Loring Air Force Base

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Loring Air Force Base (AFB) Template:Airport codes was a United States Air Force base in the town of Limestone, Aroostook County, in the state of Maine. Loring AFB was the largest base of the United States Air Force's Strategic Air Command during its existence, until it was transferred to the newly-created Air Combat Command in 1992. It was named for Major Charles J. Loring, Jr., USAF, a Medal of Honor recipient during the Korean War. From 1951-1962, it was co-located next to Caribou Air Force Station.

Up until the time of its closure, the main host unit at Loring AFB was the 42d Bombardment Wing (42 BW), assigned to the Strategic Air Command and eventually, the Air Combat Command. The 42d BW operated the airfield, maintained all infrastructure and provided security, communications, medical, legal, personnel, contracting, finance, transportation, air traffic control, weather forecasting, public affairs, recreation and chaplain services for the associated units.

The base's origins begin with order for construction of an airfield by the New England Division of the United States Army Corps of Engineers in 1947. A site was chosen in northeastern Maine, within both the Limestone Township, and Caswell Plantation. The base was determined to be in a strategic location, as it was the closest point in the Continental United States to Europe. The new base itself was named Limestone Army Air Field, and would remain under this name until it was renamed Limestone Air Force Base at a later date. The base would later become one of the more strategic bases during the Cold War, due to its strategic location, although this would diminish as the war itself drew down.

As of November 2012, the former base has been redeveloped as the Loring Commerce Centre, which has helped oversee the development of the former base and its buildings. Many of the buildings on the base remain standing, although some have been torn down after it has been determined that there is no further use for them, or they can no longer be maintained. For statistical purposes, Loring is by the United States Census Bureau as a census-designated place. At the 2000 census, the former base had a total population of 225.



For the majority of its operational lifetime, Loring was a heavy bomber, aerial refueling, and interception facility for a variety of military aircraft, equipment and supplies as part of Strategic Air Command (1947–1992), then as part of Air Combat Command (1992–1994).<ref name=MilitaryStandard>Template:Cite web</ref>

Loring was planned in 1947 as Limestone Army Air Field and was designed with a capacity of over 100 B-36 Peacemaker aircraft. Over time, this plan was only partially completed due to budget constraints, but not before it became one of the largest air bases in the Strategic Air Command's inventory. After the B-36 Peacemakers were phased out of the Air Force's inventory, Loring became home to the B-52 Stratofortress, which be based at the base until its closure. Additionally, the KC-97 Stratotanker was based at the base for a number of years, until it was replaced by the more well-known KC-135 Stratotanker.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" />

Loring was also home to many facilities that were a part of the base, or were nearby. Caribou Air Force Station was the weapons storage area that operated separately from the base until it was absorbed in 1961.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" /> Caswell Air Force Station operated to the east, but had a unit associated with Loring before it became fully operational. On-base facilities included the Alert Area, which operated as a separate facility within the base, due to crews being constantly stationed on alert.<ref name=HAER>Template:Cite web</ref> The Double Cantilever Hanger was the largest hanger at the base, with the capacity to hold six parked B-52's, or five B-36's.<ref name=HAER>Template:Cite web</ref>

Major secondary missions of Loring Air Force Base including being the headquarters for the 45th Air Division from October 8, 1954 to January 18, 1958, and on November 20, 1958. The host wing at the base was the 42d Bombardment Wing for all but a small portion of its early existence. The base was primarily home to active duty units, although this changed in the 1980s, when the Massachusetts Air National Guard's 101st Fighter Squadron sent a detachment to Loring. As the base was the closest base to Europe, it also functioned as an important stopover point for planes coming and going overseas.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" />

Loring AFB was closed as a result of the 1991 Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) process in 1994.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" /> It was later reopened as the Loring Commerce Centre.

Major units

42nd Bomb Wing

File:42d Air Refueling Squadron - SAC - Emblem.png
Emblem of the 42d Air Refueling Squadron

The 42nd Bomb Wing was the host unit at Loring Air Force Base from 1953 until 1994, supporting national security objectives with mission-ready B-52 Stratofortresses, and KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft. The wing had the ability to deploy at any time to support both Strategic Air Command, and later, Air Combat Command missions. It was operational at Loring from 1953 to 1994.<ref name=SquadronsandServices>Template:Cite web</ref>

The 42nd Operations Group (OG) formerly supported national security objectives, as directed by the Joint Chiefs of Staff, by utilizing the Air Force's B-52 Stratofortress and KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft. Operational squadrons during the time of its operation at Loring included:<ref name=SquadronsandServices />

All B-52's carried the "LZ" Tailcode. In addition to the 42nd OG, other components of the 42nd Bomb Wing were:<ref name=SquadronsandServices />

  • 42nd Security Police Squadron
  • 42nd Supply Squadron
  • 42nd Civil Engineering Squadron
  • 42nd Organizational Maintenance Squadron
  • 42nd Field Maintenance Squadron
  • 42nd Avionics Maintenance Squadron
  • 42nd Munitions Maintenance Squadron
  • 42nd Airborne Missile Maintenance Squadron (1964–1974), responsible for maintenance of missiles that were fitted onto the B-52's
  • 2192nd Communications Squadron, Air Force Communications Command unit absorbed into 42nd Bomb Wing in 1990

In 1991, it was announced that Loring Air Force Base would close in 1994. This led to the 42nd being moved to Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama, where it became the 42nd Air Base Wing.<ref name=AirBaseWing>Template:Cite web</ref> All other squadrons of the wing were inactivated and have remained inactive, except for the 69th, which was reactivated in 2009 at Minot Air Force Base.<ref name=Aeronews>Template:Cite web</ref>


Loring Air Force Base was named for Major Charles J. Loring, Jr., USAF, a Medal of Honor recipient during the Korean War. From 1951-1962. During the morning of November 22, 1952, he led a flight of F-80 Shooting Stars on patrol over Kunwha. After beginning a dive bombing run and getting hit in the process, he entered into a controlled dive, destroyed a Chinese gun emplacement on Sniper Ridge, which was harassing United Nations troops. Because of his actions, he was awarded the Medal of Honor, and Limestone Air Force Base was renamed in his honor.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" />

Previous designations

Designations of Loring Air Force Base:<ref name="MilitaryStandard" />

  • Limestone Army Air Field (15 April 1947-5 June 1950)
  • Limestone Air Force Base (5 June 1950-1 October 1954)

Major commands to which assigned

Major commands to which the base was assigned:<ref name="MilitaryStandard" />

Major units assigned

Major units which were assigned to Loring:<ref name=SquadronsandServices /> Template:Col-begin Template:Col-break



Operational history


Loring AFB was carved out of the woods of Maine beginning in the late forties and officially dedicated in 1953. It was named after Charles J. Loring, Jr., who was killed in the Korean War. Along with the nearby Presque Isle Air Force Base, some of its roads were named after states in the Union. It was the closest Air Force base on the east coast to Europe. It was originally built with a capacity of 100 B-36 Peacemaker bombers and equipped with a Template:Convert runway.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" /><ref name=strategic-air-command />

Loring was built on Template:Convert of land, making it the biggest SAC base in the country. This in turn allowed for it to have the largest capacity for weapon storage and for fuel storage in all of SAC (Its overall capacity ranked second among all 21 SAC bases). The weapons storage capacity was 10,247,882 NEW (Net Explosive Weight) (the highest in all of SAC), and it was 1st in all of SAC in fuel storage capacity (9,193,374 gallons).<ref name="strategic-air-command">Loring AFB - 42nd Bomb Wing - B-36, B-52</ref> Fuel was delivered to the base via a 200 mile pipeline, which started to the south in Searsport, Maine.<ref name=BangorDailyNews3>Template:Cite web</ref> Ramp at Loring space exceeded 1.1 million square yards, which made it 2nd among all SAC bases in total ramp space, and 1st in excess ramp space. Furthermore, it was one of two fully capable conventional weapons storage facilities in CONUS maintained by SAC.<ref name="strategic-air-command" />

During the Cold War, new United States Air Force bases were constructed with the consideration that new technological capabilities allowed for the most direct route to the Soviet Union over the Arctic Circle. This led to sites along the northern border of the continental United States being chosen as strategic bases for hosting long-range missiles and aircraft. This also led to areas in the Northeast being given higher importance, as they were closest to many of the targets in the Soviet Union. This led to a 1947 decision by the New England Division of the United States Army Corps of Engineers to chose a site in northeastern Maine, within both the Limestone Township, and Caswell Plantation. As the site was in a remote area of Maine, the site consisted mostly of dense forest, shallow marshes, and wild blueberry bogs. It was also located on a slight plateau when compared to the rest of town, which helped keep it above the fog most of the time. Furthermore, only a small part of the base was suitable for farming, which helped lessen the impact on Aroostook County's agricultural community. Additionally, the base was not far from sources of materials for runway, taxiway, and parking apron construction. The most important benefit though, was that it was a few hundred miles closer than any other base to potential targets in Europe.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" />


File:Loring Air Force Base plans.gif
Early plans for Loring. Note the additional third runway that was planned, only a part of which was built as a taxiway

On April 15, 1947, construction on the new Limestone Army Air Field was commenced. Limestone had the distinction of being the first Strategic Air Command base designed and built for the purpose of hosting high-speed aircraft, including the then-new B-36 Peacemaker. Original plans for the base called for two parallel north-south runways, and a 12,000 foot east-west runway. The plans also included accommodations for over 100 aircraft. The extreme size of the project as a whole limited construction of the base into phases. That, and the fact that it was being built at a time when government funds were limited meant that what multi-million dollar contracts that were handed out by the Army Corps of Engineers were not fully built to the specifications of the original plan. As a result, only one north-south runway was constructed.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" />

On May 23, a $17-million dollar contract war awarded to two companies, with the aim of completing the first phase of construction. This included the north-south runway, a parallel taxiway (Taxiway J), a parking apron, the Arch Hanger, a Base Operations building, a control tower, a power plant, a 250-person barracks (which would later become building 6000), a water supply system, and a railroad spur to the base.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" />

One of the structures that was created early on was the Arch Hanger. At the time, it was the largest monolithic arch roof structure in the United States, and one of the largest hangers in the world. The construction of the hanger was also groundbreaking, because it included a foundation set on bedrock, extensive footing structures and intricate formwork, as well as elaborate methods to build the hanger, and a 340 foot arch span.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" />

The runway was also another major construction task that required a large feat of engineering. Because of the fact that the airfield was located and Northern Maine, and subject to freeze-thaw cycles, as well as bogs and various types of groundcover, 2.1 million cubic yards of material was removed. Additionally, the foundation of the runway was constructed to a depth of 70 inches of a flexible bituminous-concrete pavement. This was all done on a runway that was 10,000 feet long, and 300 feet wide.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" />

The month of June 1950 began 44 years of constant activity on the base. On the tenth, 7 officers and 78 airmen, constituting the Limestone Detachment arrived on base, as the tenant unit during construction. Two days later, an aircraft from Oklahoma arrived at the base. On the fifteenth, limited operations began at Limestone, as Cold War tensions began to heat up. The next day, a B-36 Peacemaker arrived and later departed. The first of July brought the re-designation of the Limestone Detachment as the 4215th Base Service Squadron. Because the Korean War increasing tensions in the area, the decision was made to increase the squadron’s size to 28 officers, 340 airmen, and 20 civilians. August brought the first aircraft, a C-47 Skytrain, and aircraft using the base as a stopover between the states and Europe. November’s airmen size showed that although the base was slowly increasing manpower, it wasn’t up to the goals of the summer.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" />

Increased funding because of the war brought increased funding to Loring in 1951. Eight additional hangers were constructed at the southwestern end of the runway, as well as a 2,100 foot addition to the northern end of the runway. The increased funding also allowed for the Department of Defense to allocate additional funds to construct the North River Depot, a weapons storage facility located to the northwest of the base. It would later become Caribou Air Force Station, until it was absorbed into the base in the 1960s. The end of the year brought about the completion of a communications facility, a hospital, three barracks, a school, an officers club, a bakery, and a briefing and training building. Since the base was one of the first constructed after the end of World War II, it was constructed using new construction techniques. This included retaining as much surround vegetation as possible in case there was a need to camouflage the base, as well as ditching the traditional layout of a grid system for roads.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" />

The additional aircraft at the base meant that additional hangers needed to be constructed to house and maintain them. One of these buildings was the double cantilever hangar, which measured 250 by 600 feet. The revolutionary design of the facility allowed for it to be one of the first double cantilever hangars built by the Air Force in response to a demand for more efficient maintenance space. Additionally, the hanger had the added capacity due to its size of being able to house five B-36 Peacemaker and six B-52 Stratofortress aircraft.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" /> The building, part of a series of standardized hangars prepared by the Strategic Air Command, helped removed the need for the construction of nine planned concrete arch hangars.<ref>http://cryptocomb.org/Cold%20War%20Infrastructure%20for%20Strategic%20Air%20Command-The%20Bomber%20Mission.pdf</ref>

1955 brought about the resurfacing of the runway in anticipation of the arrival of the Stratofortress, which arrived in 1956. In 1956, 18 additional “nose-dock” hangers (hangers which could contain the nose and wings of the aircraft, allowing for maintenance to the cockpit area by the crew, without the need to use the larger hangers) were constructed to the northwest of the runway, near the main parking area. Additional parking areas and taxiways for these hangers were also constructed at this time.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" />

Early history

Emblem of the 42d Bombardment Wing

On February 8, 1953, Curtis E. Lemay, Commander of Strategic Air Command visited the base in order to review the construction’s progress. During this visit, he indicated that the base was operationally ready. Later that month, command capabilities were formally transferred to the Strategic Air Command, ending an almost six year command by the Army Corps of Engineers. Furthermore, personnel of the 4215th Base Service Squadron were reassigned to the 42d Bombardment Wing, which was reactivated and assigned to the 8th Air Force. On February 23, Limestone Air Force Base officially became operation.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" />

During the first few months, the wing was not assigned any aircraft, and thus worked with other units who were in possession of the B-36 Peacemaker. In March and April, the base began preparing for operations of the B-36, which arrived later in April. This gave the newly activated 69th Bombardment Squadron a full complement of aircraft. By the end of August, the number had increased to 27 bombers, 322 officers, 313 airmen, and 350 civilians. Additionally, more buildings were constructed on base, making it more of a home for airmen and their families.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" />

January 1954 brought the declaration of the 42nd being capable of implementing its Emergency War Plan. On October 1, the base was renamed after Charles Loring Jr., becoming Loring Air Force Base. One week later, the 45th Air Division was activated at Loring and designated the primary base unit. Furthermore, it was also designated that month as the primary staging location for fighter aircraft flying out of the Continental United States to and from Europe. With this decision, and the base having 63 permanent aircraft assigned, air traffic was significantly increased.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" />

As the Cold War progressed, so did the need for new aircraft and techniques. The first KC-97 Stratotanker arrived at Loring with the activation of the 42d Air Refueling Squadron in January 1955. Interestingly, the B-36’s were not actually equipped to perform aerial refueling, so the planes supported other units until the arrival of the B-52 a few years later. Eventually, 21 tankers were based at the Loring, along with 30 air crews.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" />

By 1955, the base consisted of four bombardment squadrons, the 42d, 69th, 70th, and the 75th Bombardment Squadrons. Additionally, other squadrons which allowed for a hospital to become operational, as well as other units necessary to running the base. The next January, a B-52 landed at the base as part of a cold weather testing program. Five months later, the first Stratofortress, the “State of Maine” was permanently stationed at the base.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" />

In November 1956, the base became a publicity operation of the Air Force. On November 10, the Soviet Union threatened to oust British and French troops from the Middle East, days after the end of the Suez Crisis. After a response by President Dwight D. Eisenhower to the United Nations, a reporter with the Associated Press visited Castle Air Force Base after the Strategic Air Command was alerted to support whatever action the United States might do. As a result, the reporter was unable to find out classified information, and instead decided to make up answers on maintenance records of the fleet. This helped to pain t a dismal picture of the plane’s maintenance records. During November 24 and 25, four B-52’s of the 93rd Bombardment Wing and the 42nd, flew nonstop around the perimeter of North America in Operation Quick Kick, which covered 15,530 miles (13,500 nmi, 25,000 km) in 31 hours, 30 minutes. SAC noted the flight time could have been reduced by 5 to 6 hours if the four inflight refuelings were done by fast jet-powered tanker aircraft rather than propeller-driven KC-97 Stratotankers.<ref name=knaack_p244>Knaack 1988, p. 244.</ref> After the flight ended, the planes landed at Friendship International Airport. The operation was such a success, that the reporter’s story was effectively hidden from the press.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" />

The base was also the location of an experimental system of steam pipes in 1957, to test the viability of using steam to melt the snow on the runways. Pipes were spaced at different intervals in the experiment, to find the optimal distance for spacing of the pipes.<ref name=Popularmechanics>Template:Cite journal</ref> That same year, the first KC-135 Stratotanker, christened the “Aroostook Queen” arrived at Loring. By December, all of the KC-97’s had left, and by April 1958, 20 KC-135’s had arrived, allowing the 42nd Air Refueling Squadron to reach full operational capacity in May of that year. Later that year, an alert force was created at the base, consisting of six B-52’s. The following year, in response to a conflict in Lebanon, the entire wing was placed on alert.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" />

An Alert Force was established at Loring AFB in October 1957. The wing began supporting the alert force with six B-52s in January 1958. In response to a conflict in Lebanon, the Alert Force was expanded to include the entire bombardment wing in July 1958, when the SAC bomber force went to full alert status. SAC's overall one-third goal was achieved in 1960.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" />

Assigned aircraft
File:83d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron-F-106-59-0037.jpg
83d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron at Loring in 1972

During the time that Loring was open, various aircraft were assigned to the base. This included the B-36 Peacemaker, which was assigned to the 42d Bombardment Wing from 1 April 1953 to 6 September 1956; the KC-97G Stratotanker, which was assigned from 15 February 1955 to 16 December 1957; the B-52C Stratofortress, which was assigned 16 June 1956 to January 1957; the KC-135A Stratotanker, which was assigned from 16 October 1957-7 May 1990; the KC-135R Stratotanker, which was assigned from January 1957-7 July 1959; and the B-52G Stratofortress, which was assigned from 21 May 1959-16 November 1993.<ref name=AFHRA>Template:Cite web</ref>

Fighter aircraft were also assigned to the base during its operation. The F-102 Delta Dagger, which was assigned to the 27th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron, was located on base from 1957 to 1960 while the F-106 Delta Dart was assigned from 16 October 1959 to 1 July 1971,<ref name=27th>Template:Cite web</ref> and to the 83d Fighter-Interceptor Squadron from July 1971 to June 1972.<ref name=53Wing>Template:Cite web</ref>

Weapons Storage Area
File:LORING AFB WSA 67.jpg
A view of the Weapons Storage Area in 1967

Template:Main The Nuclear Weapons Storage Area at Loring once operated as a separate, top secret facility. Originally called the North River Depot, the remote area to the northeast of Loring’s property was the first U.S. Operational site specifically constructed for the storage, assembly, and testing of atomic weapons.<ref name=HAER-WSA>Template:Cite web</ref>

In 1951, the Department of Defense (DOD) allocated funds for the construction of an ordnance storage site at Loring AFB. The designs called for a self-sufficient "maximum security storage area for the most advanced weapons of mankind". The mission of the facility would be the protection and maintenance of the weapons used by SAC. The facility was situated in the northeast comer of the base, and construction began on 4 August 1951. In addition to 28 storage igloos and other weapons storage strucmres, the facility included weapons maintenance buildings, barracks, recreational facilities, a warehouse, and offices.<ref name=HAER-WSA />

A parallel series of four fences, one of which was electrified, surrounded the heart of the storage area. This area was nicknamed the “Q” Area, which denoted the Department of Energy’s [Q clearance] a classified security clearance required to have access to Restricted Data.<ref name=HAER-WSA />

In June 1962, the United States Atomic Energy Commission released its custody and ownership of the weapons to the Air Force. The personnel and property of the later named Caribou Air Force Station, were absorbed into the adjacent Loring Air Force Base.<ref name=HAER-WSA />

Nike defense area
File:Loring AFB Defense Area.png
Diagram of the sites around Loring

Template:Main To provide air defense of the base, four United States Army Nike-Hercules surface-to-air missile sites were constructed during 1956. Sites were located near Caribou (L-58) Template:Coord; Caswell (L-13) Template:Coord; Connor Twp. (L-85) Template:Coord, and Limestone (L-31) Template:Coord Maine.<ref name=TheMilitaryStandard2>Template:Cite web</ref>

The New England Division of the United States Army Corps of Engineers managed the construction of these sites. The sites were manned by men from the 3rd Missile Battalion, 61st Air Defense Artillery Regiment. The sites provided defense for Loring and the northeastern approaches to the United States. In 1960, sites L-13 and L-58 underwent conversion from Ajax to the MIM-14 Nike-Hercules missiles. These sites remained operational until 1966, although the site at Limestone was closed in September 1958.<ref name=TheMilitaryStandard2 />

Members of the 3rd Missile Battalion gained distinction in November 1958 during Annual Service Practice at Fort Bliss, Texas when they launched 12 Nike Ajax missiles and recorded 12 kills-a United States Army Air Defense Command first.<ref name=TheMilitaryStandard2 />

Operation Head Start

Template:Main Operation Head Start was experimented at the base, from September to December, 1958. Through the actions of the crewmembers, it helped to demonstrate that a continuous airborne alert could be maintained successfully.<ref name=Headstart>Template:Cite video</ref>

Before each flight, a briefing would be held, alerting the crewmembers to basic world events as well as safety criteria. At least fifteen hours before takeoff, the crew would thoroughly pre-flight their aircraft. Inadvertently, this also increased efficiency in terms of maintenance and other pre-flight routines.<ref name=Headstart />

Every six hours, a bomber would then take off with live warheads and continue on a pre-determined path over Greenland and eastern Canada, a trip that would end twenty hours later. Frequently, "Foxtrot: No message required," messages would be sent to the bomber from Strategic Air Command headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base, with the idea that one of them could tell them to go to war, helping keep the crews on their feet.<ref name=Headstart />

While entering the landing pattern, the tower would alert the crash trucks to travel to the runway and await landing. This was a standard procedure for all Head Start landings. After landing, the crew would be interrogated prior to being let go, so that maintenance, intelligence, and other crews could be alerted to the performance of the plane and other things that the crew might have noticed during their long flight. After being let go, they would typically go to the Physical Conditioning room for a steam bath and rub down.<ref name=Headstart />

Operation Head Start would eventually lead to Operation Chrome Dome.<ref name=GeorgeWashington>Template:Cite web</ref>

Second half of the Cold War

File:Mark 60 CAPTOR-DF-ST-90-11649.JPEG
Airmen from the 42nd Munitions Maintenance Squadron prepare to load a Mark 60 CAPTOR (encapsulated torpedo) anti-submarine mine onto a 42d Bombardment Wing B-52G Stratofortress aircraft during Exercise Ghost Warrior, a joint Air Force/Navy exercise conducted during the base's conventional operational readiness inspection

Although it is unknown when it was opened, Loring was host to a Conventional Enhanced Release Training bomb range, which was located adjacent to the runway. Loring was one of four Strategic Air Command bases with a range like this, a range which was used frequently. The base was also located next to Condor 1 and Condor 2 airspace, which allowed for low-level training. The routes and training opportunities within the restricted airspace allowed for training to be accomplished. One disadvantage to the location of Loring was that it was far from the Strategic Training Route Complex, and bombing ranges in Nevada and Utah. The ranges out west were the only location where the B-52 Stratofortresses were allowed to drop live ammunition, although Strategic Air Command training only required crews to drop live ammunition twice a year on these ranges.<ref name=strategic-air-command />

During July 1974, President Richard Nixon stopped by Loring after he returned from a summit in Moscow where he signed the Threshold Test Ban Treaty along with Leonid Breshnev. In a speech in front of 5,000 people in the double cantilever hanger, he talked about the importance of the speech. In addition to Nixon being there, he was welcomed home by Vice President Gerald R. Ford.<ref name=BangorDaily>Template:Cite news</ref> His wife Pat Nixon and daughter Julie Nixon Eisenhower were also in attendance.<ref name=BangorDaily2>Template:Cite web</ref>

On March 11, 1976, Strategic Air Command's headquarters announced that the 42d Bombardment Wing would be inactivated. The Air Force's primary rationale at that time was the poor condition of Loring's facilities. In 1976, it was estimated that Loring needed up to $300 million in facilities improvements. Between 1976 and 1979, considerable debate took place over the strategic importance of Loring, resulting in a reversal of the Air Force decision to close the base. When the decision to keep Loring AFB open was made in 1979, Congress committed itself to upgrading the base facilities. Since 1981, nearly $300 million in military construction and operations and maintenance funds were spent to upgrade the facilities.<ref name=strategic-air-command />

In the 1980s, the 42nd converted its fleet to carry conventional bombs in the 1980s. Additionally, a second north-south runway, one that had been in the base's original plans, was created on Taxiway J.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" /> In 1981, the base's bombers were placed on alert after Soviet submarines were spotted off the coast of the region.<ref>Template:Cite web</ref> The base was briefly mentioned in the 1983 movie WarGames, although the film erroneously lists the base as being home to the 43rd Bombardment Wing.<ref name=WarGames>Template:Cite video</ref>

The 5th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron based at Minot Air Force Base maintained a detachment of three F-15 Eagles at Loring. When the 5th was inactivated in 1987, F-4 Phantom II's from the Minnesota Air National Guard's 148th Fighter-Interceptor Group's 179th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron sent a detachment to Loring. After the detachment left, the Massachusetts Air National Guard's 102nd Fighter Interceptor Wing's 101st Fighter-Interceptor Squadron deployed F-15's to the base, the same ones that were part of the 5th.<ref name=BangorDailyNews3>Template:Cite news</ref> This was in addition to the B-52D Stratofortress, which was there from 25 May 1989 until 2 March 1994. Sometime during this period, an additional runway was constructed, making it one of three Strategic Air Command bases with two runways.<ref name="strategic-air-command" />

During Operation Desert Storm, Loring's tankers were responsible for refueling aircraft transiting the Atlantic. Furthermore, it was used as a stopover for aircraft travelling to the Persian Gulf region due to its vital position. The base was also vital because it allowed planes to be maintained, planes which sometimes would be unable to reach their destination without maintenance. Between 2 August 1990 and 10 May 1991, more than 1,700 aircraft in transit between America and the Persian Gulf region landed at Loring. This included the C-141 Starlifter, C-5 Galaxy, C-130 Hercules, C-21A, A-4 Skyhawk, A-10 Thunderbolt II, Boeing 707, F-16 Fighting Falcon, F/A-18 Hornet, F-111 Aardvark, P-3 Orion, TR-1A Dragonlady, U-2 Dragonlady, B-52 Stratofortress, KC-10 Extender, KC-135 Stratotanker, E-3A Sentry, EA-6B Mercury, and E-8A Joint Stars aircraft.<ref name=strategic-air-command />

UFO sighting

During the fall of 1975, the base was the location of unidentified flying object sightings. During the night of October 27, an unidentified object was spotted hovering near the secure weapons area (the former Caribou Air Force Station). Around 7:45 at night, a member of the 42nd Security Police Squadron spotted an apparent aircraft over the northern perimeter of the base, at a low altitude. A later teletype message to the National Military Command Center in Washington, D.C., stated: "The A/C [aircraft] definitely penetrated the LAFB [Loring Air Force Base] northern perimeter and on one occasion was within 300 yards of the munitions storage area perimeter." In the control tower, a member of the 2192nd Communications Squadron was on duty, when he picked up the craft on radar, nearing the base. After trying to contact the unidentified aircraft to warn it that it was approaching a restricted area, the aircraft entered the airspace over the nuclear weapons storage area and hovered over it at an altitude of 300 feet, later lowering to 150 feet. Commander of the 42d Bombardment Wing, Colonel Robert E. ChapmanUnknown extension tag "ref" arrived fifteen minutes later at the weapons storage area and police units were ordered in as well. At this time, he also declared a Security Option 3.<ref name=Clearintent>Template:Cite book</ref>

At 8:45, another person who was on duty in the control tower received a call to track the mysterious craft on radar. For the next forty minutes, it was observed circling around the weapons storage area, when it suddenly vanished, as though it had landed or dropped below the radar. Witnesses later observed it flying away towards Grand Falls, New Brunswick, twelve miles to the east. Messages were sent to the National Military Command Center, the Air Force Chief of Staff, and Strategic Air Command headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base. The base continued to remain on a high state of alert until the following morning, as efforts to identify the unidentified aircraft through the Maine State Police, local police departments, and the Houlton Federal Aviation Administration office remained elusive.<ref name=Clearintent />

The next night at 7:45, a craft very similar to the one the night before approached the base. In addition to being tracked on radar, it hovered around the area for thirty minutes, with characteristics of movement similar to a helicopter. Additionally, it hovered above the weapons storage area at the same altitude as the night before. At this time, possibly another object (it is unclear if it was the same one as the over the weapons storage area, but it is possible) was spotted over the flight line. The cigar-shaped object was described as hovering in mid-air, jerking around, and turning on and off its lights once. During the blackout, it traveled from the flight line, to the northern end of the runway. According to one service member, the object was chased, and eventually discovered to be hovering five feet off the ground. During this time, it was determined that the object was four car lengths long.<ref name=Clearintent />

Once again, the object was tracked on radar, taking off towards New Brunswick. Teletype messages were again sent to higher commands, with no explanation being found. One teletype sent on November from Loring's Office of Special Investigations detachment to the National Military Command Center and OSI headquarters reported another, "unidentified helicopter sighted at low level over Loring AFB" over the past two nights (October 31-November 1). It also referred to the intruder as an "unknown entity." Additionally, Captain Richard R. Fuhs an Operations Officer in the 42nd Security Police Squadron (SPS) stated, "...advised that there had been three verified sightings of an unidentified A/C [aircraft] flying at low level over and in the vicinity of LAFB" during this period. An initial sighting was made by a member of the 42nd, who was on duty at 11:14 p.m. Another member spotted the object near the East Gate, going from east to west.<ref name=Clearintent />

BRAC 1991 and closure
File:Loring Flightline.jpg
1968 photo of the flightline at Loring, and the alert area, which was taken off alert in 1991

In 1991, the Secretary of Defense, upon the recommendation of the Secretary of the Air Force, identified six Strategic Air Command bases for closure through the Base Realignment and Closure Commission. Loring Air Force Base was one of the six bases on the closure list. The commission recommended that the 42d Bomb Wing be disestablished, and the B-52G Stratofortress aircraft be transferred to the 410th Bomb Wing at K.I. Sawyer Air Force Base in Marquette, Michigan. The KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft were realigned to United States Air Force Reserve and other active units.<ref name=BRAC>Template:Cite web</ref>

The justification for the closure of Loring was that the Air Force had six more strategic bases than were needed to support the number of bomber and tanker aircraft in the Department of Defense's Structure Plan. The base was evaluaged against eight selection criteria and a large number of subelements specific to Air Force bases and missions. The decision to close Loring was made by Secretary of the Air Force Donald B. Rice. Even though Loring was in good condition and had strong community support, it ranked low in the criteria when compared to twenty other bases in the strategic category. One of the things that hurt Loring was its limited peacetime value as a tanker base, as well as it being far from bombing ranges. The commission did note that the facilities at Loring were above average, and the cost to close Loring would be low, the latter of which helped to contribute to its closure.

The commission also projected an impact in the future on the community. 22,000 people were projected to leave the region, 9,900 jobs would be affected, whether they were direct or indirect, and a regional income of over 92 million dollars would be lost. This was in contrast to a regional population of over 49,100, available jobs of 33,320, and an annual income of 755 million dollars. The net savings by the end of 1997 from closing the base was 182 million dollars, or about 61.8 million annually.<ref name=BRAC />

As the Cold War ended, so did the mission of the Strategic Air Command. As a result, it was disestablished in June 1, 1992. In November 1993, the last B-52 departed Loring, and in February 1994, ceremonies were held to celebrate the end of the flying mission. In March of the same year, the last KC-135 Stratotanker aircraft departed the base. Loring Air Force Base officially closed on September 30, 1994.<ref name="MilitaryStandard" /> The base had officially been open for over forty one years.<ref name=BRAC />

Accidents and incidents

A B-47B Stratojet on display at the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum

On March 6, 1955, a B-36 Peacemaker crashed and burned in a snowbank at Loring. All crewmembers were able to escape unharmed.<ref name=Courant>Template:Cite web</ref> On November 22, 1958, a B-47B Stratojet crashed while taking off from Loring, killing all four crewmembers on board. The plane belonged to a unit at McCoy Air Force Base in Orlando, Florida. The plane was described as having reached two-thirds of the way down the runway, when it veered sharply to the right, eventually crashing 400 feet north of the runway.<ref name=Miami>Template:Cite web</ref> On November 25, 1958, a KC-135 Stratotanker of the 42d Air Refueling Squadron crashed on takeoff roughly in the same area as the B-47 three days before. Two crewmembers were thrown to safety by the impact of the crash. The Air Force stated that after a four hour mission, the crewmembers were practicing taking off and landing on the runway.<ref name=Spokane>Template:Cite web</ref> On November 18, 1960, a KC-135 crashed upon landing at Loring, killing one and injuring sixteen others. The plane landed after a six and a half hour training mission, veered off to the left of the runway, and skidded three thousand feet while on fire. Surviving crewmembers were able to use the emergency chutes to evacuate the plane safely.<ref name=PortsmouthTimes>Template:Cite web</ref> On May 9, 1962, six crewmembers of a KC-135 were killed when their plane crashed during takeoff into a surrounding marsh, about fifteen hundred feet north of the runway.<ref name=TheDispatch>Template:Cite web</ref> On January 4, 1965, four crewmembers were killed three miles north of Loring when their KC-135 crashed into the ground after takeoff.<ref name=MiamiNews2>Template:Cite web</ref> On September 5, 1969, a B-52 Stratofortress crashed approximately three miles north of the runway after taking off. Seven men were killed, including six crewmembers.<ref name=EveningIndependent>Template:Cite news</ref>

Base culture

File:Moose loose.svg
Due to its relative isolation in Northern Maine, signs like this were posted alerting people that there were moose in the area at all times

Life at Loring was not all military-related. A small downhill ski area provided recreation for personnel and their dependents, operating on the base from the early 1960s until the base's closure in 1994.<ref>Loring AFB</ref>

Current status

Template:Main Loring AFB was closed as a result of the Base Realignment and Closure process in 1991, officially closing on September 30, 1994. immediately, the town of Limestone was decimated. At the time of closure, almost 10,000 people called Limestone home, but by 2000, just over 2,000 people were still living in town, around a 76% drop in population. Since 19% of the regional economy was related to Loring, the loss of all the jobs created a huge void in the local economy.<ref name=AOL>Template:Cite web</ref>

One of the more immediate ideas for redevelopment of the base was to turn it into a federal prison, something which had been done previously at the former Carswell Air Force Base when the Federal Medical Center, Carswell was opened on its grounds. Additionally, many other former Air Force facilities have had prisons opened up on their grounds as well. From the outset, there was some reluctance in the town about turning it into a prison culture, but this was lessened once the government decided that it didn't want to build a federal prison on the grounds of the former air base.<ref name=AOL />

Since the base has closed, the Loring Development Authority helped created the Loring Commerce Centre on Template:Convert of land, marketing it as an "aviation and industrial complex and business park".Template:Citation needed Through the efforts of the authority, 1,400 jobs have been created, more than replacing the 1,000 civilian jobs that were lost when the base closed. Tenants such as Bigelow Aerospace maintain a small satellite tracking station on the grounds as well. SAIC is developing an unmanned blimp at the base as well, and Sitel also maintains a call center at Loring. In addition to the Sitel site, other various call centers exist on the base, as well as food processing, forestry operations, light manufacturing, and aviation services. The Canadian professional services company Stantec also has an office at Loring. Finally, the Loring Military Heritage Center, a museum dedicated to preserving the history and legacy of the base, is located in the base's former bank.<ref name=AOL />

The military has also made a return back to Loring over the years. The Defense Finance and Accounting Service Limestone, a major component of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service office (BRAC 2005 consolidated 26 offices into 5 and this was one of the consolidation points. This facility is located in the old base hospital, which was constructed after the earthquake in the 1980s. The Maine Military Authority, refurbishes Humvees for the United States Army and Marine Corps in one of the base's large hangers. Additionally, the Air Force Real Property Agency is in the process of conducting the distribution of resources at Loring. The federal government has also returned with the United States Department of Labor creating a Job Corps center, with the aim of helping to prepare teenagers for careers in culinary arts, medical support and other growth industries.<ref name=AOL />

A photo of Lemonwheel, looking towards the stage

Post-base usage isn't limited to just business. The airfield was used by the popular jam-band Phish, to hold its massive festival concerts, "The Great Went" in 1997, the Lemonwheel in 1998 and "It" in 2003. Estimated attendance was 65,000 concert-goers and Phish was the only band. Fans camped on-site in tents, creating a community of fans that became the second-largest city in Maine during all three events (This wasn't even the largest concert to occur in the Northeast during that time, as Woodstock 1999 happened at the former Griffiss Air Force Base, with approximately 200,000 people attending the event). Additionally, the Aroostook National Wildlife Refuge, run by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service on Template:Convert of the base property was established in 1998. The refuge consists of the former weapons area, which operated as Caribou Air Force Station from 1951 until 1962, when it was absorbed into Loring. Furthermore, the runway has become home to land-speed racing events, where participants use its runway for timing trials.<ref name=AOL />

Loring's air traffic control tower remains standing, but was closed following the closure of Loring AFB. However, the airfield's navigational aids such as the VOR/DME and ILS remain operational.


According to the United States Census Bureau, the base CDP has a total area of 8.2 mi² (21.3 km²). 8.2 mi² (21.3 km²) of it is land and 0.04 mi² (0.1 km²) of it (0.36%) is water.


As of the censusTemplate:GR of 2000, there were 225 people, 82 households, and 57 families residing on the base. The population density was 27.4/mi² (10.6/km²). There were 355 housing units at an average density of 43.2/mi² (16.7/km²). The racial makeup of the base was 81.33% White, 10.22% African American, 2.22% Asian, 5.33% from other races, and 0.89% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 13.78% of the population.

There were 82 households out of which 53.7% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.9% were married couples living together, 11.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.3% were non-families. 28.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 1.2% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.74 and the average family size was 3.38.

On the base the population was spread out with 37.3% under the age of 18, 5.3% from 18 to 24, 43.6% from 25 to 44, 10.7% from 45 to 64, and 3.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 29 years. For every 100 females there were 90.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 93.2 males.

The median income for a household on the base was $36,667, and the median income for a family was $39,844. Males had a median income of $33,125 versus $25,724 for females. The per capita income on the base was $19,888. None of the families and 5.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including none of those under the age of 18 or ages 65 and older.

See also








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