Strategic Air Command

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Strategic Air Command coat of arms

The Strategic Air Command ( SAC ; German  Strategisches Luftkommando ) was the strategic air force within the US Air Force during the Cold War , the epitome of military vigilance and a central component of the United States' nuclear deterrent .

From the end of the 1940s until its dissolution in 1992, the SAC served hundreds of bombers , reconnaissance aircraft , tank and transport aircraft, and ICBMs .



The experience of the Second World War  - and especially the bombing of distant targets - reinforced the demand for an independent command for strategic long-range operations by the Air Force in the command of the armed forces . Therefore, in the upcoming reorganization of the US military which was created on March 21, 1946 Strategic Air Command as a new three main commands of the US Army Air Forces , the other two were the Tactical Air Command in support of the ground forces and the Air Defense Command , responsible for the reserve forces and home defense.

The use of nuclear weapons would also have been carried out by the SAC, as they were understood as strategic weapons and, because of their size, could only be transported with heavy bombers. First in command was General George C. Kenney , who had previously directed air operations in the Pacific theater.

At the time of its establishment, the SAC had around 84,000 personnel and 1,300 aircraft, of which only 221 were the tried and tested B-29 Superfortress bombers. Due to the ongoing demobilization after the war, the equipment even shrank until 1947.

Growing importance

The modernization was already under way when General Curtis E. LeMay , a bomber veteran and air war strategist of the Second World War and since 1947 commander of the United States Air Forces in Europe , took over the leadership of the SAC on October 19, 1948 for the next 9½ years . The new heavy bomber B-36 Peacemaker was put into service, as was the B-50 , an upgraded version of the B-29. The first two in-air refueling units began work in 1948. From November 1948, the SAC moved to its headquarters at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska .

LeMay received unexpected support from two events: On the one hand, the first successful Soviet nuclear weapons test at the end of August 1949 put a focus of the US military strategy of the next few years on nuclear deterrence . On the other hand, participation in the Korean War and the resulting intensified confrontation between the two world powers created additional needs for more and more modern equipment. Both released almost unlimited financial resources. Bases were expanded and new material procured. In 1951 the jet age for the bomber fleet began with the B-47 Stratojet , and by the end of 1954 over 1,000 units had been delivered. There were also tactical bombers ( F-84 ) and reconnaissance aircraft (RB-47). In 1952 the B-52 Stratofortress flew for the first time. In the next few years, the SAC received 600 of these heavy long-range bombers, which gradually replaced the B-36 and B-47 and are still in service with the USAF in the more modern H version. In addition, a new generation of tanker aircraft was used from 1957 with the KC-135 Stratotanker .

When General LeMay relinquished command of the SAC on June 30, 1957 and became Chief of Staff of the US Air Force , he left behind an efficient association with modern equipment that contributed significantly to the "perceived" security of the United States. During this time the motto was also created: Peace is our profession. From 1957, after the Sputnik shock, the threat posed to the United States by Soviet ICBMs with nuclear warheads began to take shape. In return, the planes were distributed to more bases and in October 1957 the SAC introduced the alert for a third of the bombers in order to be able to launch them in time for a counter-attack in the event of a missile attack. The alert times were steadily shortened and when the Cold War reached a new climax in 1962 with the Cuban Missile Crisis , several squadrons of B-52s equipped with nuclear weapons were constantly in the air (see: Chrome Dome ). Due to the further development of American missiles ( Titan II , Minuteman ), standby missions could be reduced again until the mid-1960s; In 1964, the SAC had more ICBMs than bombers for the first time.

At the Vietnam war was SAC by flight refueling (KC-135), reconnaissance ( SR-71 , U-2 ), and bombardment involved. A successor to the B-52 was still a long time coming: Although the USAF acquired some B-58 supersonic bombers in 1960 and the FB-111 as a supplement from 1968 , the B-70 did not get beyond the experimental stage in 1965 and the B. -1 did not go into series production until 1984 after an interim development stop.

Dissolution and successor

The collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s reduced the military threat to the United States, so SAC aircraft were no longer operational on September 27, 1991. In adapting the organizational structure to the new military-political circumstances, the USAF finally dissolved the Strategic Air Command on June 1, 1992. The tank and transport aircraft were assigned to Air Mobility Command , while the bombers, reconnaissance aircraft and ICBMs, together with the combat aircraft of the Tactical Air Command, formed the new Air Combat Command . The nuclear units of the SAC were taken over together with those of the US Navy from the United States Strategic Command (STRATCOM).


No. Surname image Beginning of the appointment End of appointment
13 George Lee Butler ( USAF ) GEN George L Butler.jpg January 25, 1991 June 1, 1992
12 John T. Chain Jr. (USAF) John T Chain.jpg June 22, 1986 January 24, 1991
11 Larry D. Welch (USAF) Larry D. Welch.jpg August 1, 1985 June 22, 1986
10 Bennie L. Davis (USAF) Bennie L. Davis portrait.jpg August 1, 1981 July 31, 1985
9 Richard H. Ellis (USAF) GEN Ellis, Richard Hastings.jpg August 1, 1977 July 31, 1981
8th Russell E. Dougherty (USAF) Russell E Dougherty.jpg 1st August 1974 July 31, 1977
7th John C. Meyer (USAF) JohnCMeyer.jpg May 1, 1972 July 31, 1974
6th Bruce K. Holloway (USAF) GEN Holloway, Bruce Keener (1) .jpg 1st August 1968 April 30, 1972
5 Joseph J. Nazzaro (USAF) GEN Joseph J Nazzaro.jpg February 1, 1967 July 31, 1968
4th John D. Ryan (USAF) John Dale Ryan.jpg December 1, 1964 January 31, 1967
3 Thomas S. Power (USAF) Thomas S Power.jpg July 1, 1957 November 30, 1964
2 Curtis E. LeMay (USAF) Curtis LeMay (USAF) .jpg October 19, 1948 June 30, 1957
1 George Kenney (USAF) George Kenney.jpg March 21, 1946 October 15, 1948


The SAC's unofficial motto was, as an extension of the slogan "Peace is our profession", "Peace is our profession was just a hobby!"

The following slogan also gained some popularity: “To err is human, to forgive is divine, and neither is SAC policy!”; German "To err is human, to forgive is divine, neither of which is part of the operational principles of the SAC!"

See also


  • Walton S. Moody: Building A Strategic Air Force. Air Force Historical Studies Office, Washington 1995, ISBN 0-16-049267-X .

Web links

Commons : Strategic Air Command  - collection of images, videos and audio files