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The 121st Air Refueling Wing was originally established as the 55th Fighter Wing in December 1947 and it caries the lineage of the 55th Bombardment Wing of WW II. Its original flying unit, the 166th Air Refueling Squadron, was established as the 166th Tactical Fighter Squadron in August 1946 and its WW II lineage is the 364th Fighter Squadron. The units were located at Lockbourne Air Force Base, Ohio. Aircraft flown during these early years included the T-6, A-26, P-47, and P-51.

The 55th was redesignated as the 121st Fighter Wing in November 1950 flying The 166th was activated in 1951 for the Korean War and was assigned an air defense mission. Many of its personnel were additionally reassigned to other units for duty in Korea and other overseas locations. In 1954, the F-80C Shooting Star arrived and the wing continued with an air defense mission. F-84E aircraft were received in 1955 followed by the swept-wing F-84F in 1957, which brought with it a fighter-bomber mission.

A pair of specially painted F-117 Nighthawks fly off from their last refueling by the Ohio National Guard's 121st Air Refueling WingIn October 1961, the wing was called to active duty for the Berlin Crisis. The 166th and additional augmenting personnel deployed to Etain Air Base, France, where they served with distinction until redeploying in August 1962. The unit next converted to the F-100C Super Sabre, which greatly enhanced its mission capabilities. Another call-up to active duty occurred in 1968 as a result of the USS Pueblo Crisis. One year of the 18-month activation was spent in Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea. During the deployment some pilots flew combat missions in Vietnam while performing temporary assignments with other units. Aircraft and personnel returned home in June 1969. An aircraft upgrade to the F-100D was accomplished in 1971.

Under the "Total Force Policy," Guard and Reserve units began to receive newer aircraft and equipment in the 1970's. The 121st began conversion to the A-7D Corsair II in 1974 which brought with it additional missions. In the same year Lockbourne AFB was renamed Rickenbacker AFB in honor of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, the World War I "Ace of Aces" and a Columbus, Ohio, native. When the active duty units departed in 1979, Rickenbacker became an Air National Guard Base with the 121st as its largest flying unit.

A KC-135 refuels a B-2 from the 509th Bomb Wing over the Pacific OceanThe 1980's brought new and more demanding tasks when the 121st became part of the Rapid Deployment Force and was ultimately integrated into war plans as a part of United States Central Command. Training for this high priority mission was intense and included many deployments, exercises and evaluations. Although the wing was not recalled for Operation Desert Storm in 1991, it provided support for operations at home station while smaller elements and individuals served as active duty augmentees in several locations. The 121st Security Forces Squadron was activated and deployed to the Persian Gulf in November 1990. Stationed at Sheik Isa Air Base, Bahrain, it served under combat conditions, returning home in April 1991.

A KC-135 lands at RickenbackerWith the end of the Cold War, a major reorganization of the Air Force was soon underway which would bring about the most significant mission change in the history of the 121st. After 35 years of flying fighters it was to become an air refueling wing. In 1992, the A-7D's were flown to the "Boneyard" and the first KC-135R's were received. The 121st also assumed base support responsibilities.

In October, 1993, the 121st Air Refueling Wing was consolidated with the 160th Air Refueling Group which was deactivated in the process. With this consolidation, the 121st became a "Super Wing" by gaining the 145th Air Refueling Squadron with its aircraft, unique history and heritage.

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