Allied Forces Northern Europe

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Allied Forces Northern Europe
Allied Forces Northern Europe.jpg
Allied Forces Northern Europe Emblem
Active 1952 - 1994
Allegiance NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Part of Allied Command Europe, Casteau, Belgium
Location Kolsås, Norway

Allied Forces Northern Europe (AFNORTH) was the most northern NATO Major Subordinate Command, located at Kolsås outside Oslo. It was part of Allied Command Europe from around 1952 to 2003. In the case of war with the Soviet Union, AFNORTH would assume supreme command of all Allied forces in northern Europe (Norway and Denmark) and Germany north of Elbe/Hamburg and adjacent sea territory.


For much of its existence its commander-in-chief (CINCNORTH) was a British Admiral or General. The chief-of-staff was always a German Vice Admiral. The central Air Force Commander Northern Europe, who would assume command of all NATO air forces in AFNORTH's area in the case of war, was directly subordinated to CINCNORTH and was always a general from the U.S. Air Force. The leadership of AFNORTH additionally included a Land Deputy, a Sea Deputy, and an Air Deputy, who were for a period Danish or Norwegian Major Generals or Rear Admirals.

Headquarters Allied Air Forces Northern Europe was created by SHAPE on 29 March 1951. Major General R.K. Taylor, U.S. Air Force, was assigned as its commander on 2 April 1951. The Headquarters was established in London on 1 June 1951 and later transferred to its present and permanent location in Oslo, Norway on 22 June 1951. By June 1952 no units had been earmarked or allocated for it.[1] Major General Homer L. Sanders held command September 1954-September 1957.[2] Major General Carl D. Peterson became Air Deputy in June 1977.

Until the formation of BALTAP around 1962, AFNORTH comprised Allied Land Forces Norway, Allied Land Forces Denmark, and Allied Air Forces and Allied Naval Forces, Northern Europe (four commands).[3]

In 1993 AFNORTH's major subordinate commands were Allied Forces North Norway; Allied Forces South Norway; and Allied Forces Baltic Approaches (Karup).[4] BALTAP comprised AIRBALTAP, NAVBALTAP, LANDZEALAND, responsible for the land defence of Zealand and the other Danish islands, and Allied Land Forces Schleswig-Holstein and Jutland (LANDJUT). From 1962 LANDJUT had been responsible for the land defence of the Baltic Approaches from a headquarters at Rendsburg, Germany. It comprised the 6th Panzergrenadier Division and the Danish Jutland Division. LANDJUT was planned to be reinforced in time of war by the United Kingdom Mobile Force, primarily 1st Infantry Brigade plus some other forces.[5]

HQ AFNORTH Kolsaas closed on the morning of 30 June 1994.[6] The HQ that replaced it, HQ Allied Forces Northwestern Europe (AFNORTHWEST), located at RAF High Wycombe in the United Kingdom, was activated in the afternoon of 30 June 1994.[7] AFNORTHWEST consisted of AIRNORTHWEST, NAVNORTHWEST (the former EASTLANT/CINCHAN), and COMNORTH, an amalgamation of Allied Forces North and South Norway. In addition, in various circumstances BALTAP naval forces would report to either CINCNORTHWEST or COMNAVNORTHWEST.

AFCENT, located in Brunssum the Netherlands, was renamed AFNORTH. AFNORTHWEST was disestablished on 3 March 2000, CINCNORTHWEST transferring his authority to RHQ AFNORTH the same day. In the year 2004, it was again renamed, to Joint Force Command Brunssum.

The headquarters facility at Kolsås is now used by the Norwegian defence logistics organization.

Structure until 1993[edit]

Allied Forces Northern Europe (AFNORTH) with headquarters in Kolsås, Norway

  • Allied Forces Baltic Approaches (BALTAP) with headquarters in Karup, Denmark
    • Commander, Allied Land Forces Schleswig-Holstein and Jutland (COMLANDJUT)
    • Commander, Allied Land Forces in Zealand (COMLANDZEALAND)
    • Commander, Allied Air Forces Baltic Approaches (COMAIRBALTAP) in Karup
    • Commander, Allied Naval Forces Baltic Approaches (COMNAVBALTAP) in Karup (previously in Kiel-Holtenau).
  • Allied Command South Norway (SONOR) with headquarters in Stavanger
  • Allied Command North Norway (NON) with headquarters in Bodø. At this time Commander, Defence Command North Norway (COMNON), a Norwegian three-star general, was “double hatted” as national commander, subordinate to the Norwegian Chief of Defence, and as an allied “principal subordinate commander” in the AFNORTH chain of command.[8] COMNON's anti-invasion force consisted in the late 1980s of four to six mechanised infantry brigades and a considerable number of ships, submarines, and fighter aircraft.[9] Reinforcing forces included a U.S. Marine Expeditionary Brigade.

Structure 2000-2004[edit]

AFNORTH at this point was a regional command of AFCENT:

The command alternated between British and German generals.


Commanders-in-Chief have been:[6][10]


  1. ^ "Report on Allied Air Forces" (PDF). Retrieved 10 February 2016. 
  2. ^ "MAJOR GENERAL HOMER L. SANDERS". Retrieved 10 February 2016. 
  3. ^ Bernd Lemke, Dieter Krüger, Heinz Rebhan, Wolfgang Schmidt: Die Luftwaffe 1950 bis 1970. Konzeption, Aufbau, Integration. Oldenbourg Wissenschaftsverlag, München 2006, ISBN 3-486-57973-8, S. 489.
  4. ^ NATO Handbook, uploaded 1993
  5. ^ David Newton. "DEFE 5/194/28". Retrieved 10 February 2016. 
  6. ^ a b North Atlantic Treaty Organization, Senior officials in the NATO military structure, from 1949 to 2001 (PDF) 
  7. ^ For more on AFNORTHWEST, see Office of Public Information accessed February 2009
  8. ^ Commodore Jacob BØRRESEN RNN, 'Alliance Navak Strategies and Norway in the Final Years of the Cold War, Naval War College Review, Spring 2011, 114.
  9. ^ Borresen, 110.
  10. ^ Army Commands