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480th ISRW: 18 Years of Progress

JOINT BASE LANGLEY-EUSTIS, Va -- The 480th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Wing celebrated its 18-year anniversary at Joint Base Langley-Eustis on Dec. 11, 2021.

The wing’s history began with the formation of the 480th Anti-Submarine Group in 1943.  The unit deployed to Port Lyautey, Morocco and was credited with the destruction of four German submarines during the Battle of the Atlantic in World War II.  During the Korean War, the Air Force activated the 580th Air Resupply and Communications Wing to conduct psychological warfare and intelligence operations supporting U.S. forces in Europe.  In 1985, the Air Force consolidated both inactive units and re-designated the new unit as the 480th Special Operations Wing.  Due to funding constraints, this unit was never activated.

The attacks on September 11, 2001 placed a renewed emphasis on Air Force intelligence capabilities. As a result, the Air Force re-designated the 480th Special Operations Wing to form the 480th Intelligence Wing.  The wing activated on December 1, 2003 with an official stand-up ceremony taking place on December 11, 2003.

“It was an honor of a lifetime to be selected as the first commander of the 480th ISRW (then named the 480th Intelligence Wing) under the ‘Mighty Eighth’ Air Force,” stated Brig Gen (ret) Larry Grundhauser.  “It wasn’t just me.  I know we all knew it.  Felt it.  The momentous nature of the endeavor we were being asked to take on motivated us all each day. I took command of the 480th Intelligence Group while it was engaged in combat operations during Operation ENDURING FREEDOM, just as IRAQI FREEDOM had begun.”

The 480 IW operated the Air Force’s “flagship” intelligence exploitation capability; the Air Force Distributed Common Ground System.  It rapidly engaged in combat operations supporting U.S. and Coalition forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. In 2009, the unit was re-assigned from Air Combat Command to the Air Force ISR Agency and re-designated as the 480 ISRW.

“We transformed into a more agile force able to meet evolving mission-set demands,” said Col Kayle Stevens, 480th ISRW commander. “Our Airmen are no longer tied to platforms. We now rely on our cognitive ability, leveraging the best data available to answer commander’s toughest problems.”

Presently, the 480 ISRW is organized into six subordinate ISR groups and twenty-three active duty squadrons. With over 6,000 warrior Airmen, the organization serves as the largest ISR wing in the Air Force. The six ISR groups assigned to the 480 ISRW include: the 480 ISR Group, 497 ISR Group, 548 ISR Group, 692 ISR Group, 693 ISR Group, and the 694 ISR Group. In addition, the wing has twenty-six Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard units standing side-by-side with the active duty component as it engages in ISR operations around the globe.

“Airmen are the heart of our Wing’s performance”, said Stevens. “Our diverse and inclusive workforce helps eliminate blind spots and provides us our comparative advantage. Across the conflict spectrum, 480th Airmen are consistently required to pivot to the theater’s most challenging problems. Peak performance depends on successful integrated efforts between DGS and signal intelligence element sites and streamlining mission integration and analyst collaboration. Cyber Airmen are simultaneously relied on to keep the weapon system functioning, watch for attacks, report any suspicious activity, and protect the network. Total Force Integration provides our enterprise the strategic depth required to meet elevated demands in strategic competition. We achieve peak performance when everybody does their part, a team of teams tackling our nations’ most pressing challenges.”