|Ramstein Air Base|
|Part of Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC)|
|Near Kaiserslautern, Rheinland-Pfalz in Germany|
Aerial view of Ramstein showing hangars, warehouses and the passenger terminal alongside the flight-line.
|Type||US Air Force base|
|Owner||German Federal Government (Bundesregierung)|
|Operator||US Air Force|
|Controlled by||United States Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA)|
|In use||1953 - present|
|Brigadier General Mark R. August|
|Garrison||86th Airlift Wing|
|Occupants||Based units section for full list.|
|Identifiers||IATA: RMS, ICAO: ETAR|
|Elevation||238 metres (781 ft) AMSL|
Ramstein Air Base is a United States Air Force base in Rhineland-Palatinate, a state in southwestern Germany. It serves as headquarters for the United States Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA) and also for NATO Allied Air Command (AIRCOM). Ramstein is located near the town of Ramstein-Miesenbach, which stands outside the base's west gate, in the rural district of Kaiserslautern.
The east gate of Ramstein Air Base is circa 16 kilometers (9.9 mi) from Kaiserslautern (locally referred to by Americans as "K-Town"). Other nearby civilian communities include Landstuhl, some 3 miles (4.8 km) from the west gate.
The host unit is the 86th Airlift Wing (86 AW), commanded by Brigadier General Richard G. Moore, Jr. The 86th Airlift Wing is composed of six groups, 27 squadrons and three bases in Germany, Spain, and Belgium. Its mission is the operation and maintenance of airlift assets consisting of C-130Js, C-20s, C-21s, C-40B and C-37A Gulfstream aircraft throughout Europe, Africa and the Middle East.
Also at Ramstein is the 435th Air Ground Operations Wing (formerly the 435th Air Base Wing) (435 AGOW), which focuses on base-support responsibilities within the KMC. It is composed of five groups and 20 squadrons. The wing provides rapid mobility and agile combat support for military operations, and maintains expeditionary forces and infrastructure.
The commander of the 435th AGOW is Colonel Michael T. Rawls.
Ramstein's wings are assigned to the headquarters 3rd Air Force also based at Ramstein AB, which controls most of the USAF Wings throughout Europe.
Ramstein AB is part of the Kaiserslautern Military Community (KMC), where more than 54,000 American service members and more than 5,400 US civilian employees live and work. U.S. organizations in the KMC also employ the services of more than 6,200 German workers. Air Force units in the KMC alone employ almost 9,800 military members, bringing with them nearly 11,100 family members. There are more than 16,200 military, U.S. civilian and U.S. contractors assigned to Ramstein AB alone.
In 1984, an enlisted airman (Sgt Darrel Dietlein) assigned to the 1964th Communications Group, solicited National Headquarters Civil Air Patrol to charter the first "Cadet Squadron" in Germany, naming the unit "Ramstein Cadet Squadron" and becoming the unit's first commander as a CAP 1Lt. The Ramstein Cadet Squadron was formed with Captain Mark Bailey serving as the unit's first liaison officer, as well as other like minded military volunteers and roughly six cadets. To this day, the squadron enjoys vibrant member participation, as well as base support, hosting drill competitions and encampments along with their traditional military studies and aerospace education efforts. The Ramstein Cadet Squadron commander as of February 2019 was Lt Col Chris Blank. The squadron is the parent unit for 2 flights located at Wiesbaden Army Airfield and Patch Barracks, Stuttgart. Current membership as of April 2019 was 124 members.
In the subsequent years, a companion cadet squadron was formed at Spangdahlem Air Base. Distance learning cadets are located at SHAPE, Belgium and Hohenfels, Germany.
From 2004 to 2006, Ramstein Air Base underwent an extensive expansion with a major construction project - including an all-new airport terminal, among other new facilities, through the so-called Rhein-Main Transition Program which was initiated in support of the total closure of Rhein-Main Air Base on 30 December 2005 and transferring all its former capacities to Ramstein Air Base (70%) and Spangdahlem Air Base (30%).
While the KMC remains the largest U.S. community overseas at 53,000 people, the defense drawdown continues to shape its future. Due to the departure of other main operating installations, more than 100 geographically separated units receive support from Ramstein.
The construction of the air base was a project designed and undertaken by the French Army and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers from 1949 to 1952. It was an example of international collaboration: designed by French engineers, constructed by local businesses and large number of temporary and migrant workers of Italy, Portugal, Spain, Greece, and Turkey and operated by Americans.
The area was a swamp that had to be built up by two meters (six feet). A train line was laid out from Einsiedlerhof-Kaiserslautern in a yoke shape around to the current base and back down to the Landstuhl spur in 1948 by agreement of the U.S. and French Occupational Forces. Trainloads of earth were moved over the line and spread over the base's current area to raise it to its current level. Once the ground was level, building construction began. Two bases were laid out. Landstuhl Air Base on the south side and Ramstein Air Station (station, no airstrip) on the north. From 1948 to the opening of the bases in 1953 it was the largest one spot construction site in Europe employing over 270,000 Europeans at one time.
Source: Fletcher, Air Force Bases Volume II
Source: Fletcher, Air Force Bases Volume II
In 1940, construction of today's Bundesautobahn 6 was stopped when a bridge that was being built across the Rhine River near Mannheim collapsed, leaving a section of autobahn that could not be used. A part of the unused autobahn to the west of Mannheim, near Kaiserslautern, was used as an airstrip by the Luftwaffe. The airstrip was also used by the advancing U.S. Army Air Forces during the final months of World War II. The old autobahn section is still used as the access road to the east and west gates of the base and the A 6 was rebuilt south of the air base after the war.
During the initial postwar era, the USAAF repaired several former Luftwaffe airfields in Bavaria which was part of the American occupation zone of Germany. With the advent of the Berlin Blockade and the chilling of relations with the Soviet Union by 1948 it became obvious to United States Air Force planners that these bases were tactically untenable because of their proximity to the East German and Czechoslovakian borders.
With the creation of NATO in response to Cold War tensions in Europe in 1949, USAFE wanted its vulnerable fighter units in what was then West Germany moved west of the Rhine River to provide greater air defense warning time. France agreed to provide air base sites within their zone of occupation in the Rhineland-Palatinate as part of the NATO expansion program.
Construction of the modern USAF base near Kaiserslautern began in April 1948 under the provisions of a Franco-American reciprocal agreement. Two separate, but adjoining bases were designed. A headquarters base for Twelfth Air Force, along with several NATO organizations, designated as Ramstein Air Station; and an operational fighter base, designated as Landstuhl Air Base. What is today known as Kisling Memorial Drive would separate the two facilities.
Enough construction was completed in mid-1952, that Landstuhl AB was opened on 5 August. Its facilities included a runway, dispersal hardstands, a control tower, ramps, and other flight-related facilities and the associated flying and support units. On 1 February 1952, Det 1, 86th Fighter-Bomber Wing arrived at Landstuhl AB from Neubiberg Air Base near Munich.
On 1 June 1953 Ramstein Air Station was opened. Ramstein was the location of headquarters, Twelfth Air Force, and supported family housing, base exchange, commissary, dependents' schools and other administrative offices for the WAFs (Women's Air Force). The barracks that were built at Ramstein AS were used to house WAFs and single women that worked as U.S. Government Employees at both Ramstein AS and Landstuhl AB. On 27 April 1953, Headquarters, Twelfth Air Force was activated on Ramstein Air Base, having moved from its joint facilities with HQ USAFE at Wiesbaden AB. What was not generally known at the time, and not made public until after the end of the Cold War in 1993, was the desire to have HQ Twelfth Air Force in close proximity to the Air Defense Operations Center (ADOC) - Kindsbach, AKA 'Kindsbach Cave' - the site of NATO's underground combat operations center.
The 86th Air Base Group was activated as the main base support unit for Landstuhl, while the 7030th HQ Support Group was the main base support unit for Ramstein. On 1 December 1957, the two bases were consolidated into the largest NATO-controlled air base in service on the continent. It was called "Ramstein-Landstuhl Air Base", but later, after the German government continued construction of the A6 autobahn from Kaiserslautern to Saarbrücken the autobahn cut off access at the south of the base which is where the main gate was in the city limit of Landstuhl. The main gate was moved to the west side of the base which was in the town of Ramstein. The two bases were joined and the current Kisling Memorial Drive cut off to the public which made one base. In 1961 the base was officially named "Ramstein Air Base".
One legacy of the two separate air bases is that the north side of Ramstein retained a separate APO from the south side. The north side (Ramstein AB) is APO AE 09012, while the south side (Landstuhl AB) is APO AE 09009. Also separate Combat Support Groups, the 7030th for the north side, and the 86th for the south side existed. These were consolidated in the 1980s, and the two Combat Support units were merged into the 377th Combat Support Wing. There is still a north and south side Fitness Centers. The current northside Community Center before housed the WAF NCO Club. As well, there were two Movie Theaters on the North side and two on the South side. Currently, only two (still stand on the north side, a remodeled Nightengale Theater (known before as the Four Corners Theater)) on the corner across from the Base Gase Station and the north side AAFES dry cleaners was known as the Ramstein Rocket Theater. On the South side the current Hercules Theater (Falcon Theater) next to HQ 86th Air Wing and a non-existent theater for which new barracks are currently under construction at the corner across the street from Moms/Gear-up shops called the Landstuhler Knights Theater.
Near the Ramstein Air Base is the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center (LRMC), operated by the United States Army. Although part of the Kaiserslautern Military Community, LRMC has a separate history and was never a part of Ramstein or Landstuhl Air Bases, although both facilities have utilized the medical facilities at LRMC since they were established in 1953. Currently there are plans on the drawing board from the U.S. Department of Defense to build a new Medical Center on the current U.S. Army Weilerbach Storage Installation just to the east of Ramstein AB. Construction is to begin in early 2012 and to be completed in and around 2024. A twelve-story facility to house all departments of LRMC and the current Ramstein AB Clinic along with Dental Clinic facilities for the whole KMC. In turn, the East Gate to Ramstein AB will be extended from its current location to just off the Autobahn 6 Einsiedlerhof exit to the base at what is known as the Elvis Gate.
Reassigned from Neubiberg Air Base, West Germany in 1952 and except for a period between 1968 and 1973, the 86th Wing, under various designations, has been the main operational and host unit at Ramstein Air Base.
Throughout the 1950s the 86th was primarily a Fighter-Bomber Wing. In 1960, it was realigned to an air defense mission and became the 86th Air Division (Defense). The 86th AD was inactivated in 1968. Returning as an F-4 Phantom II Tactical Fighter Wing in 1973, the 86th TFW performed that mission until 1994, deploying components to the middle east during the 1990 Gulf War.
On 14 August 1976, the Strategic Air Command 306th Strategic Wing was activated at Ramstein with a KC-135 air refueling and an RC-135 reconnaissance mission. The 306th also functioned as the focal point for all SAC operations in Europe, and as liaison between SAC and USAFE. The wing moved to RAF Mildenhall, England on 1 July 1978.
In June 1985, the 316th Air Division was activated, centralizing command authority at Ramstein. The 86 TFW became the division's flight operations arm, while the newly formed 377th Combat Support Wing, also activated in 1985, became responsible for the logistical and administrative support on base, replacing the 86th and 7030 Combat Support Wings. On 28 August 1988, Ramstein Air Base was the site of the tragic Ramstein airshow disaster, which killed 72 spectators and three pilots, and injured hundreds.
After the Cold War, the 86th was realigned to become the 86th Airlift Wing. On 1 July 1993 the 55th Aeromedical Airlift Squadron moved from the 435th AW at Rhein-Main Air Base Germany to Ramstein. On 1 October, the 75th and 76th Airlift Squadron arrived at Ramstein from the 60th AW at Travis Air Force Base California, and 437th AW at Charleston AFB South Carolina, respectively. A year later on 1 October 1994, the 37th Airlift Squadron was transferred to Ramstein from Rhein-Main.
In 1999, the activation of the 86th Contingency Response Group brought the airfield and aerial port operations and providing force protection at contingency airfields mission to the wing.
On 24 May 2004, the 38th Combat Support Wing was activated to enhance support to USAFE geographically separated units. This wing was inactivated in 2007. The 521st Air Mobility Operations Wing was activated on 4 September 2008. The wing is the headquarters for the existing 721st Air Mobility Operations Group at Ramstein and the 521st AMOG at Naval Station Rota, Spain. The 521st AMOW provides an enhanced level of control for the AMC route structure in Europe, which includes critical locations for getting people, cargo and patients to and from current war zones.
On 7 March 1966, French President Charles de Gaulle announced that France would withdraw from NATO's integrated military structure. The United States was informed that it must remove its military forces from France by 1 April 1967.
As a result, the 26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, based at Toul-Rosieres Air Base, France and two of its squadrons, the 38th and 32d, equipped with the RF-4C Phantom II were relocated to Ramstein on 5 October 1966.
Assigned squadrons of the 26th TRW at Ramstein were:
While at Ramstein the 26th TRW acquired a number of other units with different flying missions. One function gained by the 26 TRW, almost immediately after arriving at Ramstein, was the maintenance and flying of the HQ USAFE liaison aircraft. In addition, the Wing was responsible for flying members of the HQ USAFE staff to Air Force and NATO bases throughout Europe. In addition, the 26th TRW was only designated as a flight, because of its small size. It consisted of a mixture of aircraft, including: T-29s, T-33s, T-39s, C-54s, O-2s, H-19s, and UH-1s.
In 1971 a detachment of the 630th Military Airlift Support Squadron from Rhein-Main Air Base was assigned to Ramstein and a large cargo aerial port constructed. This allowed Military Airlift Command C-141 and C-5 Galaxy aircraft to use Ramstein as a transshipment point for material, which was then moved within USAFE by C-130 tactical transports.
In the spring of 1972, the 7th Special Operations Squadron (SOS) was assigned flying C-130Es, C-47As, and UH-1Ns. Because of the special operations mission of the 7 SOS, it reported directly to HQ USAFE for operational control.
As part of operation "Creek Action", a command-wide effort to realign functions and streamline operations, HQ USAFE transferred the 26th TRW from Ramstein to Zweibrücken Air Base, and the 86th Tactical Fighter Wing was reassigned from Zweibrücken to Ramstein on 31 January 1973.
From its inception, Ramstein was designed as a NATO command base. In 1957, Ramstein provided support for NATO's HQ Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force, which moved to Ramstein from Trier Air Base on 10 November 1957 upon the closure of that facility. Also on that date, HQ Twelfth Air Force was transferred to Bergstrom Air Force Base, Texas and was assigned to Tactical Air Command. It was replaced by HQ Seventeenth Air Force (USAFE) which was moved from North Africa. In turn, the 17th AF was replaced by its mother unit HQ USAFE from Lindsey Air Station, Wiesbaden, Germany in 1973. The HQ 17th AF was moved to Sembach AB at that time and controlled all USAF Air Divisions and Wings north of the Alps, with the exception of the British Isles and Scandinavia, which were controlled by HQ 3rd AF at Mildenhall.
On 31 January 1973, several headquarters were relocated into and out of Ramstein, when Seventeenth AF moved to Sembach Air Base to make room for the expected move of HQ USAFE to Ramstein. This entire operation, code-named "Creek Action", was carried out as part of the USAF's new worldwide policy of locating the most vital headquarters in thinly populated rural areas rather than near cities. Later, HQ USAFE was moved due to the fact that US Intelligence found that the Soviets had plans to invade Western Europe through the Fulda Gap in Germany. The military thought to move vital HQs on the other side of the Rhein River for protection.
As a result of this policy change, Ramstein air base became a large multi-national NATO center: in addition to the USAFE's headquarters, it also housed the new NATO headquarters of the Allied Air Forces Central Europe (AAFCE).
The AAFCE also commanded the 2nd Allied Tactical Air Force (2ATAF) and the 4th ATAF. The 4th ATAF, which had been headquartered at Ramstein for many years, included the 1st Canadian Air Group, 1st and 2nd Divisions of the West German Air Force, and units of the USAFE's 3rd and 17th Air Force.
HQ USAFE fully completed its move from Wiesbaden to Ramstein early 1991.
With USAFE's arrival in 1973, Ramstein entered a period of expansion. The duel commander of the 316th AD / 86 TFW became host commander of Americans living in the Kaiserslautern Military Community instead of the US Army 21st Commanding General. The Wiesbaden USAF Community was then traded to the US Army Control as for an even Kaiserlautern switch. The KMC through the 1950s - to the early 1990s had an average population of Americans of 110,000 outnumbering those Germans in the City of Kaiserslautern for that time.
Allied Air Forces Central Europe was established at Ramstein on 28 June 1974. Ramstein subsequently provided support for other headquarters, including the 322nd Airlift Division which arrived on 23 June 1978, and SAC's 7th Air Division, which arrived on 1 July 1978.
In December 1980, HQ Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force was moved from Ramstein to Heidelberg and co-located with HQ Central Army Group.
Close to Ramstein was the site of Air Defense Operations Center (ADOC) - Kindsbach, AKA 'Kindsbach Cave' - the site of Europe's underground combat operations center.
The facility was located in a former German western front command headquarters. The French took control of the underground bunker after World War II, and USAFE assumed control in 1953. After major renovations, USAFE opened the center on 15 August 1954.
The center was a state-of-the-art, 67-room, 37,000-square-foot (3,400 m2) facility where USAFE could have led an air war against the Soviet Union. The center had a digital computer to work out bombing problems, cryptographic equipment for coded message traffic and its own photo lab to develop reconnaissance photos. Responsible for an air space extending deep behind the Iron Curtain, the center interacted directly with The Pentagon, NATO, Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe and all USAFE bases. With its massive telephone switchboard and 80 teletype machines, the cave was plugged into everything in the outside world. The center was receiving more than 1,000 calls a day.
As a further measure of protection, the cave was fully self-contained with its own water supply, electric backup-generators, climate controls, dining facilities and sleeping accommodations for its 125-man crew. Visitor passes were rarely issued to this secret facility.
Throughout the years, leadership changed but USAFE led the operations through numbered Air Forces. The center's commander was the USAFE Advanced Echelon. The glassed-in office was on the top floor of the three-story underground command center. Directly under the office was the management for offensive air operations. And the bottom floor office was the management for defensive air operations - to include support for U.S. Army forces and German Civil Defense. All three offices had a full view of the massive Air Operations Center map on the opposing wall.
The AOC was the largest room in the complex. Its three-story map was used to plot minute-by-minute movements of friendly and unidentified aircraft. But the center was much more than just a tracking station, because it could also react to threats. They always knew the current operational status of air weapons in theater including missiles, and could dispatch armed response "at a moment's notice".
By the early 1960s, the manual plotting system used to track aircraft at the cave and elsewhere throughout Germany was too slow and inaccurate for the quick responses necessary. Beginning in 1962, airmen trained in the new 412L air weapons control system began to arrive in Germany and at the cave. Over the next year, the new GE semi-automatic system was installed. When complete at the cave, the current air picture over East and West Germany, as well as parts of the eastern soviet bloc countries, was displayed on a 40-foot by 40-foot (12 x 12 m) screen with radar information provided by various 412L sites located throughout Germany. Senior U.S. staff monitored the dynamic display 24/7. Over the next several years, additional 412L sites throughout Germany joined the network until the manual system had been totally replaced.
By 1984, the Kindsbach Cave had become too small and its cost for renovation too high. The USAFE vacated the facility and on 31 October 1993, control was returned to the German government and the German government returned the facility to the original owner of the land. Today the Kindsbach Cave is private property, through tours of the cave can be arranged. The cave is overgrown by vegetation, trees, and new housing.
In April 2015 the Ramstein Air Base was reported by German and international media as an important control center in the drone war staged under the Obama administration against targets in areas like Pakistan, Yemen, Afghanistan and Somalia. The German government claimed not to have been informed about this function of the U.S. base.
In a TV and online documentary the German Das Erste channel cited 2014 reports from Norddeutscher Rundfunk, WDR und the Süddeutsche Zeitung that revealed Ramstein to be an important hub in the drone war against terror suspects. New data provided by Edward Snowden affiliate Glenn Greenwald supported these reports with classified documents from inside the U.S. administration, and were also presented in the Citizenfour video documentary.
The revelation of US drone activities from Ramstein were leading to nationwide anti-drone protests under the banner of "Stop Ramstein Air Base".
In 2019 three Yemenis, who have lost their relatives in a 2012 US drone strike, have taken legal action against the German government for aiding the international law breaks of the United States by tolerating these operations from Ramstein. The German Higher Administrative Court in Münster ruled that the German government must take appropriate measures to control whether the US army follows international law at Ramstein Air Base. But the possibilities of Germany to control US activities on their territory are very limited as the United States have the jurisdiction of Ramstein Air Base.
In 2015, the Serbian newspaper Ve?ernje novosti reported about Ramstein Air Base being used by the United States Armed Forces to transport arms and munitions to Syria. At the end of 2017, an anonymous US official stated that the US does indeed use Ramstein Air Base to supplement Syrian rebels with arms and munition. The Cabinet of Germany stated that it did not grant the necessary permits for these transports, nor that it had been informed about them. The public prosecutor's office of Kaiserslautern is currently auditing whether an official investigation should be launched. However, such investigations are complicated by the fact that despite Ramstein Air Base being located on German territory, German officials and politicians are not allowed to enter the base without permission of the US commander. Previous investigations of the Ramstein Air Base, such as the Abu Omar case, have proven to be unsuccessful as of yet. Should the investigation about the arms and munition transports be successful, it would constitute a violation of the German War Weapons Control Act.
US Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA)
Air Mobility Command (AMC)
US Army Europe (USAREUR)
There are four schools at Ramstein Air Base: Ramstein Elementary School (Koalas), Ramstein Intermediate School (Jaguars), Ramstein American Middle School (Rams), and Ramstein High School (Royals). All of these schools are run by DoDDS, a component of DoDEA.
The U.S. Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) headquarters became the target of a terrorist attack on August 31, 1981, at 7:21 a.m. carried out by a Red Army Faction commando called 'Sigurd Debus'. A total of 20 victims were injured, some of them seriously.
The Ramstein air show disaster was a mid-air collision that occurred at the Ramstein Air Force Base during the Flugtag '88 air show on Sunday, August 28, 1988, killing 70 people.
On August 29, 1990, a C-5 Galaxy Transport plane carrying U.S servicemen to the Persian Gulf crashed shortly after takeoff, killing 13 people and injuring 4 others.
In 2014 it was revealed that poisonous extinguishing foams (PFCs) were used on Ramstein Air Base and other US airforce bases in the region. These are now contaminating lakes, rivers and the ground water in the region. In one river the contamination was 7700 times higher than the safety limit of the European Union. These contaminations are linked to cancer and birth defects.
Media related to Ramstein Air Base at Wikimedia Commons