16th Air Expeditionary Task Force

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16th Air Expeditionary Task Force
F-16 deliberate force.JPG
A side view of a US Air Force F-16C Fighting Falcon aircraft of the 31st Fighter Wing landing upon returning from a mission in support of NATO airstrikes against the Bosnian Serbs during Operation Deliberate Force
Active 1954–2006
2006–2008
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Part of United States Air Forces in Europe.png  United States Air Forces in Europe
Engagements
  • Streamer KC.PNG
    Kosovo Campaign
Decorations
  • US Air Force Outstanding Unit Award - Stremer.jpg
    Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (7x)
Commanders
Notable
commanders
Winfield S. Harpe
Insignia
Emblem of the 16th Air Expeditionary Task Force 16th Air Expeditionary Task Force - Emblem.jpg

The 16th Air Expeditionary Task Force (16 AETF) is a provisional United States Air Force unit assigned to the United States Air Forces in Europe. It was last activated at Izmir Air Base, Turkey on 1 December 2006, and inactivated on 30 April 2008.

The 16 AETF may be activated or inactivated at any time.

Formerly designated as Sixteenth Air Force, the command was the first newly established Numbered Air Force (NAF) by the USAF after World War II, It was activated in 1954 as a Joint Military Group to provide command and control of USAF activities in Spain, being designated a NAF in 1956. In 1957 16th AF was realigned under Strategic Air Command to provide command and control of SAC bases and B-47 Stratojet rotational units assigned and deployed to Spain and Morocco.

In 1966 after SAC withdrew its forces from Europe, 16th AF became part of the United States Air Forces in Europe, providing command and control of USAFE forces initially in Spain and North Africa, and later in Italy and Turkey until 2006. It later became a provisional Air Expeditionary Task Force under USAFE as part of the Global War on Terrorism.

History[edit]

Cold War[edit]

Sixteenth Air Force served both Strategic Air Command and United States Air Forces in Europe. Established as Joint United States Military Group, Air Administration (Spain), on 20 May 1954. Activated on 20 May 1954 at Madrid, Spain, it was attached to the Joint U.S. Military Group, which oversaw implementation of the 1953 Spanish-American Defense Cooperation Agreement.

In 1956, the administration was re-designated as Headquarters, 16th AF, and aligned directly under Headquarters, U.S. Air Force. Existing Spanish air force bases were expanded near Madrid, Sevilla and Zaragoza. In 1957, 16th AF was realigned under the Strategic Air Command. Main operating bases in Spain were used for SAC B-47 rotational alert aircraft until April 1965.

16th AF also operated SAC bases in Morocco from 1958 through 1963. In 1966, a year after SAC withdrew its B-47 alert force from Spain, 16th AF was reassigned to U.S. Air Forces in Europe. The 401st Tactical Fighter Wing, with three squadrons of F-100Ds, moved from the United States to Torrejon Air Base, Spain. The wing later converted to F-4 Phantoms, and in 1983, to F-16 Fighting Falcons.

Modern era[edit]

The 401st FW moved from Spain to Aviano AB, Italy, in May 1992 and was re-designated as the 31st FW in April 1994. It has two squadrons of F-16C/Ds. Headquarters, 16th AF moved to Aviano AB in August 1992.

During its time at Aviano AB, Sixteenth Air Force was the operational air force for USAF combat operations in the Balkans, supporting Operation Deny Flight, enforcing the U.N. ordered no-fly zone over Bosnia. Sixteenth Air Force aircraft participated in the raid on the Bosnian-Serb held airfield at Udbina in November 1994. In the fall of 1995, 16th AF supported Operation Deliberate Force, the U.N.-sanctioned/NATO executed attacks on Bosnian-Serb forces. In 1995, 16th AF supported Operation Joint Endeavor, the NATO peacekeeping mission to the former Yugoslavia, through operations in Croatia, Hungary and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The years 1996 through 1998 saw continued high operations in 16th AF. It was the first Air Force organization to fully employ the Expeditionary Wing concept. The 16th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force, consisting of the 16th and 31st Air Expeditionary Wings, activated in support of Operation Joint Guardian, and its air component, Operation Deliberate Guard, engaging air power for peace enforcement operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The 39th Air & Space Expeditionary Wing activated in support of Operation Northern Watch, engaging air power to enforce the no-fly zone over northern Iraq.

Headquarters 16th AF formed the joint force air component command for Operation Silver Wake, the successful evacuation of Americans and allied noncombatants from Albania. The 31st Fighter Wing was the first F-16 Falcon unit to fly combat missions utilizing night vision goggles, and wing aircraft provided close air support during Pope John Paul II's historic visit to Sarajevo. Today the wing remains a major participant in support of Balkan air operations. The 39th Wing at Incirlik AB, Turkey, deployed a flying ambulance surgical team to Dhahran Air Base, Saudi Arabia in response to the Khobar Towers bombing. The wing assisted in the evacuation of nearly 6,500 pro-U.S. Kurds from northern Iraq.

Beginning in March 1999, the 16th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force grew to 10 air expeditionary wings and 480 Air Force aircraft in 10 countries supporting Operation Allied Force, NATO's air campaign in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. Approximately 13,200 airmen, in addition to 32,000 airmen through Europe, deployed in support of the 78-day air campaign that led to Serbian withdrawal of forces from the province of Kosovo.

In 2005, Sixteenth Air Force moved to Ramstein AB, Germany to become USAFE's new Warfighting Headquarters. Its mission was to execute aerospace operations through expeditionary force command and control in support of the U.S. European Command and NATO. Supporting this mission, 16th AF planned and executed combat air operations in southern Europe and portions of the Middle East and northern Africa as an air component or joint task force headquarters. It supported approximately 11,000 Air Force and civilian members at two main operating bases, four support bases and other sites in Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Croatia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary, Macedonia, Greece, Turkey and Israel; and conducted peacetime engagement throughout the region.

On 1 December 2006, the Sixteenth Air Force was inactivated at Ramstein AB and simultaneously reconstituted as the Sixteenth Air Expeditionary Task Force at Izmir Air Base, Turkey. It was replaced at Ramstein by the Third Air Force. The 16th AETF was inactivated in April 2008.

Lineage[edit]

Emblem of Sixteenth Air Force, (1954–2006)
  • Established as Joint United States Military Group, Air Administration (Spain)
Activated on 20 May 1954 as a separate operating agency of the USAF
Re-designated Sixteenth Air Force on 15 July 1956 and elevated to Major Command status.
Inactivated 1 December 2006
  • Re-designated as 16th Air Expeditionary Task Force and converted to provisional status on 1 December 2006

Assignments[edit]

For activation or inactivation any time after 1 December 2006
Activated on 1 December 2006; Inactivated on 30 April 2008

Components[edit]

Air Divisions

Wings

  • 7602d Support Wing, 1 January – 10 May 1957 (Zaragoza AB)
  • 3977th Support Wing, 10 May 1957 – 1 April 1958 (Moron AB)
15 April 1994 – 1 December 2006 (Aviano AB)
9 September 1970 – 15 October 1991 (Incirlik AB)
17 July 199 – 1 November 2005

Stations[edit]

References[edit]

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

External links[edit]