Tinker Air Force Base: a look inside the fence line
If you’ve driven east on I-40 from downtown OKC or east on I-240 from I-35, you have seen the highway signs that point to Tinker Air Force Base. You may have even seen a massive B-52 bomber take to the skies. Or maybe you’ve seen, heard and felt the thunderous roar of an F-16 (or two) fighter as it seemingly leaps off the runway and climbs high into the Oklahoma skies.
But what, exactly, goes on inside the fence line of the massive facility that long has been a part of the Greater OKC community?
Tinker Air Force Base’s history began in 1940 when a group of Oklahoma City civic leaders and businessmen learned that the War Department was considering the central United States as a location for a maintenance and supply depot. On April 8, 1941, the order was officially signed awarding the depot to Oklahoma City.
Tinker AFB was named in honor of Major General Clarence L. Tinker of Pawhuska. General Tinker lost his life while leading a flight of LB-30 “Liberators” on a long-range strike against Japanese forces on Wake Island during the early months of World War II.
Today, with more than 26,000 military and civilian employees, Tinker is the largest single-site employer in Oklahoma. The installation has an annual statewide economic impact of $3.51 billion, creating an estimated 33,000 secondary jobs. Tinker owns 4,048 acres, leases 810 acres and has 642 acres of easements. The total number of buildings is 458.
During World War II, Tinker’s industrial plant repaired B-24 and B-17 bombers and fitted B-29s for combat. Throughout the Korean conflict, Tinker continued its output—keeping planes flying and funneling supplies to the Far East. The base also played an important role in the Berlin and the Cuban crises. During the Vietnam War, Tinker provided logistics and communications support to Air Force units in Southeast Asia. Tinker and OC-Air Logistics Complex began the decade of the 1990s providing front-line support to the forces engaged in Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm.
In late 2011, the Air Force announced an initiative to restructure Air Force Material Command from its 12 center configuration to a new five-center structure. Under this reorganization Tinker AFB became the host site for the Air Force Sustainment Center. The AFSC provides war-winning expeditionary capabilities to the warfighter through world-class depot maintenance, supply chain management and installation support. It consolidates oversight of the maintenance missions now performed at the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex; Warner Robins ALC at Robins AFB (Ga.); and Ogden ALC at Hill AFB (Utah).
Tinker’s largest organization is the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex, the largest of three depot repair complexes in the Air Force Materiel Command. It provides depot maintenance on the C/KC-135, B-1B, B-52 and E-3 aircraft, expanded phase maintenance on the Navy E-6 aircraft, and maintenance, repair and overhaul of F100, F101, F108, F110, F118, F119 and TF33 engines for the Air Force, Air Force Reserve, Air National Guard, Navy and foreign military sales. Additionally, the complex is responsible for the maintenance, repair and overhaul of a myriad of Air Force and Navy airborne accessory components, and the development and sustainment of a diverse portfolio of operational flight programs, test program sets, automatic test equipment and industrial automation software. Late last year, the Air Force announced Tinker AFB will be home to maintenance and sustainment of the new B-21 “Raider” advanced long-range strike bomber.
Tinker is also the maintenance home of the new KC-46A Pegasus refueling and airlift aircraft, with a 158-acre maintenance campus current being prepared. The land for the project was purchased from the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railway as a result of a partnership between the Air Force, Oklahoma City and Oklahoma County. The Greater Oklahoma City Chamber led a coalition of local and state government entities to support the complex acquisition project.
More than 9,400 military and civilian employees work at the OC-ALC. The complex is headquartered out of historic Building 3001, which covers 62 acres and stretches for seven-tenths of a mile. Within its walls, workers perform a vast array of maintenance on aircraft, engines, components and accessories and perform a multitude of administrative tasks.
The 72nd Air Base Wing provides base installation and support services for the headquarters, Air Force Sustainment Center, the Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex and 45 associate units assigned to six major commands, including the largest flying wing in Air Combat Command, the Navy’s Strategic Communications Wing One and several defense agencies. More than 1,600 personnel and 1,343 contractors work within the 72nd Air Base Wing.
Tinker is also home to eight major Department of Defense, Air Force and Navy activities with critical national defense missions.
The 448th Supply Chain Management Wing Provides enterprise-wide planning and execution for depot line repairable and consumables materiel, maintenance and distribution, aircraft structural and intercontinental ballistic missile electronics/communication commodities management, and engineering. The 448th is one of two “virtual wings” in the USAF. The Wing manages the 848th and 948th Supply Chain Management Groups at Tinker AFB, Okla., with elements of the 948th SCMG at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio. The Wing remotely manages two groups: the 638th Supply Chain Management Group at Robins AFB, Ga. and the 748th Supply Chain Management Group at Hill AFB, Utah.
The 552nd Air Control Wing flies the iconic E-3 Sentry aircraft and is part of the Air Force’s Air Combat Command mobile strike force. The E-3’s radar and other sensors provide deep-look surveillance, warning, interception control and airborne battle management.
The Navy’s Strategic Communications Wing ONE is a one-of-a-kind unit in the Navy. This Wing provides a vital, secure communications link to the submerged fleet of ballistic missile submarines. OC-ALC airframe artisans perform depot work on the Navy’s E-6 Mercury airplanes while sailors perform field-level work.
The 38th Cyberspace Engineering Group has worldwide responsibility for engineering and installation of all communications and electronic facilities for the Air Force.
The Defense Distribution Depot Oklahoma provides the receipt, storage, issue, inspection and shipment of material, including material quality control, preservation and packaging, inventory, transportation functions and pick-up and delivery services in support of OC-ALC and other Tinker-based organizations.
The Defense Information Security Agency Defense Enterprise Computing Center, Oklahoma City, is the local organization of the Defense Information Systems Agency. DISA operates computer systems for the base and serves 172 other bases in all 50 states plus 92 foreign countries.