The host unit at Ramstein Air Base is the 86th Airlift Wing (AW) which falls under 3rd Air Force headquartered in the United Kingdom and are further assigned under United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) headquartered, at Ramstein AB.
Ramstein is also a North Atlantic Treaty Organization installation. Beside Americans, the installation's population comprises Canadian, German, British, French, Belgian, and Dutch forces. The wing's mission is the operation and maintenance of airlift assets composed of C-130s, C-9s, C-20s, and C-21s throughout Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.
Ramstein Air Base is a great example of international collaboration: designed by French engineers, constructed by German contractors and operated by the U.S. Air Force.
Just as the base's beginning was colorful, so is the history associated with it. That history officially began in 1951 with the base's construction under the provisions of a Franco-American reciprocal agreement. The area was under French postwar occupational control.
The completion of construction by German firms in 1953 resulted initially in two separate installations: Ramstein to the north and Landstuhl Air Base to the south of what is now Kisling Avenue.
Although called an air base, the north side has no hangars or runway. The runway, control tower, ramps and other flight-related facilities were located on what was Landstuhl.
Since its opening, the northern part of the base has been the location of various higher echelon headquarters, family housing, dependents' schools and support functions, while the southern area has always been the site of the aerodrome and its flying units.
In the 1950s, name changes accompanied the growing pains of the new bases. In December 1957, the two bases were consolidated into the largest NATO-controlled air base on the continent. It was called Ramstein-Landstuhl Air Base, but later, through common usage, came by its present name, Ramstein.
In January 1953, the base housed the 86th Fighter Bomber Wing with its F-84F (they were not "F's" but F-84E) aircraft, and later all-weather F-86D "Sabre" jets, and in August 1954, the name of the wing was changed to reflect a new mission. It became the 86th Fighter Interceptor Wing.
The base changed landlords Oct. 5, 1966, when the 26th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing and its RF-4C aircraft arrived from France. The 86th Fighter Interceptor Wing transferred to Zweibruecken Air Base, Germany, but returned to Ramstein in January 1973 as the 86th Tactical Fighter Wing. AMC strategic airlift has operated at Ramstein since late fall 1971.
Seventeenth Air Force headquarters moved to Sembach Air Base, Germany, in October 1972, to make room for USAFE headquarters at Ramstein. By March 1973, the USAFE commander in chief's flag was officially transferred to Ramstein.
With USAFE's arrival, Ramstein entered a period of expansion unsurpassed in the base's history. The commander of the 86th TFW became host commander of Americans living in what is now known as the Kaiserslautern Military Community, or KMC.
In June 1985, the 316th Air Division was activated, centralizing command authority at Ramstein. The 86th 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. The 316th AD was deactivated May 1, 1991, and the 86th TFW merged with the 377th CSW to form the 86th Fighter Wing.
The 86th FW was redesignated the 86th Wing June 1, 1992. In July 1994, the last of the F-16 "Falcon" aircraft left Ramstein and the wing's C-130 "Hercules" moved in. The wing was redesignated the 86th Airlift Wing Oct. 1, 1994.
In 1995, the host wing at Sembach Air Base inactivated and the installation became an annex of Ramstein Air Base.
While the KMC remains the largest U.S. community overseas at 39,000 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.
Ramstein is part of USAFE's 3rd Air Force, with headquarters at Royal Air Force Mildenhall, the United Kingdom.
The text in an early version of this article was taken from pages on the Ramstein Air Base website, which as a work of the U.S. Government is presumed to be a public domain resource