Hahn Air Base
50th Tactical Fighter Wing
On 21 March 1951, approximately 1280 acres of land were acquired for an air base near the two small towns of Hahn and Lautzenhausen in the Hunsrück area of Western Germany. These two towns were located about 60 miles west of Wiesbaden, Germany, 50 miles south of Koblenz, Germany, and 50 miles northeast of Trier, Germany. Nearby was the Mozel River, one of the world's most famous wine producing regions.
The base itself was located high on a ridge, 1650 feet above sea level, at a northern latitude approximately even with Labrador. That gave Hahn long winters and short summers with fog usually a part of the scenery throughout the year. Rain, both the hard driving type and drizzle variety, was not an uncommon occurance. In winter, there was considerable snow, and in general the weather picture was like that of the New England states. Hahn was acknowledged as havinq the worst weather in Europe and that required a great deal of instrument flying with little flying during the usual weather minimums in the winter and early spring.
In April 1951, the French "Mission des Grandes Traveaux Aeronautiques" began airfield construction at Hahn and other locations. French construction at Hahn included the 8000 by 150 foot runway, a 50 foot concrete taxiway, 75 dispersal hardstands, alert aprons, two hangar aprons, one hangar, POL (fuel and lubrication) storage facilities for 400,000 gallons, ammunition storage, a ground-controlled-approach hardstand, access and interior roads and wells. All of the flat slab facilities were completed by March 1952, but the POL facilities, ammunition storage, and hangars were not completed until late 1952.
An American inspection team in May 1952, found that "the runway surface is the best of any of the newly constructed airfields in the French zone, even though about half of the runway expansion joints contained structural failures." The team also stated that Hahn Air Base was "considered operational for a wing at the present time."
On 2 June 1952, the American and French Commanders signed another agreement which provided for the transfer of Hahn and other French zone air fields to USAFE and Twelfth Air Force control.
Preparation for the arrival of American personnel at Hahn began with the construction of 25 prefabricated barracks and other facilities by the 862nd Engineer Battalion (Aviation), while the German firm of Gruen and Bilfinger of Mannheim, Germany, began construction of electric power, water, and sewage facilities.
The 7356th Air Base Squadron was the first USAF unit to arrive at Hahn on 9 September 1952. Base facilities then consisted of pre-fabricated barracks heated by coke-burning pot belly stoves, outdoor latrines, and tents for motorpool personnel to work in. An L-5B was the first aircraft assigned to Hahn and was obtained by the 7356th Air Base Squadron on 16 September 1952 to fill administrative flight requirements.
Also during September 1952 the U.S. phase of construction began. Facilities constructed during that phase included:
- The control tower
- Crash and fire-station
- Motor pool
- Sewage, water, and electrical distribution systems
- Mess halls
- 11, 216-man airmen's barracks
- Three squadron operations buildings
- Base accountable and cold storage buildings
Other construction included: the post exchange; auditorium; wing headquarters; air base group headquarters; Officer's Club; jet engine test block; paint and dope shop; perimeter fencing; guardhouse; service club; 75-bed hospital; central heating plant; additional alert apron; parachute building; post office; chapel; photo lab; and three 100 x 140 foot squadron hangars.
With most of that construction completed by mid-1953, the primary mission of Hahn Air Base in 1953 was the reception of the 50th Fighter Bomber Wing. The arrival of the 50th and their F-36F aircraft from Clovis AFB, New Mexico, during August, marked the first mass flight of an entire tactical wing from the U.S. to Continental Europe.
During the next few years, additional construction at Hahn included seven military family housing facilities, five troop facilities, hangars, covered revetments, alert taxiway and other miscellaneous structures.
In 1956, the 50th Fighter Bomber Wing was transferred to Toul-Rosieres Air Base, France, and the 7425th Air Base Group became the "parent" organization at Hahn, providing support for the 36th Fighter Day Wing, 496th Fighter Interceptor Squadron and Headquarters, 38th Tactical Missile Wing.
In August 1959, a few months prior to the return of the 50th (redesignated the 50th Tactical Fighter Wing on 8 July 1958), Headquarters 38th Tactical Missile Wing was moved to Sembach AB, Germany. Also, during the same period, the 461st Tactical Fighter Squadron, a component of the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing was inactivated, and the 7425th Combat Support Group was discontinued and renamed the 50th Air Base Group. On 15 November 1959, the USAFE command structure was realigned and Seventeenth Air Force, after its move from North Africa to Germany, took control of Hahn.
The return of the 50th TFW from France in December 1959 included the 10th and 81st Tactical Fighter Squadrons.
Operating Location Number 1 of the 50th TFW was completed and occupied on 13 February 1960. That area was the first in USAFE to be built specifically to house the Victor Alert capability. Also, during 1960, an asphalt overlay of 4.7 inches was added to the existing runway.
In 1961, Hahn organizations were directed by higher headquarters to implement the Dual-Deputy type of organizational strucutre prior to May 1962. That system was begun in USAFE to standardize its tactical units, by relieving the Wing Commander of many administrative details and insuring that the Deputy Commander for Operations and the Deputy Commander for Material were given more control over their specific functions.
During the Cuban Missile Crisis, which began 22 October 1962, the 435th Tactical Fighter Squadron deployed from Moron AB, Spain, to Hahn. Although the crisis officially ended 26 November 1962, the 435th TFS did not return to Moron until 11 December 1962.
In 1963, Detachment 5 of the Atlantic Air Rescue Center moved to Hahn with three H-43B helicopters to conduct rescue operations within a 75 mile radius of the base.
Between 1965 and 1966 Hahn witnessed the phaseout of the local detachment of the 38th Tactical Missile Wing, and preparations for conversion from F-100 to F-4D aircraft. As a result of the aircraft conversion, Hahn and the 50th TFW found its three tactical squadrons relieved of their Victor Alert commitments for the first time since 1959.
On 1 January 1967, Detachment 31, 7232nd Munitions Maintenance Squadron was assigned to the 50th TFW, and on 11 March the base received its first F-4 aircraft.
In 1968, the 496th Fighter Interceptor Squadron was officially assigned to the 50th TFW under a reorganization that officially dissolved the 86th Air Division -- the 496th's former parent unit. In 1970, the 496th exchanged its F-102 aircraft for F-4E aircraft and was redesignated as a Tactical Fighter Squadron while retaining its Air Defense mission.
During the period July through December 1969, the 8lst Tactical Fighter Squadron began training for its newly assigned mission as the first "Wild Weasel" unit in USAFE. The 81st later deployed to Zweibrücken AB, Germany, on a permanent basis in June 1971.
From April through August 1970 (until 1 August), the Hahn runway was closed for repairs and upgrading. During that period, the three tactical squadrons of the 50th TFW deployed to dispersed operating locations. Also, during the month of June 1970, Hahn became host to C Battery, 7th Battalion, Chaparral (SP)/Vulcan (T), 61st Artillery, 32nd Army Air Defense Command, which arrivred to provide air defense for the base and the wing against low-level enemy attack aircraft.
As mentioned earlier, the big event for Hahn AB during 1971 was the deployment of the 81st TFS to Zweibrücken AB, Germany, where that unit was permanently assigned to the 86th Tactical Fighter Wing.
During 1972, Hahn's primary operational unit, the 50th TFW was the recipient of the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award. In addition, the base support one of the largest munitions logistics operations ever undertaken before by an USAFE unit of comparable size. That operation was undertaken by the 7236th Ammunition Supply Squadron, and involved the renovation and exchange of bombs.
Beginning in July 1972, the 50th TFW at Hahn was one of the two USAFE wings to test the Wing Reorganization Test Program that was eventually adopted command-wide in July 1974. Under that reorganization, the Chief of Maintenance was made a Deputy Commander position and the Transportation Squadron, Comptroller and Procurement functions were reassigned from the Combat Support Group to the Deputy Commander for Logistics.
In 1975, however, the year was highlighted at Hahn by the establishment of a laser guided bomb capability by the 10th TFS, the European Test and Evaluation (ET&E) of the Maverick Missile System, and the deployment of seven F-106 aircraft from the Air Defense Command's 5th FIS at Minot AFB, North Dakota, to Hahn to participate in Exercise COLD FIRE 75 (the first time an ADC unit deployed to USAFE). Also in July 1975, Hahn received an additional unit to support when the 6911th Security Squadron (Mobile) started operations.
Activities for 1976 and 1977 included an aircraft realignment throughout USAFE that resulted in Hahn losing all the F-4Ds that were assigned to the 50th TFW. Those D-models were, however, replaced by newer and in some cases, brand new F-4Es. Included in that realignment, Hahn gained another flying unit and additional aircraft as the 313th TFS was activated and assigned to the 50th effective 15 November 1976. In addition to those aircraft movements and that squadron activation which were all directed by CREEK REALIGN II guidelines, beginning 10 January 1977, Hahn became the site of a test of USAFE's version of the Production Oriented Maintenance Organization (POMO) -- the Tactical Air Force Aircraft Maintenance Svstem (TAMS). New facilities added during 1976 and 1977 included a main base exchange and an 18-lane bowling center as well as additions to the base's Junior High School that allowed it to become accredited and be used for Senior High School classes. Additionally during 1977, Hahn became the site for USAFE's first contingency launch/recovery runway with its completion during December.
In 1978 (in the article about the 'Salty Rooster' exercise it's 1977), the TAMS test continued at Hahn and during April, Salty ROOSTER a Hq USAF initiated high sortie rate exercise was held primarily to determine the new maintenance structure's ability to produce sorties at wartime levels. For that exercise, approximately 300 augmentees from the Air Training Command (ATC) and others from various USAFE bases, came to Hahn. After the exercise 13 consecutive flying days, an impressive 2771 sorties had been logged and all planned objectives had been surpassed. As a result of Salty ROOSTER and the findings of the TAMS test at Hahn, the CINCUSAFE made the decision to adopt the POMO structure throughout the command and the TAMS test was concluded at Hahn during June.
Toward the end of 1978 Hahn was again affected by a USAFE-wide aircraft realignment. Although not involving the transfer of a large number of aircraft, the moves made resulted in Hahn's primary unit, the 50th TFW, being composed of two squadrons of PAVE SPIKE laser guidance/Maverick missile capable F-4Es and one squadron of TISEO (Target Identification System Electro-Optical)/Maverick F-4Es by early 1979. Since Hahn was selected as one of four bases for the ET&E of the General Dynamics' F-16 all-weather multi-role aircraft, the base had to host three F-16s and the associated support personnel during April and May 1979. Significant facility projects during 1978 included the completion of the High School Sports Field in September 1978 and the renovation of the Galaxy Inn Dining Hall during October. Major projects in progress during 1979 were comprised of the renovation of the NCO Club and the start of Hahn's Build/Lease Housing Project. The latter involved the construction of 300 housing units (both two and four bedroom) in three towns near Hahn.
At the end of the Cold War, Hahn Air Base supported more than 13,000 people and three squadrons of F-16 tactical fighters. When the Cold War threat of an invasion of West Germany subsided, the United States was left with a huge excess capacity of expensive airfields in Europe.
As a result, the 50th TFW was inactivated in 1991 after 35 years at Hahn. The 496th TFS was inactivated on 15 May; The 313th TFS on 1 July, and the 10th TFS on 30 September. The 50th Tactical Fighter Wing was inactivated on 30 September 1991. On 30 January 1992, the 50th was activated as the 50th Space Wing at Falcon (later, Schriever) AFB, Colorado.
On 30 September 1993, most of Hahn Air Base was returned to civil German authorities but USAFE retained a small portion as a communications site.
The German government decided to turn the former NATO airfield into a civil airport. One of the main investors in the development of the new Frankfurt-Hahn Airport was Fraport AG, which primarily runs Frankfurt International Airport, the aim being to reduce the amount of traffic using that airport.
The faculty and police training school of the Rheinland-Pfalz State Police were combined at a new joint facility located at the air base's former housing area in 1996.
Now, Hahn AB is the site where RyanAir flies out of.