Numbered Air Force

Numbered Air Force

A Numbered Air Force (NAF) is a type of organization in the United States Air Force that is subordinate to a Major Command (MAJCOM) and has assigned to it operational units such as wings, squadrons, and groups.[1] A Component Numbered Air Force (C-NAF) has the additional role as an Air Force Component Command exercising command and control over air and space forces supporting a Unified Combatant Command.[2] Unlike MAJCOMs, which have a management role, a NAF is a tactical organization with an operational focus, and does not have the same functional staff as a MAJCOM.[2] Numbered air forces are typically commanded by a major general or a lieutenant general.

Numerical designations for Numbered Air Forces are written out (e.g., Eighth Air Force instead of 8th Air Force), but Arabic numerals are used in abbreviations (e.g., 8 AF).[1][3] Units directly subordinate to a NAF are generally numbered 6XX (where XX is the NAF number).[1] For example, the 618th Air and Space Operations Center (Tanker Airlift Control Center) is a unit subordinate to the Eighteenth Air Force.



World War II Air Districts and Numbered Air Forces.

Numbered air forces began as named organizations in the United States Army Air Corps before World War II.[4] The first four NAFs were established as the Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, and Southwest Air Districts on 19 October 1940 to provide air defense for the United States.[5] These Air Districts were redesignated as the 1st, 2d, 3d, and 4th Air Forces, respectively, on 26 March 1941. The Arabic numerals were changed to the First, Second, Third, and Fourth Air Forces on 18 September 1942. Other organizations established during this period and that became Numbered air forces include the Philippine Department Air Force (became Fifth Air Force), the Panama Canal Air Force (became Sixth Air Force), the Hawaiian Air Force (became Seventh Air Force), and the Alaskan Air Force (became Eleventh Air Force).[6] After World War II, the US Air Force continued to use both named and numbered air forces. While named air forces were used in both tactical and support roles, numbered air forces were generally employed only in tactical roles.[4]

As part of a peacetime restructuring in March 1946, the United States Army Air Forces were reorganized into three major operating commands: the Strategic Air Command (SAC), the Tactical Air Command (TAC), and the Air Defense Command (ADC).[7] These commands reflected the basic air combat missions that evolved during the war, and each reported directly to General Carl Spaatz, the Commanding General, Army Air Forces. Numbered air forces served as an intermediate headquarters between these commands and the operational wings and groups. Eleven of the sixteen wartime air forces remained. The Eighth and Fifteenth Air Forces were assigned to SAC; the Third, Ninth, and Twelfth Air Forces were assigned to TAC; and the First, Second, Fourth, Tenth, Eleventh, and Fourteenth Air Forces were assigned to ADC. Second Air Force would later be transferred to SAC in 1949.[8] The numbered air forces had both operational and administrative authority, and existed as a command level between major commands and air divisions. Although variations existed, and number air forces were often reassigned, this basic arrangement persisted throughout the Cold War.

The role of numbered air forces changed in the 1990s during the Air Force reorganization initiated by Air Force Chief of Staff General Merrill McPeak. The goal of the reorganization was to "streamline, take layers out, flatten (Air Force) organizational charts, while at the same time clarifying the roles and responsibilities of essential supporting functions."[9] Numbered air forces were reorganized into tactical echelons focused on operations, and their administrative staff functions were eliminated. This reorganization also reduced the number of major commands, and eliminated the air divisions to place numbered air forces directly in command of operational wings.

The role of numbered air forces was again changed in 2006 with the implementation of the Component Air Force (C-NAF) concept.[10] Some numbered air forces have an additional mission as the Air Force Component Command exercising command and control over air and space forces supporting a Unified Combatant Command.[2] C-NAFs have a second designation to identify their role. For example, First Air Force, a numbered air force assigned to Air Combat Command, is designated as Air Force Northern (AFNORTH) in its role as the air component of the United States Northern Command.[11] Most C-NAFs have an Air and Space Operations Center (AOC) to provide command and control of air and space operations for the supported combatant commander.

List of Numbered Air Forces

The table below lists current and historical numbered air forces of the US Air Force, their C-NAF designation (if applicable), their current shield and station, and the major command (MAJCOM) to which they are currently assigned. Note that the lineage of some numbered air forces is continued by non-NAF organizations (e.g., the 15th Expeditionary Mobility Task Force continues the lineage of the Fifteenth Air Force).

Air Force Shield Station Major Command Comments
First Air Force (AFNORTH)
1st AF insignia badge.jpg
Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida ACC C-NAF supporting USNORTHCOM and Continental NORAD Region
Second Air Force
2d Air Force.png
Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi AETC
Third Air Force (AFEUR)
3d Air Force.png
Ramstein Air Base, Germany USAFE C-NAF supporting USEUCOM
Fourth Air Force
4th Air Force.png
March Air Reserve Base, California AFRC
Fifth Air Force
5th Air Force.png
Yokota Air Base, Japan PACAF
Sixth Air Force
6th air force.jpg
Redesignated United States Air Forces Southern Command in 1963. Inactivated in 1976.
Seventh Air Force (AFKOR)
7th Air Force.png
Osan Air Base, Korea PACAF C-NAF supporting USFK
Eighth Air Force (AFSTRAT-GS)
8th Air Force.png
Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana AFGSC C-NAF supporting USSTRATCOM
Ninth Air Force
9th Air Force 2009.png
Shaw Air Force Base, South Carolina ACC C-NAF supporting USCENTCOM
Tenth Air Force
10th Air Force.png
Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base, Fort Worth, Texas AFRC
Eleventh Air Force
11th Air Force.png
Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska PACAF Supports Alaskan Command and Alaska NORAD Region
Twelfth Air Force (AFSOUTH)
12th Air Force.png
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Arizona ACC C-NAF supporting USSOUTHCOM
Thirteenth Air Force (AFPAC)
13th Air Force.png
Hickam Air Force Base, Hawaii PACAF C-NAF supporting USPACOM
Fourteenth Air Force (AFSTRAT-SP)
14th Air Force emblem.png
Vandenberg Air Force Base, California AFSPC C-NAF supporting USSTRATCOM
Fifteenth Air Force
15th Air Force.png
Redesignated 15th Expeditionary Mobility Task Force in 2003.
Sixteenth Air Force
16th Air Force.png
Redesignated 16th Air Expeditionary Task Force in 2006. Inactivated in 2008.
Seventeenth Air Force (AFAFRICA)
17th Air Force.png
Ramstein Air Base, Germany USAFE C-NAF supporting USAFRICOM
Eighteenth Air Force (AFTRANS)
18th Air Force.png
Scott Air Force Base, Illinois AMC C-NAF supporting USTRANSCOM
Nineteenth Air Force
19th Air Force.png
Randolph Air Force Base, Texas AETC
Twentieth Air Force
20th Air Force.png
F.E. Warren Air Force Base, Wyoming AFGSC
Twenty-First Air Force
21st Air Force.png
Redesignated 21st Expeditionary Mobility Task Force in 2003.
Twenty-Second Air Force
22d Air Force.png
Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Georgia AFRC
Twenty-Third Air Force (AFSOF)
Twenty-Third Air Force.png
Hurlburt Field, Florida AFSOC C-NAF supporting USSOCOM
Twenty-Fourth Air Force (AFCYBER)
24th Air Force.png
Lackland Air Force Base, Texas[12] AFSPC C-NAF supporting USSTRATCOM

See also


  1. ^ a b c AFI 38–101, Air Force Organization. 16 March 2011.
  2. ^ a b c AFI 38-205, Manpower & Quality Readiness and Contingency Management. 18 June 2002.
  3. ^ AFH 33-337, The Tongue and Quill. 1 August 2004.
  4. ^ a b Ravenstein, Charles (1986). Organization and Lineage of the United States Air Force. Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. 
  5. ^ Schaffel, Kenneth (1991). The Emerging Shield: The Air Force and the Evolution of Continental Air Defense, 1945–1960. Washington, DC: Office of Air Force History. 
  6. ^ Air Force Historical Research Agency – Numbered Air Forces
  7. ^ Nalty, Bernard (1997). Winged Shield, Winged Sword: A History of the United States Air Force, Volume 1. Washington, DC: Air Force History and Museums Program. 
  8. ^ Factsheets : Second Air Force (AETC)
  9. ^ McPeak, Merrill (1995). Selected Works: 1990–1994. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Air University Press. 
  10. ^ AFDD 2, Operations and Organization. 3 April 2007.
  11. ^ Factsheets : 1st AF Mission. Accessed 29 January 2011.
  12. ^ "Air Force Announces Decision On Location Of 24th Air Force". Aero-News Network. Retrieved 13 August 2009. 

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