WADS Celebrates 25th Air Division’s 75th Anniversary

  • Published
  • By Kimberly D. Burke, Western Air Defense Sector Public Affairs

As the United States Air Force 25th Air Division marks its 75th anniversary since its creation, it's an opportune moment to reflect on the pivotal milestones and historic events that have defined the 25th Air Division's distinguished legacy. Throughout the years, the 25th Air Division has been at the forefront of air defense, responding to the changing landscape of national security and global politics. Here are some of the key events that have shaped its journey.

1948: Inception and Early Years

The 25th Air Division was established on October 25, 1948, in Silver Lake (near Everett), Washington, with its primary mission being air defense activities in the Pacific Northwest.  The Russian detonation of an atomic device in August 1949 and the outbreak of fighting in Korea in June 1950 gave the development of an effective air defense system a great impetus. Within a year, radar units were moved to permanent locations and fighter aircraft were placed under operational control of the 25th Air Division, which reported to the Aerospace Defense Command (ADC).  In its early years, it served as a critical component of the USAF, responsible for protecting American airspace during a period of heightened tension in the early stages of the Cold War.

1950s-1970s: The Cold War Era

During the Cold War, the 25th Air Division played a vital role in ensuring the security of the United States. A more modern air defense system was soon needed to combat the current enemy’s capabilities.  The solution was MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory development of the automated system called Semi-Automatic Ground Environment Direction Center or SAGE.  To house the world’s largest operational digital computer system, the IBM AN/FSQ-7, 27 SAGE buildings were built throughout the U.S. 

The network of SAGE buildings and radar installations was extensive. SAGE was a complex and distributed system, and each facility was responsible for monitoring and controlling a specific sector of airspace.  The 25th Air Division’s SAGE building broke ground in 1957 on McChord Air Force Base and became operational on Jan. 8, 1960.  |

The 25th AD was equipped with radar squadrons, airborne early warning aircraft, Army Air Defense Artillery, and advanced fighter interceptors.  The division remained on high alert, ready to respond to potential threats over its 700,000 square mile area of responsibility which included Washington, portions of Oregon, Idaho and Montana, parts of Western Canada, and the seaward approaches.

End of the Cold War and Transition (1980s-2000s)

With the end of the Cold War, the geopolitical landscape underwent a transformation. The 25th Air Division was inactivated on Sept. 30, 1990, and assets were transferred to Northwest Air Defense Sector (NWADS) which later became the Western Air Defense Sector (WADS) in 1995.  WADS completed a seamless transition from the active duty to the Air National Guard in 1997.  This transition allowed for a more agile and cost-effective approach to air defense. 

21st Century: Embracing Modernization

The 25th Air Division's legacy continued to influence air defense through WADS. With the integration of modern technology, the unit embraced an era of advanced radar systems and state-of-the-art command and control facilities. Its adaptation to the evolving challenges of the 21st century is crucial in maintaining the safety of North American airspace.

The key events in the history of the USAF 25th Air Division reflect a legacy of unwavering commitment, vigilance, and adaptation. It is a testament to the importance of air defense and the individuals who have served and continue to serve in its pursuit. The division's history, marked by significant milestones, serves as a source of inspiration for all those entrusted with the vital task of guarding America’s skies 24/7/365.

25th Air Division Lineage

Established as 25 Air Defense Division on Sept. 27, 1948
Activated on Oct. 25, 1948
Re-designated 25 Air Division (Defense) on June 20, 1949
Inactivated on Feb. 1, 1952
Organized on Feb. 1,1952
Re-designated: 25th Air Division (SAGE) on March 1, 1959
Re-designated: 25th Air Division on April 1, 1966
Organized April 1, 1966, replacing Seattle Air Defense Sector
Assumed additional designations 25th NORAD/CONRAD Region, April 1, 1966
Assumed additional designation 25th ADCOM Region, Dec. 8, 1978
Inactivated on Sept. 30, 1990, assets transferred to Northwest Air Defense Sector
Re-designated Western Air Defense Sector on Oct. 1, 1995