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97th Air Mobility Wing

97th Air Mobility Wing

Altus AFB History

Activated as a multi-engine flight training school in 1943, Altus AFB has been the cornerstone of southwestern Oklahoma for 75 years. With an average of over 300 days of weather conducive to flying each year, a generally flat landscape and few obstructions, the base was then, and is still, ideally situated for young airmen to hone their flying skills. Over the next seven decades, the base evolved to become the premier air mobility training location in the United States Air Force (USAF).

During WWII, students honed their skills on training aircraft such as the Cessna AT-17, the Curtiss AT-9 and to some extent the Beechcraft AT-7. Once confident and capable, the students received their wings and transferred to their next assignment operating the type of aircraft they would use in combat over the European and Pacific theaters. At the end of hostilities in Europe, Altus Army Airfield was inactivated as a training location and placed on temporary inactive status.

After reactivation on August 1, 1953, Altus AFB served briefly as a Tactical Air Command base, operating the C-47 Skytrain before switching to an operational Strategic Air Command wing with the first all jet-engine powered bomber, the B-47 Stratojet.

Through the 1950s and into the 1960s the base would also experience many mission changes to include the regular use of in-flight refueling with the KC-97 Stratofreighter and alert missions with the B-52 Flying Fortress and the ageless KC-135 Stratotanker. Also, during the early 1960s the base hosted a ring of twelve Atlas missile silos around the local area. As the Air Force expanded during the Cold War and the war in Southeast Asia, the base received another new mission, air transport. In 1967, the Air Force selected Altus AFB for the training site for its most versatile transport or cargo aircraft, the C-141 Starlifter and the enormous C-5 Galaxy. The clear skies and wide expanses of Oklahoma proved to be best suited for the mission. By the start of the 1970s, Altus AFB had three aircraft assigned: the KC-135, the C-141, and the C-5. Through the 1980s and the 1990s, these three aircraft became a common sight in the skies above Southwestern Oklahoma.

As the twentieth century drew to a close, Altus AFB welcomed the arrival of the agile C-17 Globemaster III in 1996. This aircraft, with a unique winglet, an expansive cargo area, and powerful engines, is the newest cargo aircraft in the Air Force. Even before its arrival, the base began training pilots and loadmasters to operate and fly the aircraft designed for use as an intermediate short-airfield cargo aircraft.

The dawn of the twenty-first century marked the retirement of an old workhorse. In 2001, following 32 years at Altus AFB, the C-141 was released from active duty.

The following year the Altus AFB mission grew again when the Air Force moved the basic loadmaster course from Sheppard AFB, Texas to Altus. The initiative combined similar training programs to reduce the number of moves required by trainees while cutting overall costs.

In August of the same year the 97 AMW reorganized as a "combat wing." The Air Force wide change involved the inactivation of the 97th Logistics Group and the task of all aircraft maintenance fell to the 97th Maintenance Directorate comprised of only civilian maintainers. The transformation involved the inactivation of the 97th Transportation Squadron. Its mission was combined with that of the redesignated 97th Supply Squadron as the 97th Logistics Readiness Squadron. Additionally, the 97th Contracting Squadron became part of the 97th Support Group now called the 97th Mission Support Group.

In 2005, the wing expanded the training of the C-17 in two areas. First, adding the opportunity for dual-row airdrop delivery, doubling the amount of equipment the aircrews can bring directly into the combat theater of operations and second, training the aircrews on the use of night vision goggles. This provides crews with increased survivability during low-light operations, especially in combat.

In 2007, the C-5A Galaxy mission, the basic loadmaster and the basic boom operator courses left Altus and transferred to Lackland AFB, Texas with the C-5 training mission becoming the responsibility of the US Air Force Reserve. In addition, the Airfield Officers Training Program ceased operations at Altus AFB and the training transferred to the Air National Guard.

Along with training, the men and women permanently assigned to Altus AFB continually deploy in support of the Global War on Terrorism. Since 2001, the wing has sustained an average of 150 personnel a year deployed at any one time.

Although numerous mission changes have occurred over the years, Altus AFB has continued to perform the basic mission it started in 1943, providing a safe environment to train military personnel and prepare them for action worldwide.

C-17 Globemaster III

C-17 Globemaster III

The C-17 Globemaster III is the newest, most flexible cargo aircraft to enter the airlift force. The C-17 is capable of rapid strategic delivery of troops and all types of cargo to main operating bases or directly to forward bases in the deployment area. The aircraft can perform tactical airlift and airdrop missions and can transport litters and ambulatory patients during aeromedical evacuations when required. The inherent flexibility and performance of the C-17 force improve the ability of the total airlift system to fulfill the worldwide air mobility requirements of the United States.

Read more about the C-17 Globemaster III.

KC-135 Stratotanker

KC-135 Stratotanker

The KC-135 Stratotanker provides the core aerial refueling capability for the United States Air Force and has excelled in this role for more than 50 years. This unique asset enhances the Air Force's capability to accomplish its primary mission of global reach. It also provides aerial refueling support to Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps and allied nation aircraft. The KC-135 is also capable of transporting litter and ambulatory patients using patient support pallets during aeromedical evacuations

Read more about the KC-135 Stratotanker.

KC-46A Pegasus

KC-46A Pegasus

The KC-46A is intended to replace the U.S. Air Force's aging fleet of KC-135 Stratotankers which has been the primary refueling aircraft for more than 50 years. With more refueling capacity and enhanced capabilities, improved efficiency and increased capabilities for cargo and aeromedical evacuation, the KC-46A will provide aerial refueling support to the Air Force, Navy, Marine Corps as well as allied nation coalition force aircraft.

Read more about the KC-46A Pegasus.

Altus AFB Directory
Local Events


97th Medical Group

Ensures maximum wartime readiness and combat capability by promoting the health, safety and morale of active duty personnel. Staffs, trains, mobilizes and provides medical services in support of contingency operations worldwide. Develops and operates a prevention-oriented, cost-effective managed healthcare system for over 9.500 beneficiaries, increasing wellness in the local community. 

97th Medical Group

97th Ops Group

Plans and executes C-17, KC-135 formal school initial and advanced specialty training programs for up to 3000 students annually. Sustains C-17, KC-135 airland, airdrop and air refueling mobility forces providing global reach for combat and contingency operations. Provides air traffic control and weather forecasting for flying operations.

97th MX Directorate

The 97th Maintenance Group is responsible for all aircraft maintenance, sortie generation and maintenance support activities for the Air Force’s sole C-17, KC-135 and KC-46 formal aircrew training schools.  The organization is comprised of 820 federal civilian employees assigned to two squadrons and two flights reporting directly to the group.  The Maintenance Group provides quality maintenance, fleet management and support for 40 total aircraft valued at $6.5B and is responsible for the base transient aircraft support function.

97th Mission Support

The 97th Mission Support Group provides mission support for C-17, KC-135 and KC-46 aircraft and base wide infrastructure to include communications, civil engineering, law enforcement, force/fire protection, contracting, disaster response, environmental, lodging, transportation, recreation, supply, education, mobility, food service and family & personnel support.

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