The Hobson Plan was an organizational structure established by the United States Air Force (USAF) in 1948. Known as the "Wing-Base" plan, it replaced the base plan used by the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), the predecessor organization of the USAF. The plan made the wing the basic combat unit of the USAAF, rather than the group and placed all support elements under the command of the wing commander in addition to combat elements.
As part of the United States Army, the USAAF operated from facilities known as Army Air Fields. They consisted of a ground station, which consisted of streets, buildings, barracks and the support facilities and organizations. The airfield consisted of the runways, taxiways, hangars, and other facilities used to support flight operations at the airfield. The Station Commander commanded the station organizations and was responsible for the facilities. There was a Quartermaster Group; Service Group; Headquarters Group, and a Combat Group. There was no uniformity in unit designations. In an administrative reorganization by HQ Army Air Force, on 1 May 1944 the station units were re-organized into "Army Air Force Base Units" (AAFBU), which gave organization to the units under the Station Commander.
The Combat Group Commander commanded the flying squadrons, his staff and any other squadron associated with the flying activities. During World War II, it was common to have several Combat Groups stationed at the same Army Airfield, especially at training bases in the United States, where Combat Groups would be trained by Training Groups assigned to the station under the Station Commander.
On September 16, 1947, the United States Air Force was established as a separate and equal element of the United States armed forces.
Rapid demobilization after September 1945 meant that a new Air Force had to be built with the remnants of the wartime Army Air Forces. Initially, the Army Air Fields retained as permanent bases were assumed by the USAF were renamed as "Air Force Bases", and the Army's organizational structure was carried over into the new service with "Air Force Base Units" replacing the AAFBU. This resulted, however, into an awkward circumstance where the Combat Group commander was reporting to a Base Commander who may or may not have had flying experience. Once the United States Air Force became operational as a separate department, Carl Andrew Spaatz, the first Chief of Staff of the United States Air Force established a policy where, "No tactical commander should be subordinate to the station commander."
Spaatz's policy meant that a new solution would have to be found. Major General Charles Born proposed the creation of the Provisional Wing Plan, which basically reversed the USAAF organization and placed the wing commander over the base commander, although this idea was eventually discarded as it was viewed to be too complex.
Under the "Wing-Base" plan, the operational combat squadrons were assigned to a Combat Group. The support squadrons on the station were assigned to a Maintenance and Supply Group, an Airdrome Support Group, and a Medical Group. The four Groups were assigned to a Wing, a new level of Command which unified all of the components, flying and support. The Group Commanders were subordinate to the Wing Commander who was an experienced combat flying leader. The Wing would assume the historical numerical designation of the assigned Combat Group. A Base Commander was established to handle the administrative duties of the Wing Commander and to coordinate with the various Group commanders. In this plan, known as the Hobson Plan the support Groups and the operational flying Combat Group and the wing became one unit. Colonel Kenneth B. Hobson, the chief of the AAF Organizational Division, was the special project chairman and briefer. The Wing-Base organization was formalized in Air Force Regulation (AFR) 20-15, Organization Principles and Policies for the US Air Force.
Organizations known as "Wings" had existed in the Air Force since 1918, and new wings were created in the 1920s and 1930s. During World War II numerous wings existed; some provided training in the United States, others controlled combat groups and support organizations overseas. However, the USAF Wings established in 1947 were new organizations and shared no lineage or honors with the Wings formed under the Army. In 1948 and afterward, some AAF wings were re-designated as Air Divisions, and placed immediately above the USAF Wings and below the Numbered Air Forces in the USAF organizational pyramid.
Another major change implemented by the Hobson Plan was the standardization of designations. For example, the 1st Fighter Wing, Established at March Air Force Base would consist of the 1st Fighter Group (its Combat Group); the 1st Maintenance and Supply Group, the 1st Combat Support Group (to operate base facilities and services), and the 1st Medical Group. Subordinate to the groups were the 1st Field Maintenance Squadron, 1st Supply Squadron, 1st Engine Squadron, 1st Security Police Squadron, and so on. Operational flying Squadrons retained their historical designations and were assigned to the Combat Group. Units assigned to the base as tenant units, under the command of other Wings, would also retain their designations.
The service test of the Hobson Plan in 1947-1948 prompted an important change in the field structure and organization of the Air Force. The Army Air Force (and previous Army Air Corps) Wing organizations supervised a mixture of combat groups and support organizations. None of the subordinate organizations were permanently affiliated with the wings, or possessed similar numerical designations or standard functions.
The USAF Wings organized for the service test of the Hobson Plan featured standard functions. Each wing had its support squadrons organized into the four prescribed Groups, all with identical numerical designations.
The temporary service test Combat Wings were:
|Wing Designation||Experimental Wing Organized||Experimental Wing Discontinued||Permanent Wing Activated|
|1st Fighter Wing||15 August 1947||24 August 1948||22 August 1948|
|2d Bombardment Wing||5 November 1947||12 July 1948||12 July 1948|
|4th Fighter Wing||15 August 1947||1 August 1948||1 August 1948|
|7th Bombardment Wing||17 November 1947||1 August 1948||1 August 1948|
|10th Reconnaissance Wing||3 December 1947||27 Aug 1948||25 August 1948|
|14th Fighter Wing||15 August 1947||26 July 1948||26 July 1948|
|20th Fighter Wing||15 August 1947||26 August 1948||24 August 1948|
|27th Fighter Wing||15 August 1947||1 August 1948||1 August 1948|
|28th Bombardment Wing||15 August 1947||12 July 1948||12 July 1948|
|31st Fighter Wing||20 November 1947||25 August 1948||23 August 1948|
|33d Fighter Wing||5 November 1947||1 August 1948||1 August 1948|
|43d Bombardment Wing||17 November 1947||1 August 1948||1 August 1948|
|47th Bombardment Wing||15 August 1947||24 August 1948||22 August 1948|
|56th Fighter Wing||15 August 1947||1 August 1948||1 August 1948|
|62d Troop Carrier Wing||15 August 1947||24 August 1948||22 August 1948|
|67th Reconnaissance Wing||25 November 1947||24 August 1948||22 August 1948|
|82d Fighter Wing||15 August 1947||1 August 1948||1 August 1948|
|92d Bombardment Wing||17 November 1947||12 July 1948||12 July 1948|
|93d Bombardment Wing||15 August 1947||12 July 1948||12 July 1948|
|97th Bombardment Wing||1 December 1947||12 July 1948||12 July 1948|
|98th Bombardment Wing||10 November 1947||12 July 1948||12 July 1948|
|301st Bombardment Wing||5 November 1947||1 August 1948||1 August 1948|
|307th Bombardment Wing||15 August 1947||12 July 1948||12 July 1948|
|313th Troop Carrier Wing||15 August 1947||26 August 1948||23 August 1948|
|316th Troop Carrier Wing||15 August 1947||25 August 1948||23 August 1948|
|332d Fighter Wing||15 August 1947||28 August 1948||26 August 1948|
|363d Reconnaissance Wing||15 August 1947||27 Aug 1948||27 Aug 1948|
|509th Bombardment Wing||17 November 1947||1 August 1948||1 August 1948|
In the spring of 1948, the Hobson Plan was judged to be successful, and additional Combat Wings were re-organized and established and the Hobson Plan was made permanent.
The wings organized under the permanent wing-base plan were:
|Wing Designation||Wing Organized||Major Command|
|3d Bombardment Wing||18 August 1948||Far East Air Forces|
|8th Fighter Wing||18 August 1948||Far East Air Forces|
|18th Fighter Wing||14 August 1948||Far East Air Forces|
|19th Bombardment Wing||17 August 1948||Far East Air Forces|
|22d Bombardment Wing||1 August 1948||Strategic Air Command|
|23d Fighter Wing||16 August 1948||Far East Air Forces|
|32d Composite Wing||24 August 1948||Far East Air Forces|
|35th Fighter Wing||18 August 1948||Far East Air Forces|
|36th Fighter Wing||2 July 1948||Caribbean Air Command|
|38th Bombardment Wing||18 August 1948||Far East Air Force|
|49th Fighter Wing||18 August 1948||Far East Air Forces|
|51st Fighter Wing||18 August 1948||Far East Air Forces|
|52d Fighter Wing||9 June 1948||Air Defense Command|
|55th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing||19 July 1948||Strategic Air Command|
|57th Fighter Wing||20 Apr 1948||Alaskan Air Command|
|60th Troop Carrier Wing||1 July 1948||United States Air Forces Europe|
|61st Troop Carrier Wing||1 July 1948||United States Air Forces Europe|
|71st Tactical Reconnaissance Wing||18 August 1948||Far East Air Forces|
|81st Fighter Wing||1 May 1948||Pacific Air Command|
|86th Fighter Wing||1 July 1948||United States Air Forces Europe|
|317th Troop Carrier Wing||18 August 1948||Far East Air Forces|
|325th Fighter Wing||9 June 1948||Air Defense Command|
|347th Fighter Wing||18 August 1948||Far East Air Forces|
|374th Troop Carrier Wing||17 August 1948||Far East Air Forces|
|475th Fighter Wing||18 August 1948||Far East Air Forces|
Over the years, the Hobson Plan has changed and evolved, but its basic concept has remained the same in terms of organization of USAF combat units.
Strategic Air Command (SAC)’s mobilization for the Korean War highlighted that SAC's wing commanders focused on running their bases and not on overseeing actual combat preparations. To improve wing commanders' ability to focus on combat operations, the air base group commander became responsible for managing the base housekeeping functions. SAC began to experiment with its organizations in February 1951 and decided on a final organization that was implemented in June 1952. In this model, the wing commander focused primarily on the combat units and the maintenance necessary to support combat aircraft by having the combat and maintenance squadrons report directly to the wing and eliminating the intermediate combat and maintenance & supply group structures.
The new organization was referred to as the "Dual Deputy" organization. The Commander of the combat group was replaced bu a wing Deputy Commander for Operations and the commander of the Maintenance & Supply Group was replaced by a wing Deputy Commander for Maintenance. There were only two deputy commanders. The Air Base Group and medical group remained, although on SAC bases with two wings, they were assigned to an air division headquarters. Between 1956 and 1958, the Air Force's other combat commands adopted this structure as well, although the organization of maintenance squadrons varied.
This arrangement, however raised honors and lineage issues, as the Combat Groups, all veterans of World War II combat operations, held collectively many honors, while the postwar wings possessed few if any honors. Both SAC and ADC wanted the history and honors of the Combat Groups retained. In 1954, after review by Headquarters USAF, it was decided to bestow the history and the campaign credits and decorations that had been earned by the group during World War II. In "bestowing" group history and honors on wings, USAF directives did not specify any conditions or limitations except to advise, in letters authorizing such bestowals, that these bestowals were temporary.
During the Vietnam War, Tactical Air Command transferred flightline maintenance personnel to the deploying squadrons to Southeast Asia. Squadrons transferred to Pacific Air Forces retained this arrangement, however in 1972 driven by budgetary considerations and the Vietnam drawdown, HQ USAF withdrew its approval for TAC’s structural deviation and forced TAC to revert to the consolidated maintenance concept.
In the mid-1970s, the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) tested a tri-deputy wing organization that added a Deputy Commander for Resources (DCR—later, resource management or RM) to the Dual-Deputy structure. The DCR was responsible for Supply, Transportation, Contracting, and Accounting and Finance squadrons. The DCM was responsible for the Maintenance Staff, Organizational Maintenance Squadron (OMS), Avionics Maintenance Squadron (AMS), Field Maintenance Squadron (FMS), and Munitions Maintenance Squadron (MMS). Viewed as giving the Wing Commander more direct control over the mission as well as focusing more attention on resource management during a period of serious budget constraints, HQ USAF approved the Tri-Deputy system for all major commands in 1975.
While maintenance remained consolidated under the DCM in the official Tri-Deputy structure, Tactical Air Command (TAC) reorganized the DCM internally into the Production Oriented Maintenance Organization (POMO) in 1978. Under POMO, an Aircraft Generation Squadron (AGS) under the DCM was responsible for all flightline maintenance, with a specific Aircraft Maintenance Unit (AMU) assigned to each fighter squadron. Each AMU trained and deployed with its fighter squadron but reported to the AGS commander. Intermediate level maintenance was divided between a Component Repair Squadron (CRS) and an Equipment Maintenance Squadron (EMS), both of which also reported to the DCM.
POMO was eventually renamed COMO (Combat Oriented Maintenance Organization). This was the basic structure of the tactical air forces (TAC, USAFE, and PACAF). SAC and Military Airlift Command (MAC) kept their aircraft maintenance in the previous structure with flightline maintenance consolidated in an Organizational Maintenance Squadron (OMS). This was an efficient structure for them since they operated primarily from home station or relied on en route maintenance teams at established overseas locations when their aircraft were overseas. Squadron deployments were not routine, so the additional cost of separate AMUs was not worthwhile.
In the early 1990s with the declared end of the Cold War and the continued decline in military budgets, the Air Force restructured to meet changes in strategic requirements, decreasing personnel, and a smaller infrastructure. This major reorganization stressed elimination of unnecessary layers of authority, decentralization of decision-making, and consolidation of functions.
The USAF restored a wing organizational structure, called the "objective wing," similar to the original Hobson wing-base plan. The inactivated Combat Group was re-designated as the "Operations Group" (OG) and was re-activated. The support squadrons were realigned into a Maintenance Group (MXG), Mission Support Group (MSG), and Medical Group (MDG). With their reactivation, the history and lineage of the Wing Combat Group inactivated in the 1950s was transferred from the Wing to the Operations Group.
In addition to the realignment of support and operational squadrons, the "Tactical", "Strategic" and other descriptors of unit designations were discontinued. For example, the 354th Tactical Fighter Wing became the 354th Fighter Wing; the 24th Composite Wing became the 24th Wing; 356th Tactical Fighter Squadron became the 356th Fighter Squadron, and so on. This returned the unit designations back to their 1947 names.
In 2002, the Objective Organization was modified to address the changes in the Air Force with the development of Air Expeditionary Units. The Combat Wing Organization is very similar to the POMO/COMO maintenance organization that was in place between 1978 and 1991.