Report by: T. LETELLIER
In order to meet a perceived “continental threat”, the British military developed the idea to site an RAF bomber base at Mildenhall in the late 1920s. Shortly thereafter, the government purchased the land in 1929, followed by the completion of the first buildings in 1931. Three years later, RAF Mildenhall opened on 16 October 1934, as one of the RAF’s largest bomber stations. RAF Mildenhall received its first squadron and aircraft with the arrival of 99B Squadron; equipped with Handley Page Heyford bombers, in 1935.
Throughout World War II, Mildenhall remained very active. RAF Mildenhall was involved in most of RAF Bomber Command’s many offensives against Germany. While carrying out its operational duties, the base withstood several attacks by the German Luftwaffe but was never put out of commission. By the end of the war, aircraft from RAF Mildenhall and its satellite airfields dropped over 23,000 tons of explosives, laid 2,000 mines in enemy waters, and flew over 8,000 sorties.On 12 July 1950, the 93d Bomb Group arrived at RAF Mildenhall and began operations. On 1 October 1951, Strategic Air Command took control of the station and bomb wings rotated in and out of Mildenhall on temporary duty assignments. SAC established the 7th Air Division Headquarters at Mildenhall.
On 17 July 1959, SAC and USAFE reached an agreement facilitating and substantially increasing Third Air Force’s role in making operational decisions regarding the US Air Force units in the UK. In late 1965, Mildenhall welcomed the arrival of the Silk Purse Control Group and the 7120th Airborne Command and Control Squadron (7120 ACCS), previously stationed at Chateauroux Air Station, France. Upon its arrival at Mildenhall, the 7120 ACCS converted from C-118s to EC-135s.
The next significant event in Mildenhall’s history came with the arrival of Detachment 4, 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing, which controlled rotational SR-71 and U-2R aircraft from the base. Four years after they began rotational duty at Mildenhall, the base became a permanent station for the SR-71 in January 1983. From its arrival until the departure of the last SR-71 on 18 January 1990, the aircraft came to symbolize RAF Mildenhall in the local publics’ eye. On 18 June 1987, HQ USAFE redesignated the 513 TAW as the 513th Airborne Command and Control Wing (513 ACCW). Nearly five years later, the Air Force inactivated the 513 ACCW on 31 January 1992, and activated the 100th Air Refueling Wing in its place, and to serve as the Headquarters European Tanker Task Force. In May 1993 it was announced that the USAF-operated base at RAF Alconbury was to be returned to the UK Ministry of Defence. As a part of this return, the 352nd Special Operations Group and its associated aircraft, the MC-130E, HC-130P/N and MH-53, transferred to RAF Mildenhall in March 1995.
Technical information source : USAF and Globalsecurity