The history of the 121st Air Refueling Wing begins with the 121st Fighter Wing (originally the 55th Fighter Wing) and its flying squadron, the 166th. Carrying the lineage of the 55th Bombardment Squadron and the 364th Fighter Squadron of WWII, they were constituted at Lockbourne AFB, Ohio in 1946 and 1947. Aircraft flown included the T-6, A-26, P-47, and P-51. The official 121st designation was received in November, 1950 while the wing was flying the F-84C Thunderjet.
In 1951, The Korean Conflict saw activation of the 166th Fighter Squadron with an air defense mission. Many of its most experienced personnel were assigned individually to other organizations in Korea and Europe. After the war and through the later1950’s the wing flew the F-80C, F-84E and F-84F aircraft. In 1961, the wing was activated for the Berlin Crisis deploying to Etain AB, France. Upon return the 121st converted to the F-100C Super Sabre aircraft. Another call-up occurred in 1968 for the USS Pueblo Crisis. One year was spent in Kunsan AB, South Korea. Some pilots flew combat missions in Vietnam during temporary duty assignments with other units.
The 121st converted to the A-7D Corsair II aircraft in 1974. In the same year Lockbourne AFB was renamed Rickenbacker AFB in honor of Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, the WW I “Ace of Aces” and Columbus, Ohio native. In 1979, Rickenbacker became an Air National Guard Base with the 121st as its largest flying organization. In the 1980’s, the 121st became part of the “Rapid Deployment Joint Task Force” supporting U.S. Central Command. During the Gulf War in 1991, the 121st Security Police Squadron was activated and deployed to Shaik Isa AB, Bahrain where it served under combat conditions.
With the end of the Cold War, the 121st became an air refueling wing under the Air Mobility Command, receiving the KC-135R aircraft in 1992. In October, 1993, the 121st consolidated with the 160th Air Refueling Group which was deactivated in the process. It became a “Super Wing” by gaining the 145th Air Refueling Squadron with its aircraft, distinguished history and heritage. AMC deployed missions began in 1994. Among the more significant were: Deny Flight; (Istres - LeTube AB, France); Decisive Endeavor (Pisa, Italy); Northern Watch (Incerlik AB, Turkey); Southern Watch (Prince Sultan AB, Saudi Arabia); and Air Expeditionary Force missions (various locations).
September 11, 2001 brought the 121st into immediate action supporting the air defense mission Operation Noble Eagle 121st aircraft and aircrews also supported Operation Enduring Freedom (Afghanistan) and the 121st Civil Engineering Squadron deployed to Southwest Asia for priority base construction missions. In 2003, an aviation element deployed to the Persian Gulf for Operation Iraqi Freedom, compiling an outstanding record while attached to the 384th Expeditionary Air Refueling Wing. Additionally, Security Police, Communications, Transportation and other support personnel have been individually activated for other worldwide missions with some serving in combat.
Overseas deployments are a way of life for the 121st as it participates in Air Expeditionary Force missions on a regular basis, taking its aircraft and personnel to the Middle East, the Pacific and many places in between. It has also seen organizational changes including the deactivation of the 145th Air Refueling Squadron in 2014.
The 121st has received four Air Force Outstanding Unit Awards while winning honors in many Air Force, Major Command, international and state competitions such as Gunsmoke, Top Gun, Rodeo, and International Air Tattoo. It is considered one of the premier units in the Air National Guard and the Air Force with a reputation for operational excellence, pride, efficiency, innovation and community support. Its men and women are dedicated to continuing this record of outstanding service to the nation, state and community.