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National Museum of Nuclear Science & History and Kirtland AFB

The Albuquerque area, including Kirkland AFB, has played a significant role in the development of nuclear energy in the United States over the decades.

National Museum of Nuclear Science and History, Albuquerque, New Mexico (staff photo)

The National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, located in Albuquerque, New Mexico, is the nation’s only congressionally chartered facility in its field.

The museum is a great place for adults and children alike to learn the story of the Atomic Age, from early research of nuclear development through today’s peaceful uses of nuclear technology.

It is a Smithsonian Affiliate member. The building is very new and modern, with ample parking and facilities.

For those of us with an interest in the history of aviation, the 5-acre outdoor Heritage Park is one of the highlights.

Several aircraft are on display, including a B-29 Superfortress, a B-52 Stratofortress, F-105 Thunderchief, A-7 Corsair and others. In addition, the Heritage Park includes a variety of missiles, bombs and other artifacts of the atomic age.

A Kickstarter program is now underway by the Museum to raise money to restore B-29 S/N 45-21748. Click for more information on how you can help.

Kirtland Air Force Base History

Construction of Albuquerque Army Air Base began in January 1941. Soon the new air base would see the arrival of 2,195 pilots, bombardiers, and navigator trainees for the new B-17 "Flying Fortress."

In February 1942, Albuquerque Army Air Base was renamed Kirtland Army Air Field in honor of Col. Roy C. Kirtland, one of the Army's oldest pioneers in aviation.

The World War II years were busy at Kirtland, with its r the B-17 and B-24 bombers and the base's three schools -- advanced flying, bombardier training and the multi-engine school -- operated at full capacity training crews for the B-17 and B-24 Liberator. In February 1945, Kirtland Field also engaged in training combat crews for the B-29.

After the war ended, the air field also served as an aircraft storage depot for surplus military aircraft no longer needed. About 2,250 old or surplus aircraft were sold or demolished at the site.

In February 1946, Kirtland's training role was ended, and it was placed under the Air Materiel Command (AMC). Its new role involved flight test activities for the Manhattan Engineering District, the wartime organization that produced the atomic bomb. Kirtland was to develop proper aircraft modifications for weapons delivery and to determine ballistic characteristics for weapons of the future.

Kirtland's role in testing and evaluating these special weapons increased in 1947, as the U.S. Army Air Forces became the U.S. Air Force. At that time, Kirtland Army Air Field, with a population of 972 military and civilian personnel, became Kirtland Air Force Base.

In December 1949, Kirtland AFB became headquarters for the newly created Special Weapons Command. Later, in 1971, Kirtland merged with Manzano and Sandia Base's, creating a sprawling military complex, the third largest installation in AFMC and the sixth largest in the Air Force.

Today, the host wing is the 377th Air Base Wing, and the primary unit is the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center (NWC). The mission of Kirtland today is to conduct nuclear operations; organize, train, equip and deploy expeditionary forces; and operate, secure and support Kirtland AFB.

The NWC is the center of expertise for nuclear weapon systems, ensuring safe, secure and reliable nuclear weapons are available to support the National Command Structure and Air Force. The NWC's responsibilities include acquisition, modernization and sustainment of nuclear system programs for both the Department of Defense and Department of Energy.

The base occupies 51,558 acres and employs over 23,000 people, including more than 4,200 active duty and 1,000 Guard, plus 3,200 part-time Reserve personnel.



Photos Highlights

Entrance to the National Museum of Nuclear Science and History in Albuquerque
B-29 S/N 45-21748
B-29 S/N 45-21748
B-52B Stratofortress S/N 0-20013
B-52B Stratofortress S/N 0-20013
A-7 Corsair in Heritage Park
A-7 Corsair in Heritage Park
U.S. Air Force Snark missile
U.S. Air Force Snark missile
One of the many interior display areas
One of the many interior display areas


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