Cannon AFB, New Mexico
Cannon Air Force Base, a major Air Combat Command installation, lies in the high plains of eastern New Mexico, near the Texas Panhandle. The base is six miles west of Clovis, N. M. and is 4,295 feet above sea level.
Cannon was the home of the 27th Fighter Wing. The primary mission of the 27th Fighter Wing was to maintain an F-16 Fighting Falcon fighter wing capable of day and night combat operations for war fighting commanders, world-wide, at any time. In 2005, however, the DoD's BRAC Recommendations called for Cannon AFB to close and the 27th's aircraft to be distributed (see below).
The history of the base began in the late 1920’s, when a civilian passenger facility, Portair Field, was established on the site. Portair, a terminal for early commercial transcontinental flights, flew passengers in the Ford Trimotor “Tin Goose” by day, and used Pullman trains for night travel. In the 1930’s Portair was renamed Clovis Municipal Airport.
After the United States entered World War II, the first military unit to use the facility was a glider detachment. The 16th Bombardment Operational Wing, a training unit for B-24, B-17 and then B-29 heavy bombers, arrived in January 1943. On April 8, 1943, the base was renamed Clovis Army Air Field. Flying, bombing, gunnery and photographic reconnaissance classes continued through the end of World War II. By mid-1946, however, the airfield was placed on reduced operational status and flying activities decreased. The installation was deactivated in May 1947.
The base was reactivated and assigned to Tactical Air Command (TAC) in July 1951. The first unit, the 140th Fighter Bomber Wing, arrived in October of that year. Air National Guard elements from Colorado, Utah and Wyoming made up the 140th, which flew the P-51 “Mustang” fighter. The 140th formally reactivated the airfield on November 15, 1951, as Clovis Air Force Base. At the end of 1952, the 140th returned to Air National Guard control.
The 50th Fighter Bomber Wing, another fighter unit, was activated at the base January 1, 1953. The F-86 “Sabre” began arriving in early 1953. The 50th Fighter Bomber Wing served at the base until it was transferred overseas in August of that year.
Clovis AFB’s second F-86 unit was the 388th Fighter Bomber Wing, activated in November 1953. The 388th was sent overseas in October 1954. It was replaced at the base by the 312th Fighter Bomber Group, which flew F-84s before switching to the F-86 in 1955.
A second fighter bomber group, the 474th, transferred to Clovis AFB from Taegu, Korea, in December 1954. The base became a major training installation for “Sabre” pilots. The first F-100 “Super-Sabre” arrived in December 1956. The F-100 became the principal base aircraft for the next 12 years.
Several changes occurred at Clovis AFB in 1957. On June 8, the base was renamed Cannon AFB in honor of the late General John K. Cannon, a former commander of Tactical Air Command. In October of the same year, the 312th and 474th Fighter Bomber Groups were redesignated tactical fighter wings. The 832nd Air Division was activated to oversee their activities.
Cannon F-100s and crews deployed to Taiwan during the 1958 Formosa Crisis. They also deployed to Turkey the same year. In 1959, the 312th was deactivated and replaced at Cannon by the 27th Tactical Fighter Wing. The 27th, another F-100 unit, transferred to Cannon from Bergstrom AFB, Texas. Succeeding major deployments of Cannon’s F-100s took place during the 1961 Berlin Crisis and the 1962 Cuban Crisis.
Units from Cannon deployed the first F-100 squadron to Thailand in 1962-1963, and Vietnam in 1964. In 1965, other deployments to Thailand and Vietnam followed. The 474th Tactical Fighter Wing moved to Luke AFB, Arizona, in September 1965. In December1965, the base’s mission changed to a replacement training unit. The 27th Tactical Fighter Wing became the largest such unit in TAC.
After three years of F-100 replacement training operations, the 27th began conversion to the F-111. In late 1969, the wing received its first F-111E aircraft and in July 1972, the last operational Air Force F-100s were transferred to the Air National Guard. In mid-1972, the 27th completed conversion to the highly sophisticated F-111D, after ferrying the F-111Es to England. There were three operational fighter squadrons and one training squadron.
The 27th also trained forward air controllers and air liaison officers in AT-33s from 1968 to 1973. The 481st Tactical Fighter Training Squadron was deactivated in January 1980 and the 524th Tactical Fighter Squadron was redesignated the 524th Tactical Fighter Training Squadron. That left the 27th with one training and two operational fighter squadrons.
December 28, 1988, marked the beginning of Cannon’s expansion as a result of decisions made by the Secretary of Defense’s Commission on Base Realignment and Closures. On April 1, 1990, the 428th Fighter Training Squadron was reactivated at Cannon AFB as part of the installation’s expanding mission. With the reactivation of the 428th FTS, FB-111 aircraft from Strategic Air Command arrived at Cannon and were converted to F-111Gs. F-111Es replaced Cannon’s squadron of F-111Gs when they were retired.
On June 1, 1992, Cannon AFB and the 27th Fighter Wing were integrated into Air Combat Command as part of the reorganization of Tactical Air Command and Strategic Air Command. Three squadrons of F-111Fs arrived from Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, replacing Cannon’s fleet of F-111Ds in 1993. The 430th Electronic Combat Squadron’s 25 EF-111A Ravens began arriving from the 390th ECS, Mountain Home, Idaho, and the 42nd ECS, RAF Upper Heyford, England in May 1992. The 430th ECS was replaced by the 429th ECS in June 1993.
With the retirement of the F-111, Cannon became home for 69 F-16s in March 1995. The first operational flight of the F-16 lifted off Cannon’s runway in September 1995. Three fighter squadrons --522 FS, 523 FS, 524 FS--were fully equipped with F-16s by August 1996. Following a period of training, the first operational squadron was ready for combat operations around the world in January 1997. The wing also maintained its EF-111 mission as the only Raven unit in the Air Force.
The United States Air Force officially retired the EF-111A June 30, 1998. This retirement ended the 429 ECS' 2,780 days and 32 rotations of continuous support of Operation SOUTHERN WATCH. As a result of the retirement, the 429th Electronic Combat Squadron was inactivated June 19, 1998.
On September 15, 1998, the 428th Fighter Squadron was reactivated at Cannon AFB. The PEACE CARVIN III squadron is a hybrid US Air Force/Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) F-16 Fighter Squadron manned by highly experienced USAF instructor pilots, maintenance and support personnel. The squadron should be fully equipped by March 2000 and will operate 12 RSAF-owned Block 52, F-16C/Ds. With approximately 25 USAF personnel and 140 RSAF personnel, the unit is responsible for continuation training of Singapore personnel in rapid deployment and tactical employment of the F-16 throughout a wide spectrum of missions including air-to-air, joint maritime and precision air-to-ground weapons delivery.
Under the new expeditionary Air Force concept, the 27 FW looks forward to continuing its tradition of providing superior combat power in its new role as the lead wing for Air Expeditionary Force (AEF) #9. The wing is also tasked to support numerous other AEFs.
Secretary of Defense Recommendations: In its 2005 BRAC Recommendations, DoD recommended to close Cannon Air Force Base, NM. As a result, it would distribute the 27th Fighter Wing’s F- 16s to the 115th Fighter Wing, Dane County Regional Airport, Truax Field Air Guard Station, WI (three aircraft); 114th Fighter Wing, Joe Foss Field Air Guard Station, SD (three aircraft); 150th Fighter Wing, Kirtland Air Force Base, NM (three aircraft); 113th Wing, Andrews Air Force Base, MD (nine aircraft); 57th Fighter Wing, Nellis Air Force Base, NV (seven aircraft), the 388th Wing at Hill Air Force Base, UT (six aircraft), and backup inventory (29 aircraft).
Secretary of Defense Justification: Cannon had a unique F-16 force structure mix. The base had one F-16 Block 50 squadron, one F-16 Block 40 squadron, and one F-16 Block 30 squadron. All active duty Block 50 bases had higher military value than Cannon. Cannon’s Block 50s would move to backup inventory using standard Air Force programming percentages for fighters. Cannon’s F-16 Block 40s would move to Nellis Air Force Base (seven aircraft) and Hill Air Force Base (six aircraft to right size the wing at 72 aircraft) and to backup inventory (11 aircraft). Nellis (12) and Hill (14) had a higher military value than Cannon (50). The remaining squadron of F-16 Block 30s (18 aircraft) would be distributed to Air National Guard units at Kirtland Air Force Base, NM (16), Andrews Air Force Base, MD (21), Joe Foss Air Guard Station, SD (112), and Dane-Truax Air Guard Station, WI (122). These moves would sustain the active/Air National Guard/Air Force Reserve force mix by replacing aircraft that retire in the 2025 Force Structure Plan.
The total estimated one-time cost to the Department of Defense to implement this recommendation would be $90.1M. The net of all costs and savings to the Department during the implementation period would be a savings of $815.6M. Annual recurring savings to the Department after implementation would be $200.5M with an immediate payback expected. The net present value of the costs and savings to the Department over 20 years would be a savings of $2,706.8M. Assuming no economic recovery, this recommendation could result in a maximum potential reduction of 4,780 jobs (2,824 direct jobs and 1,956 indirect jobs) over the 2006-2011 period in the Clovis, NM, Metropolitan Statistical Area (20.5 percent of economic area employment. Impacts of costs include $2.8M in costs for environmental compliance and waste management.
Community Concerns: The Clovis community, including virtually all of its elected representatives, strongly argued that Cannon Air Force Base, one of three active-duty operational F-16 fighter bases, should remain open. They opposed the DoD recommendation, arguing that it deviated substantially from BRAC selection criteria. For instance, they claimed DoD did not appropriately consider the effect of encroachment on existing and future operations, the proposed New Mexico Training Range Initiative (NMTRI), or force structure retention and quality of life. They argued a realistic evaluation of long-term military value would close bases with significant encroachment problems, rather than Cannon. The community also argued the military-valueweighted analytical process failed to properly evaluate Cannon’s military value for the next 20 years for current and future missions, condition of infrastructure, contingency, mobilization, future forces and the cost of operations. Leaders argued that DoD used inaccurate, incomplete, outdated, and misleading data. The community was also deeply concerned about potential unemployment. While DoD projected the loss of approximately 20 percent of the community’s jobs, the community argued that DoD considered only Clovis and did not consider the nearby town of Portales. The community estimates the cumulative economic impact on the affected region to be approximately 30 percent, which in its view is a major deviation from Selection Criteria 6.
Commission Findings: DoD’s justification for closing Cannon was the Air Force’s overriding strategy to more effectively employ the shrinking Air Force structure by organizing its weapon systems into fewer, larger squadrons and by eliminating excess physical capacity. The Commission found this recommendation would allow the Air Force to relocate newer model F-16s as backup inventory to Active and to Air National Guard units. These moves would sustain the Active, the Air National Guard, and the Reserve force mix by replacing F-16 aircraft that will be retired in the 2025 Force Structure Plan.
The Commission found that prior to BRAC the Air Force had approved a programmatic out year reduction of 1,150 personnel at Cannon. This action, when combined with BRAC would result in an economic impact on the Clovis area of about 29 percent, which is about 10 percent greater than the economic impact reported by the DoD.
The Commission found that the 20-year Net Present Value savings for closing Cannon, while still significant, were substantially reduced when military personnel savings were eliminated.
The Commission further found that there is merit in disestablishing the 27th Fighter Wing and distributing its aircraft as recommended by DoD. The Commission also found that realigning Cannon Air Force Base as an enclave would enable DoD to meet potential needs for additional air base capacity.
Commission Recommendations: The Commission found that the Secretary of Defense deviated substantially from final selection criteria 1, 6 and 7, as well as from the Force Structure Plan. Therefore, the Commission recommends the following:
Realign Cannon Air Force Base, NM by disestablishing the 27th Fighter Wing and distributing its aircraft to meet the primary Aircraft Authorization (PAA) requirements established by the Base Closure and Realignment recommendations of the Secretary of Defense, as amended by the Base Closure and Realignment Commission. After disestablishing the 27th Fighter Wing, the Air Force shall establish an enclave at Cannon Air Force Base that shall remain open until December 31, 2009 during which time the Secretary of Defense shall seek other newly-identified missions with all military services for possible assignment to Cannon Air Force Base, NM. If the Secretary designates a mission for Cannon Air Force Base during this period, the enclave would revert to the status appropriate for the designated mission. If the Secretary does not find a mission for Cannon Air Force Base by December 31, 2009, Cannon Air Force Base and the enclave shall be closed. Nothing in this directive shall prohibit the State of New Mexico and the Department of Defense from entering into an agreement to close the enclave at Cannon Air Force Base earlier than December 31, 2009.
The Commission found that this change and the recommendation as amended are consistent with the final selection criteria and the Force Structure Plan. The full text of this and all Commission recommendations can be found in Appendix Q.