|Buckley Air Force Base|
|Part of Air Force Space Command (AFSPC)|
|Located in: Aurora, Colorado|
Buckley AFB, looking west with the Colorado Rockies in background. Aurora is in foreground.
|Controlled by||United States Air Force|
|Garrison||460th Space Wing|
|Elevation AMSL||5,662 ft / 1,726 m|
Buckley Air Force Base (IATA: BFK, ICAO: KBKF, FAA LID: BKF) is a United States Air Force base in Aurora, Colorado, that was established by the U.S. Army as an auxiliary field and bombing range in 1938, and activated as a designated installation in 1941. The base was named in honor of World War I Army pilot First Lieutenant John Harold Buckley.
Buckley Air Force Base is assigned to Air Force Space Command and serves more than 92,000 active duty, National Guard, Reserve and retired personnel throughout the Front Range community. The host unit is the 460th Space Wing. Buckley AFB supports air operations, space-based missile warning capabilities, space surveillance operations, space communications operations and installation support functions.
In 1938, the city of Denver purchased a 100-square mile area of land several miles east of the city and donated it to the War Department. Initially, it was called the Demolition Bombing Range and served as an auxiliary field, ordnance loading area, and practice range for bombers from Lowry Field. On June 14th, 1941 the site was named Buckley Field after 1st Lt. John Harold Buckley, a pilot from Longmont, Colorado, who was killed in a mid-air collision in France on September 27, 1918.
Following the entry of the United States into World War II, the War Department called for a dramatic expansion of Lowry Field's armament training program to 55,000 graduates per year. Lowry officials decided to transfer its fighter armament school to Buckley, and set aside 5,740 acres in the auxiliary field area for this purpose. Under the command of the 336th Headquarters and Air Base Squadron (Army Air Forces Technical Training Command), later the 3702d Army Air Force Base Unit, construction on the base began in May 1942, resulting in the construction of over 700 buildings. On July 1st, 1942, the U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Training School began classes at the base. Along with its primary mission as a fighter armament training base, and also hosted schools for basic training, military police, post engineers, chemical warfare, and an arctic survival school for aircrew headed for the Alaskan Wing of the Air Transport Command. The arctic survival school conducted classroom training at Buckley and field training at Echo Lake, near the summit of Mt. Evans. Technical training at the base was under the jurisdiction of the Western Technical Training Command. During the war, Buckley Field graduated over 52,000 armament students, 4,500 arctic survival students, and 37,000 basic trainees.
After World War II, Buckley Field's military role quickly diminished. Beginning in 1945, it alternated roles as a sub-post of Lowry Field and a separate installation. Army Air Force Technical Training Command finally placed it on temporary inactive status in June 1946, and fully inactivated Buckley Field in September 1946. It allowed the Colorado Air National Guard to relocate to the base from Denver Municipal Airport during the same period to serve as custodian, although it never formally transferred control to the Guard during this time. In November 1946, the Department of the Navy announced that it planned to assume command of the base and convert it to a training installation for Reserve forces. The Navy formally assumed command of the base on September 28th, 1947, renaming it Naval Air Station-Denver.
The renamed base was the location of Naval Air Reserve aviation squadrons, as well as for veterans and their families waiting to return to civilian life. Thousands of veterans returned to civilian life here over the next four years, while Naval Air Reservists concurrently conducted operational training. The Navy remained here for 12 years before decommissioning its base on June 30, 1959, and transferring it to the U.S. Air Force (which had become a separate service branch in 1947). However, the Naval Reserve remained at Buckley as tenant activity known as Naval Air Reserve Center Denver, the predecessor of the present day Navy Operational Support Center Denver. The Colorado Air National Guard continued to operate at NAS-Denver as a tenant organization.
Buckley Field became the Buckley Air National Guard Base on April 18, 1960 under a license from the USAF. At the time, it became the first stand-alone Air National Guard base in the country. The Colorado Air National Guard remained in control of Buckley Field for the next 40 years, operating it as a fighter base.
During the Cold War era, the Colorado Air National Guard mobilized the Buckley-based 120th Tactical Fighter Squadron for events as the Cuban Missile Crisis, the USS Pueblo crisis, and the Vietnam War.
During the 1950s and 1960s, the growth of Aurora, Denver's eastern neighbor, edged toward Buckley Field. The land of the air base was annexed to Aurora in 1965 and 1966; however, the installation is US Government property under Federal jurisdiction.
From about 1970 through 1989, another tenant unit at Buckley Field was the 154th Tactical Air Support Group, an Air National Guard (ANG) unit trained to provide close air support for United States Army ground operations. The 154th Group had its own truck-mounted tactical radar units and radar-control vans, but no aircraft were assigned.
Although the Cold War ended in the early 1990s, the 120th Tactical Fighter Wing did not see any decrease in its responsibilities. It deployed from Buckley Field numerous times during the decade of the 1990s to take part in various military operations such as Operation Desert Storm, Operation Northern Watch, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.
A year later, control of Buckley AFB was transferred to the newly reactivated 460th Air Base Wing, which assumed the responsibility for installation support of the base and its tenant units. On August 19th, 2004, Air Force Space Command redesignated the 460 ABW as the 460th Space Wing, bringing the base's satellite missile warning mission under control of the wing as well.
Since the return of Buckley Field to the Air Force in 2000, the air base has seen an unprecedented amount of new construction and modernization. New enlisted airmen's dormitories, the commissary, the base exchange, and the fitness center have all been completed, augmented by the completion of family housing units - the first ones ever constructed at Buckley Field.
In late 2016, the Air Force approved an upgraded version of the Space-Based Infrared System (SBIRS) ground system from Lockheed Martin. The newly-improved system will strengthen the constellation's efforts in delivering critical infrared data for defense purposes. The Block 10 system includes the implementation of speedier collection times in detecting potential threats and will be located at the SBIRS Mission Control Station at Buckley AFB. In Homeland Preparedness News, a Lockheed Martin spokesman said, "With the Block 10 upgrade, the mission-critical data supplied by SBIRS is now being managed from a single ground control station, which is not only cost-efficient, but also more effective in providing our Air Force operators with the ability to characterize threats and quickly provide that information to military commanders deployed around the globe."
The 460th Space Wing delivers global infrared surveillance, tracking missile warning for theater and homeland defense and provide combatant commanders with expeditionary warrior Airmen. The 460th Space Wing is broken into three groups, each responsible for a distinct part of the Buckley Air Force Base mission.
88 tenant units call Buckley AFB "Home".
Other tenants include Air Force Office of Special Investigation, Det. 801, Marine Air Control Squadron 23, Navy Marine Corps Reserve Center, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Civil Air Patrol, Army Air Force Exchange Service, Air Force Audit Agency, Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center, Air Force Technical Applications Center Det. 45, Defense Commissary Agency, Defense Contract Management Agency, Battery A, 1st Battalion, 14th Marines.
Off-base tenant units supported by Buckley Air Force Base include The 4th Manpower Requirements Squadron, Air Force Accounting and Finance Office, Defense Information Service Agency, Air Force Institute of Technology, Air Force Office of Special Investigation, Det. 110, Air Reserve Personnel Center, Defense Automated Printing Service, Defense Security Cooperation Agency (FMS), SBIRS Combine Task Force, HQ Air Force Weather Agency, ROTC Det. 105, Department of Defense Inspector General, Military Entrance Processing Station, Naval Reserve Recruiting Area West 7, Rocky Mountain Arsenal and the U.S. Army Recruiting Battalion.
In addition, a $141 million facility for the National Security Agency is planned on the base, which will provide space for 850 people whose offices are now in temporary buildings. Buckley is home to a large contingent of secretive agencies, including the NRO ADF-Colorado noted above, the National Security Agency, Army, Navy, Air Force and Marine intelligence and information units; and Marine and Coast Guard cryptologic units.
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