Kirtland Afb

Written by Sarah Provost
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Kirtland Air Force Base, located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is the third largest installation in the Air Force Materiel Command. It covers 51,558 acres and employs over 23,000 people. The host unit is the 377th Air Base Wing, whose mission is focused on munitions maintenance and training.

Kirtland began a few years before the outbreak of World War II, as an Army Air Corps training field. Immediately after the attack on Pearl Harbor, the nation's first class for bombardiers began at Kirtland under Col. John P. Ryan. Soon there were three schools at the base: advanced flying, bombardier training and a multi-engine school. In four years, Kirtland trained 5,719 bombardiers and 1,750 regular pilots for B-24s.

Special Weapons Developed and Tested at Kirtland

Since 1943, when scientists began working on the Variable Time Proximity Fuze, second in importance only to the atomic bomb, Kirtland has been the center of special weapons development. In the late 1940s, the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project was formed to coordinate military nuclear activities. The unit, now known as Sandia National Laboratories, is still one of the largest tenants at Kirtland.

In 1958, the first nuclear effects tester was constructed at Kirtland. By the early 80s, the Air Force Space Technology Center was formed for the planning and development of space technology and for coordinating Air Force programs for space missions. The Air Force Systems Command laboratories at the Center focused on weapons, geophysics, and rocket propulsion. Among the more than 200 tenant units operating at Kirtland today are the Air Force Research Laboratory, the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center and the 58th Special Operations Wing.


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