163 RW History
The 163rd Attack Wing, known as the “Grizzlies,” are located at March Air Reserve Base, California, and have a long and distinguished history of flying. The Wing was commissioned on November 9, 1946 as the 196th Fighter Squadron flying the L-5G Sentinel Liaison, T-6 Texan Trainer, P-51D Mustang, C-47 Dakota, and B-26 Invader aircraft. A red-letter date in the Grizzlies’ history was on June 25, 1948 when the unit received the F-80C Shooting Star fighter aircraft, which it would deploy on October 10, 1950 to support the United Nations during the Korean Conflict.
Upon returning to the U.S., the Grizzlies moved their flying operations to Ontario Airport, where they continued their proud military heritage flying F-86 and F-102 “Delta Dagger” fighter aircraft. On March 8, 1975, the Grizzlies were reassigned and became the 163rd Tactical Air Support Group flying the O-2A/B Super Sky Master. In October of 1983, the Grizzlies transitioned operations to March Air Reserve Base and became the 163rd Tactical Fighter Group flying the F-4C Phantom II, eventually converting on April 1, 1987 to the F-4E. In July of 1990, the unit transitioned to the RF-4C aircraft, becoming the 163rd Tactical Reconnaissance Group.
The shorted-lived reconnaissance mission gave way to yet another conversion on October 1, 1993, when the Grizzlies converted to an air-refueling mission flying the KC-135E Stratotanker. In the summer of 1996, the unit’s fleet was upgraded to the KC-135R, generating a mission that would span over the next 11 years and support numerous operations and global contingencies. During that time, the unit broke countless flying records and was seen as the go-to wing for critical operations in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
On May 30, 2006, the 163rd transferred the last KC135R out of March Air Reserve Base, paving the way for the
Grizzlies to make history yet again. In November of 2006, the 163rd officially became the 163rd Reconnaissance Wing, gaining the MQ-1B Predator Remotely Piloted Aircraft mission. After the official announcement, the Grizzlies began flying MQ-1B Combat Air Patrol missions supporting combatant commanders and ground forces engaged in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
In January of 2009, the Grizzlies established the first RPA schoolhouses; the 163rd Field Training Detachment and the 163rd Operations Group Formal Training Unit. That year also marked a significant accomplishment as the Grizzlies became the first Air National Guard unit to fly an MQ-1B aircraft training sortie in the Continental U.S. After successfully maintaining and flying the MQ-1B Predator for six years and amassing over 100,000 combat hours, accomplishing over 1,100 training sorties, and producing mission-critical, combatready aircrews, the 163rd converted to the MQ-9A Reaper in December of 2013.
On July 9, 2015, the 163rd Reconnaissance Wing officially became the 163rd Attack Wing. Although the Grizzlies’ mission has changed numerous times throughout the years, the
163rd remains one of the top flying units in the U.S. Air Force and the Air National Guard, playing an integral role in state and global security. The MQ-9A Reaper is a medium-altitude, long-endurance remotely piloted aircraft that provides commanders with a multi-mission asset, combining imagery sensors and strike capability. Powered by a Honeywell TPE33110GD turboprop engine, the MQ-9A can reach speeds up to 230mph and altitudes of 50,000 feet while providing well over 20 hours of flying capability. Armament consists of a combination of AGM-114 Hellfire missiles, GBU-12 Paveway II, GBU-38 Joint Direct Attack Munitions, and GBU-49 Enhanced Paveway II.