Torrejon Air Base
401st Tactical Fighter Wing
Approval for US bases in Spain came as part of the Defense Agreement of 26 Sep 53. In return for basing rights, the US agreed to provide Spain with an air defense force. Built primarily for SAC bombers, Torrejon was one of three bases built in Spain. The test and development center of the Spanish Air Force was located about 20 miles NE of Madrid and the site was chosen for the base. Construction was carefully planned, took over 4 years. Torrejon was activated on 1 Jun 57 and was ready for B-47s by Sep 57, however, Spanish officials were concerned about conflicting air traffic between the base and Madrid's airport (a persistent problem for Torrejon) and the base was not opened for flying until 1958.
Strategic Air Command (SAC) Reflex operations began in Apr 58 and B-47 bomber units rotated through the base. The 497 FIS, a SAC unit operating F-86s and later F-102s was assigned to Torrejon in 1958 to provide air defense. The agreements between SAC & USAFE & the different countries were complex, constantly changing and sometimes inconsistent. USAFE provided air defense units for Morocco but SAC provided them for Spain. In an attempt to streamline operations 16AF was reassigned from HQ USAF to SAC along with the recently created 65 AD in July 57. However, in Jul 1960 the 65AD was transferred to USAFE and in Apr 66 Hq 16AF was assigned to USAFE and the 401 TFW came to Torrejon.
Project Clear Water was a series of reductions in the 60s of overseas bases and manpower. It effectively ended SAC operations in Spain. The interceptor squadron left Torrejon in 1964 and SAC ceased reflux operations in Mar 65 but retained the KC-135 wing at Torrejon until it moved to RAF Mildenhall in Jan 76.
The host unit at Torrejon became the 401 TFW however the Spanish Air Force retained ownership of the base and had an active wing there. The 401 TFW had three squadrons flying F-100s, then F-4 and then F-16s. The 625 MAS handled MAC traffic and passenger service and Torrejon became the main terminal for the Mediterranean area after French bases were closed in 67. The 1989 Comm Gp maintained a nationwide net of 8 comm sites and provided air traffic control and comm support. In Jan 88 the US and Spain signed a new agreement on Defense cooperation which required the 401 TFW to leave Spain by May 92. Studies began on finding an alternative base for the unit.
During the Gulf War the 401TFW sent a squadron to Qatar and one to Incirlik to support Allied operations. Torrejon Air Base supported 10,000 MAC sorties carrying 85,000 troops and 130,000 tons of cargo through the base to the Gulf. Torrejon handled 80 percent of the airlift missions. During the buildup and war, the base pumped 200 million gallons of fuel to transiting aircraft.
During 1992, USAFE withdrew most of its forces from Spain. the 401st began inactivating its squadrons and redeploying aircraft to other USAFE bases and to the US in July 1991. The last F-16 aircraft left Torrejon on 24 March, ending 26 years of Air Force fighter presence in Spain. On 4 May, in formal ceremonies, the 401st transferred to Aviano without personnel or equipment. Headquarters Sixteenth Air Force also moved to Aviano AB from Torrejon during 1992.
Torrejon AB drew down quickly once the fighter squadrons inactivated and by early April, the base was a virtual ghost town. Air Force base operations closed on 1 Apr 92 and thereafter USAFE air traffic control information was given only in Spanish. Throughout the spring and summer, the Air Force continued to turn over buildings and facilities to the Spanish Air Force. The 600ABGp was activated on 4 May 92 to continue the drawdown and support the remaining personnel. The 1989th Communications Wing inactivated on 30 Sep 92.
After the inactivation of the 600th Air Base Group on 1 Oct 94, the only permanently stationed US personnel at Torrejon were 10 members of Air Mobility Command plus five local nationals to provide a limited enroute capability for airlift operations which would soon move to Rota NAS, Spain.
The runway and taxiways at Torrejon had been heavily damaged by US transport aircraft during the Gulf War in 1990 and 1991. In 1993, USAFE returned the runway and taxiways to the Spanish Air Force without a US commitment or Spanish request for repair or restoration. But without repair, they would continue to deteriorate and would eventually become unusable for USAF contingency requirements. In June 1994 a joint agreement was signed and repairs were made. These repairs would keep the runway operable at least through 1997, when the current Agreement on Defense Cooperation with Spain expired. On 20 Feb 97, Air Mobility Command concluded that Torrejon was no longer needed as an enroute support base.
The base was officially returned to the Spanish Air Force on 30 Jun 98 and remains an active Spanish Air Force base.