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Current as of June 2020

The History and Heritage of Vandenberg Space Force Base and the Space Launch Delta 30

Vandenberg AFB is the third largest installation in the Air Force containing 99,604 acres of land, and operating the 19th largest airfield runway in the world at 15,000 feet long. The installation provides a safe location for the testing of new and existing Department of Defense sanctioned programs, as well as provides operational mission fulfillment of national objectives. Vandenberg was originally established as the Camp Cooke U.S. Army garrison in August of 1941. The installation was used for Army tank, infantry, and artillery training during WWII, and again during the Korean War. In 1957, the installation property was transferred to the recently established U.S. Air Force and was soon transformed into the nation’s West Coast space and missile facility that is now Vandenberg AFB. The unique geographic location of Vandenberg makes this major range and test facility base a safe and ideal setting for confidence test launching intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), intermediate range ballistic missiles (IRBMs), and for placing satellite payloads into polar earth orbit.

The requirement for the United States to construct a launch facility on the West coast derived from the need to match and overcome Russia’s space launch capabilities. Russia launched the first man-made satellite, Sputnik into low earth orbit on 4 October 1957, which started the "Space Race" between the United States and Russia. In response to the Sputnik launch, the Air Force accelerated the development of the space and missile program that was in its infancy. On 1 January 1958, Strategic Air Command (SAC) assumed responsibility for attaining the initial operational capability of the U.S. land based strategic deterrent missile force, as well as conducting training for missile launch crews. Air Research and Development Command (ARDC) retained responsibility for the Vandenberg AFB facility construction and the research and development of launch vehicles.

Vandenberg SFB Highlights

On 7 June 1957, Camp Cooke was renamed Cooke AFB. On 4 October 1958, Cooke AFB was redesignated as Vandenberg AFB in honor of the late General Hoyt S. Vandenberg, the second Chief of Staff of the U.S. Air Force. The first missile launch from Vandenberg AFB was a Thor IRBM launched on 16 December 1958 from Space Launch Complex-2 East. On 28 February 1959, the first two-stage Thor/Agena missile lifted the world’s first polar earth orbiting satellite, the Discoverer 1 from Space Launch Complex-1 West. Soon after, the first Atlas missile launched from Vandenberg AFB on 9 September 1959 at launch facility 576 A-2. Over 1,980+ launches have occurred from Vandenberg AFB since 1958, which include missile programs such as the Nike, Scout, Peacekeeper, Atlas, Minotaur, Titan, Thor, Thor/Agena, Thrust Assisted Thor, Thor/Delta, BOMARC, Delta II, Delta IV, Scout, Peacekeeper, Minuteman, and the Falcon 9.

Lineage of the Space Launch Delta 30

The 30th Space Wing lineage and honors derives from the predecessor unit, the Air Force Western Test Range (AFWTR) (wing equivalent). On 5 May 1964, the AFWTR activated at Vandenberg AFB. After the U.S. Navy transferred their 20,000 acre Point Arguello Launch Complex located on present day South Vandenberg AFB, a network of instrumentation sites were constructed along the California Coast and downrange on islands throughout the Pacific to support the ballistic, space and aeronautical operations conducted by the AFWTR. A further 14,900 acres were acquired by the Air Force in 1966 with the transfer of the Sudden Ranch land area needed to support future launch activity and safe launch and range missions.

The AFWTR inactivated on 1 April 1970 and redesignated as the Western Space and Missile Center (WSMC) (wing equivalent) on 1 October 1979. WSMC fulfilled major national programs during its tenure that continue to provide many of the infrastructure and Western range architecture capabilities that the 30th Space Wing and tenant units currently utilize. Major programs constructed and operated during the WSMC existence at Vandenberg AFB include the Air Force Space Shuttle Program and the Peacekeeper ICBM program. WSMC later redesignated as the 30th Space Wing on 19 November 1991.

14th Air Force at Vandenberg SFB
In the late 1930s, Major General Claire L. Chennault organized a group of civilian volunteer pilots to fight the imperial Japanese in the China-Burma-India theater of operations. The Flying Tigers became well known for the paintings of the tiger shark on the nose of their P-40 fighter pursuit aircraft and compiled a stellar war record against numerically superior aggressor forces. The unit underwent numerous reorganizations after the war and in 1993, the 14th Air Force was restructured to operate as a space domain mission function headquartered at Vandenberg SFB within Air Force Space Command.

United States Space Force

On 20 December 2019, the President of the United States, Donald J. Trump signed into law the 2020 National Defense Authorization Act to establish the sixth uniformed military branch of the Department of Defense. All mission personnel assigned to Air Force Space Command were reassigned to the United States Space Force. With the establishment of Space Force, the 14th Air Force and Air Force Space Command marked the end of their Air Force lineage, and all missions and personnel were reassigned into the newly designated Space Operations Command (SpOC).


Since 1991, the host installation, range, and launch missions at Vandenberg SFB have been supported by personnel assigned to the Space Launch Delta 30. The delta objective is to "provide indispensable launch, landing, and range capabilities to the nation." Personnel assigned to the Space Launch Delta 30 provide the safe launch and range capabilities as the only military installation on the West Coast of the continental United States that supports commercial and government customer requirements. The launch and range capabilities provide the architecture and infrastructure necessary for the placement of satellites into polar earth orbit, while concurrently retaining the ability to confidence test the Minuteman III ICBM.

Current as of October 14, 2021