There has been much speculation about what Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., will look like in the future, and the U.S. Air Force clarified those plans Aug. 2, 2023.
Davis-Monthan is the preferred location to host Air Force Special Operation Command’s third power projection wing.
The 492nd Special Operations Wing will be re-missioned and re-designated, and will relocate to DM from Hurlburt Field, Fla., where it has led the command’s education and training.
Transforming the 492nd Special Operations Wing into a power projection wing with all of AFSOC’s mission capabilities (strike, mobility, ISR, air/ground integration) will enable the Air Force to regionally focus each power projection wing on a geographic combatant commander. The transition will also allow AFSOC to further diversify its locations to protect against natural disasters by ensuring it can maintain its ability to respond to president-directed missions on very tight timelines.
The additional location will also permit AFSOC to take advantage of the Barry M. Goldwater Range, which will provide additional training opportunities, capacity and increased prioritization as its forces prepare to meet the priorities of the National Defense Strategy.
Standing up the new wing at Davis-Monthan requires several relocations, planned throughout the next five years. The final decision will be made following completion of the environmental impact analysis process.
The following outlines the planned transition actions:
The 492nd SOW at Hurlburt Field, Fla., will relocate to Davis-Monthan AFB. The relocation includes the 492nd SOW’s transition from support wing into a power projection wing.
The U-28 Draco fleets at Cannon AFB, N.M., and Hurlburt Field will be replaced by the OA-1K Armed Overwatch aircraft. As part of the 492nd SOW’s transition to a power projection wing, one OA-1K Armed Overwatch squadron will relocate from Hurlburt Field to Davis-Monthan AFB.
An MC-130J Commando II squadron will relocate from Cannon AFB to Davis-Monthan AFB to join the 492nd SOW.
An additional MC-130J squadron will activate at Davis-Monthan AFB.
The 21st Special Tactics Squadron will relocate from Pope Army Airfield, N.C., to Davis-Monthan AFB.
The 22nd Special Tactics Squadron will relocate from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., to Davis-Monthan AFB.
The 492nd Theater Air Operations Squadron will activate at Duke Field and transfer to Davis- Monthan AFB.
The 47th Fighter Squadron (24 A-10s), the 354th Fighter Squadron (26 A-10s) and the 357th Fighter Squadron (28 A-10s) at Davis-Monthan AFB will inactivate and their respective A-10s will be retired. The 47th FS and 357th FS will continue A-10 formal training until inactivation.
The 34th Weapons Squadron and the 88th Test and Evaluation Squadron will relocate from Nellis AFB, Nev., to Davis-Monthan AFB, transferring five HH-60W Jolly Green IIs.
The Air Force has tried for years to retired the A-10 Thunderbolt II from its inventory, but Arizona lawmakers in Washington have repeatedly pushed back on those efforts.
With the news of the planned 492nd at Davis-Monthan, those objections seem to have softened.
In April 2023, a bipartisan group of Arizona lawmakers wrote a letter to Secretary of the Air Force Frank Kendall saying they were encouraged by briefings they received on the future of the base.
“In recent days, we have been briefed by the Air Force on its plan for the base’s mission over the next five years, and we were encouraged by the Air Force’s intention to bring new, durable flying missions to the base,” said the letter. “It’s our understanding that at the end of this five-year plan, there will be nearly the same number of airmen and civilians employed at the base. Working with Congress and the Defense Department, the Air Force has identified opportunities to modernize capabilities based at Davis-Monthan, and bring new enduring missions, including special operations capability, to our state.
“Our hope is to work together, alongside the Air Force and the local Tucson community, to secure the long-term future of Davis-Monthan Air Force Base and protect our national security,” the letter continued. “As Congress continues its work on the annual National Defense Authorization Act and Appropriations, including policy decisions related to the Air Force, we ask that you respond to and follow through on the following items.”
The letter was signed by Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., Kristen Sinema, D-Ariz., Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., and Rep. Juan Ciscomani, R-Ariz. Gallego’s district covers most of Phoenix (home of Luke AFB), and Ciscomani’s district covers parts of Tucuson, which is where Davis-Monthan AFB is located.