Moron Air Base
86th Operations Group
Construction on the Vázquez Sagastizábal Military Aerodrome, as Morón Air Base was initially known, began in 1940. The following year it began to function as a military airfield and was utilized to train fighter pilots for the Spanish Army Air Force. In 1953, the Spanish and American governments finalized agreements to establish a number of Spanish-American air bases, including Morón Air Base. Morón was one of three major USAF Cold War airbases in Spain, the others being Zaragoza Air Base near Zaragoza and Torrejón Air Base near Madrid. Construction efforts began in 1953 under the direction of the US Navy, taking over 3 years to complete.
On May 13, 1958, the first flight of B-47s were assigned to Morón Air Base to conduct Reflex operations and then KC-97s arrived to conduct strip alert tanker missions, and 6 weeks later the first rotational fighter squadron, the 1st Fighter Day Squadron, flying F-100 Super Sabres and commanded by Lt.Col. Chuck Yeager, arrived from George AFB, CA, for temporary duty to conduct air defence alert. Morón continued to operate primarily as a Reflex base until 1962, when the first KC-135 aircraft arrived. In 1966, the base was transferred from Strategic Air Command (SAC) to United States Air Forces Europe (USAFE). The mission changed to communications support, "fair weather" flying operations of Temporary Duty (TDY) for RF-4Cs from RAF Alconbury, and RF-101 RAF Upper Heyford, England and the support of air rescue operations provided by the 67th Aerospace Rescue and Recovery Squadron.
In 1971, Morón Air Base was re-designated to "modified caretaker status." Torrejón Air Base was designated as the Primary Support Base (PSB). A small Spanish Air Force contingent of F-5s utilized the air base during the 1980s; however most of the buildings were empty and on-base amenities were severely limited.
In November 1983, during the joint Spanish/American military exercise CRISEX 83, USAF B-52 bombers were allowed once again to enter Spanish air space and land at Morón Air Base. The B-52 bombers were previously banned from entering Spanish air space after the January 17, 1966 incident near Palomares, when an in-air refuelling B-52G (s/n 58-0256) collided with a United States Air Force KC-135A jet tanker (s/n 61-0273). Two hydrogen bombs ruptured, dispersing radioactive particles over nearby farms. An intact bomb landed near Palomares. The fourth bomb was lost at sea, 12 miles (20 km) off the coast. A search involving three months and 12,000 men was required to recover the device, however, despite the deployment of highly-sophisticated technical equipment by the US Navy, it was a local Spanish fisherman who finally guided them to find and recover the bomb.
During 1991, the basing plan for Spain called for retaining Morón AB, along with Torrejón AB, and Naval Station Rota, but on a drastically reduced scale. In 1995, the 496th Air Base Squadron was activated to replace the 712th Air Base Flight. Also at this time, USAFE redesignated Morón as a limited-use base, defined as austerely manned and no permanently assigned operational tactical forces. Throughout this time it was used as a staging base to support deployments. It was heavily used during the Gulf War by B-52s and tankers and during Operation Restore Hope and Operation Allied Force. Throughout 1995 to 1997, Morón became a popular staging area to host Coronet East movements to and from Turkey and Southwest Asia with over 95 fighter and tanker missions. In 1996, the 496th was placed under the 31st Support Group of Aviano Air Base, Italy. In 1999, Morón provided extensive refueling support for Operation Allied Force of the Kosovo War.
In 2001, the base provided record numbers of airlift and fighter rotations for Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. In 2003, the operations increased even more as Morón became a key pillar in the airbridge for airlift and fighter deployments in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. In 2004, Morón started reporting to the 712th Air Base Group and was realigned under the 38th Combat Support Wing of Ramstein Air Base, Germany later that year. In 2007, the 712th ABG deactivated and the 496th ABS was realigned again under the 86th Operations Group of Ramstein Air Base.
In 2011, the base once again proved its strategic importance as it served as the main tanker base for KC-10A and KC-135R aircraft supporting Operation Unified Protector in operations over Libya.