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21st Space Wing celebrates 20th anniversary

The 21st Space Wing marks its 20th anniversary May 15. (U.S. Air Force illustration/Craig Denton)

The 21st Space Wing marks its 20th anniversary May 15. (U.S. Air Force illustration/Craig Denton)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- On May 15 the 21st Space Wing will celebrate a very special milestone - its 20th birthday.

The 21st Fighter-Bomber Wing, which activated Jan. 1, 1953, is the oldest direct ancestor of the 21st Space Wing. Originating at George Air Force Base, Calif., the 21st Fighter-Bomber Wing served at Chambley Air Base, France, in the role of air defense from December 1954 until inactivation in February 1958.

The 21st activated again as the 21st Tactical Fighter Wing July 1, 1958, this time in the Far East. The wing conducted the mission of air defense at Misawa Air Base, Japan, until inactivation in June 1960.

The 21st served longest at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska, from 1966 to 1991. The first 13 years, July 1966 to October 1979, were carried by the 21st Composite Wing, called "composite" because of the several aircraft platforms used to conduct the wing's three missions of air defense, airlift and search and rescue.

Then, on Oct. 1, 1979, the wing was re-designated as the 21st Tactical Fighter Wing and streamlined to once again conduct an air defense mission. The wing served in this capacity at Elmendorf until inactivation on Dec. 19, 1991.

After nearly 50 years of flying history, the 21st transformed from a flying mission to become the world's largest and most diverse military space wing, headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base May 15, 1992.

The 21st SW is the Air Force's only organization providing missile warning, missile defense, and space control operations to unified commanders and combat forces worldwide.

The 21st SW Knights are located in eight countries, spanning 14 time zones, consisting of five groups, a director of staff, and 39 units at 31 locations.

In addition to detecting and tracking missile launches across the globe, government, contractor and allied personnel detect, track, and catalog more than 22,000 man-made objects in space from those in near-Earth orbit to objects up to 22,300 miles above the Earth's surface.

Space surveillance is a critical element of the space control mission and will be vitally important to support future theater missile operations and assured availability of U.S. space forces.

Join Col. Chris Crawford, 21st SW commander, in celebrating the wing's rich history and bright future as America's most innovative and disciplined space wing with a cake cutting at 11 a.m. May 15 at the Aragon Dining Facility.

Peterson SFB Schriever SFBCheyenne Mountain SFSThule AB New Boston SFS Kaena Point SFS Maui