U.S. Air Forces in Europe Shield (Color). Image provided by the Air Force Historical Research Agency. In accordance with Chapter 3 of AFI 84-105, commercial reproduction of this emblem is NOT permitted without the permission of the proponent organizational/unit commander. The image is 6x6 inches @ 300 ppi
U.S. Air Forces in Europe, with headquarters at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, is a major command of the U.S. Air Force. It is also the air component for U.S. European Command, a Department of Defense unified command.
As the air component for USEUCOM, USAFE directs air operations in a theater spanning three continents, covering more than eight million square miles, containing 51 independent states, and possessing one-eighth of the world's population and about one-fourth of the world's Gross Domestic Product.
During the Cold War, USAFE was a fight-in-place force postured for a large-scale conflict. Since the fall of the Soviet Union, it has transitioned to an Air Expeditionary Force with a mobile and deployable mix of people and resources that can simultaneously operate in multiple locations. Its role includes warfighting as well as humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, and other non-traditional contingencies throughout its area of responsibility
In peacetime, USAFE trains and equips Air Force units pledged to NATO. In fulfilling its NATO responsibilities, USAFE maintains combat-ready wings based from the United Kingdom to Turkey. USAFE plans, conducts, controls, coordinates and supports air and space operations in Europe and Asia to achieve U.S. national and NATO objectives based on taskings by the USEUCOM commander.
USAFE assets stand ready to perform close air support, air interdiction, air defense, in-flight refueling, long-range transport and support of maritime operations. The command maintains a formidable force despite a rapid drawdown that saw its main operating bases cut by 67 percent following the end of the Cold War. USAFE remains a highly responsive and capable combat force, as witnessed in the command's support of contingency and humanitarian operations throughout Europe and parts of Africa.
Personnel and Resources
More than 39,000 active-duty, Reserve, Air National Guard and civilian employees are assigned to USAFE. Equipment assets include about 225 fighter, attack, rotary wing, tanker, and transport aircraft, and a full complement of conventional weapons.
USAFE consists of two Numbered Air Forces, seven main operating bases and 114 geographically separated locations.
Third Air Force (Air Forces Europe) supports USEUCOM. It is USAFE's Component Numbered Air Force responsible for maintaining a continuous theater-wide situational awareness and providing the commander of Air Force forces here the capability to command and control assigned and attached Airmen.
Seventeenth Air Force (Air Forces Africa) supports U.S. Africa Command via command and control of air forces to conduct sustained security engagement and operations as directed to promote air domain safety, security and development. It operates as a functional staff, while its 617th Air and Space Operations Center at oversees air operations on the continent.
The command's main operating bases are: RAF Lakenheath and Mildenhall in England; Ramstein and Spangdahlem Air Bases in Germany, Aviano Air Base in Italy, Lajes Air Base in the Azores, and Incirlik Air Base in Turkey. These bases report to Ramstein's Third Air Force for day-to-day and contingency operations.
USAFE originated as the 8th Air Force in 1942 and flew heavy bombardment missions over the European continent during World War II. The command was given its current name in 1945 when it had 17,000 airplanes and 450,000 people.
During the Berlin Airlift in 1948 to 1949, USAFE airlifted more than 1.6 million tons of food, fuel and medical supplies to the blockaded city. With the formation of NATO in 1949, the United States was committed to help defend Western Europe against aggression from the Soviet Union, a mission that continued until the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1991.
In March 1973, Headquarters USAFE transferred from Lindsey Air Station, in Wiesbaden, West Germany, to Ramstein Air Base. In the mid-1980s, USAFE maintained and operated 25 main bases and more than 400 geographically separated units in 190 different locations. These bases supported about 850 aircraft. The community stood at more than 140,000: 60,000 active-duty airmen, 10,000 civilian workers, and almost 70,000 family members.
Beginning in late 1990, USAFE mobilized and moved more than 180 aircraft and 5,400 people to the Persian Gulf supporting operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. In addition, 100 aircraft and 2,600 personnel deployed to Turkey for Operation Proven Force, which denied the Iraqis a safe haven for their military forces in the northern part of their country. USAFE also activated aeromedical staging facilities and contingency hospitals. More than 9,000 patients, mostly suffering from noncombat-related illnesses and injuries, were evacuated to Europe. Of these, more than 3,000 were treated at USAFE medical facilities.
After Desert Storm, USAFE provided emergency relief to Kurdish refugees fleeing Iraqi forces and enforced a no-fly zone over Northern Iraq. This mission, known first as Operation Provide Comfort and later Operation Northern Watch, continued until March 2003.
Since 1990, USAFE has handled more than 70 contingencies--more than twice as many in the 1970s and 1980s. The command took part in Operation Provide Hope I and II, which airlifted food and medical supplies to the people of the former Soviet Union. It supported Provide Promise, the airlifting of supplies into war-torn Yugoslavia from July 1992 until December 1995.
USAFE also provided air protection over the skies of Bosnia-Herzegovina in Operation Deny Flight. Along with allies from NATO countries, USAFE aircrews applied airpower in Operation Deliberate Force, the bombing campaign that paved the way for the Dayton Peace Agreement. USAFE theater air control forces provided tactical air battle management command and control over the Adriatic and Balkans airspaces from the outset of Operation Deny Flight in 1995 until the end of Operation Allied Force in 1999. USAFE then helped deploy Peace Implementation Forces and equipment to Bosnia- Herzegovina for Operation Joint Endeavor and sustained them by airlift.
USAFE forces again mobilized in March 1999 when NATO intervened in Kosovo to stop Serb repression of the province's ethnic Albanian majority. Efforts to find a diplomatic solution collapsed, resulting in Operation Allied Force - the NATO-led air war over Kosovo. USAFE expanded from 9 bases in 5 countries to 25 bases in 15 countriesThe 78-day operation ended June 10, culminating in the withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosovo and the eventual return of refugees to their homeland. USAFE's Third Air Force led Joint Task Force-Shining Hope, established to assist the hundreds of thousands of refugees expelled from Kosovo by Serb soldiers and paramilitaries. USAFE continues to contribute to NATO-led forces promoting peace and stability in Kosovo.
In February 2000, USAFE forces responded to a humanitarian crisis, this time in southern Africa. Joint Task Force Atlas Response was established to airlift aid to victims of massive floods in Mozambique and other nearby countries. Working with international relief agencies, U.S. forces assisted with a variety of humanitarian-related activities, including the airlift of food and medical supplies, aerial surveillance and rescue operations in the region.
The command has been in the front lines of the war on terrorism since Sept. 11, 2001. During Operation Enduring Freedom, it supported an air bridge from Europe to Asia that delivered 3,300 tons of humanitarian daily rations to northern Afghanistan, opened a base in Kyrgystan for coalition forces, and established a medical evacuation network that moved nearly 4,000 patients. USAFE deployed 24 fighter aircraft, eight KC-135 tankers and nearly 2,400 people in Operation Iraqi Freedom. It opened an important airfield in northern Iraq and provided critical en route support to deploying forces, not to mention vital logistical and medical support to forward-deployed forces.
In 2006, the command averaged more than 1,500 deployed to the U.S. Central Command's area of responsibility. More than 3,000 were deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and overseas contingency operations. USAFE also hosted an average of 300 Air National Guard and more than 1,000 active-duty personnel to the USEUCOM's AOR in 2006.
Following the August 2008 clash between Russia and Georgia, USAFE built an air bridge to the latter to provide humanitarian assistance. The effort was coordinated by the U.S. State Department, U.S. Agency for International Development and Georgian officials. The Department of Defense was asked to support with a joint U.S. military operation which launched with the delivery of pallets of medicine, clothing, sleeping bags, cots and other essential items. Third Air Force led the contingency planning effort as the operational arm of USAFE. The first deliveries into Georgia were flown by a C-17 Globemaster crew whose cargo included 104,000 doses of antibiotics. USAFE's 1st Combat Communications Squadron sent a team to the Georgian capital of Tbilisi to provide communications support to the U.S. Embassy and to American military personnel.
In 2009, President Obama announced the decision for the U.S. to implement a "phased, adaptive" approach for missile defense in Europe using a phased implementation, adaptive to an evolving security environment. This capability uses cost-effective, increasingly capable sea- and land-based missile interceptors and sensors in Europe to defend against ballistic missile threat. This will also augment current protection of the U.S. homeland defense against long-range ballistic missiles and to offer more effective defenses against near-term ballistic missiles for the defense of deployed forces, their families and European allies. The command has a leading role in the timely implementation of this approach by organizing, training and equipping Airmen and joint forces to effectively integrate command and control of air and missile defense capabilities in support of the area air defense commander and USAFE commander.
In 2010, USAFE used its new C-130J Super Hercules aircraft to move firefighting equipment to Russia to assist in fighting wildfires. USAFE continues to be a provider of combat forces, maintain vital access to three continents, and assure friends and allies while building their operational capacity.
Point of Contact U. S. Air Forces in Europe, Public Affairs Office; Unit 3050, Box 120; APO AE 09094-0120; DSN 480-6565 or commercial 011-49-6371-47-6565.