing.
On 5 January 1959 the 73rd Bombardment Squadron, consisting of 15 Boeing B-52 Stratofortresses moved to Seymour Johnson from Ramey Air Force Base, Puerto Rico where it had been one of the three squadrons of the 72nd Bombardment Wing and the wing was transferred from Second Air Force to the 822nd Air Division. The wing was fully organized at the start of May when the 53rd Aviation Depot Squadron' moved from Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana to oversee the wing's special weapons. Starting in 1960, one third of the squadron's aircraft were maintained on fifteen-minute alert, fully fueled and ready for combat to reduce vulnerability to a Soviet missile strike. This was increased to half the squadron's aircraft in 1962. The 4241st (and later the 68th) continued to maintain an alert commitment until the end of the Cold War. In 1962, the wing's bombers began to be equipped with the GAM-77 Hound Dog and the GAM-72 Quail air-launched cruise missiles, The 4134th Airborne Missile Maintenance Squadron was activated in November to maintain these missiles.
68th Bombardment Wing, Heavy When the 68th replaced the 4341st[note 4] the 53rd Munitions Maintenance Squadron and the 911th Air Refueling Squadron were reassigned to the 68th. The 4241st's maintenance and security squadrons were replaced by ones with the 68th numerical designation. Each of the new units assumed the personnel, equipment, and mission of its predecessor.
The wing continued to conduct strategic bombardment training and global refueling operations to meet SAC commitments. Wing aircraft, most aircrews and maintenance personnel, and other support personnel were loaned to other SAC units for combat operations in Southeast Asia, 27 May 1972 – 15 July 1973.
In 1982 the B-52Gs of the wing were retired and the 68th Wing became the 68th Air Refueling Group. Elevated back to wing status in 1986, the 68th Air Refueling Wing participated in combat operations in Grenada (Operation Urgent Fury) in October 1983, in Libya (Operation Eldorado Canyon) in April 1986, and in Panama (Operation Just Cause) in December 1989. It deployed to Spain to provide airlift and air refueling during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm from August 1990 to March 1991.
The 68th Air Refueling Wing was inactivated on 22 April 1991 as part of the objective wing reorganization of the Air Force, which called for one wing on a base. Its 911th Air Refueling Squadron was reassigned to the 4th Wing. Its support organizations were inactivated and their personnel and equipment assigned to elements of the 4th Wing or transferred,
The group was activated again on 15 April 1993 as the 68th Electronic Combat Group. It provided operational and technical electronic combat expertise for US combat air forces from 1993 to 1998 when it was inactivated and replaced by the 53rd Electronic Warfare Group due to USAF policy that groups carry the same number as their parent wing. Two years later the 68th was consolidated with the 53rd that had replaced it. The group performed electronic warfare technology assessments; tested, developed, managed, and maintained electronic warfare systems hardware and software to meet Combat Air Force mission requirements. In June 2021, the group was inactivated and its assets were used to form the 350th Spectrum Warfare Wing.
68th Electronic Combat Group
68th Bombardment Wing
53rd Electronic Warfare Group
68th Group, 1941–1952
68th Wing, 1951–1982
68th Group, 1941–1952
68th Wing, 1951–1982
1941–1952: O-38, 1941–1942; O-46, 1941–1942; O-47, 1941–1942; O-49, 1941–1942; YO-50, 1941–1942; O-52, 1941–1942; O-57, 1941–1942; O-58, 1941–1942; O-59, 1941–1942; A-20, 1942–1943; DB-7, 1942; L-4, 1942; O-43, 1942; P-39, 1942–1943; P-40, 1942–1943; P-43, 1942; A-36, 1943; B-17, 1943–1944; P-38, 1943; P-38/F-4, 1943; P-51, 1943; P-51/F-6, 1943; Spitfire, 1943. A-6, 1947–1949; A-7, 1947–1949; A-11, 1947–1949.
1951–1982: B-29, 1952–1953; B-47, 1953–1963; KC-97, 1953–1957; B-52, 1963–1972, 1973–1982; KC-135, 1963–1972; 1973–1985.
Consolidated organization: KC-10, 1982–1991; KC-135, 1982–1991. None, 1993–1998
This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency.