Second Allied Tactical Air Force

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Second Allied Tactical Air Force (2 ATAF) was a NATO military formation under Allied Air Forces Central Europe tasked with providing air support to NATO's Northern Army Group (NORTHAG). 2ATAF commanded all flying units based within its sector and all reinforcements flying into its sector, as well as ground-based radar systems and stations, air defense units and the airfields in its sector.

Second Allied Tactical Air Force was formed in 1958 with its area of responsibility covering the Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany north of the city of Kassel and south of the Elbe river. Commander of Second Allied Tactical Air Force was the commanding Air Chief Marshal of the British RAF Second Tactical Air Force, which was renamed RAF Germany on 1 January 1959.

The peacetime headquarters of 2 ATAF were at RAF Rheindahlen, the command center in the case of war for 2ATAF and NORTHAG was in the Netherlands at Joint Operations Center Maastricht (JOC Maastricht). In 1983 NATO began with the construction of Static War Headquarters Castlegate in Linnich, Germany, as a replacement for JOC Maastricht. Alternate War HQ was located at Kanne (Belgium) north of Fort Eben-Emael.[1] Second Allied Tactical Air Force commanded the British Royal Air Force Germany, the Belgian Air Force, the Royal Netherlands Air Force, two divisions of the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) and one US Air Force Tactical Fighter Group, as well as extensive air defense and radar installations provided by Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands.

If needed 2 ATAF would have been reinforced with units from the US Third (UK based), Eighth (reconnaissance and bombing), Ninth (immediate reinforcements) and Twelfth Air Force (follow on reinforcements), and with French Air Force and Royal Air Force units. At the start of hostilities 2 ATAF would have had immediately around 700 combat planes at its disposal. The following units would have come under 2 ATAF in wartime:

2 ATAF was disbanded on 30 June 1993, its duties were taken over by Allied Air Forces Central Europe.

War time structure c. 1989[edit]

A Phantom FGR.2 of No. 92 Squadron landing at RAF Wildenrath in the mid-1980s
A Mirage 5BR of 42nd Squadron takes off in 1989
A Alpha Jet taking off in 1985
A F-16A Fighting Falcon of No. 323 Fighter/Bomber Squadron lands at Leeuwarden Air Base in 1983

Note 1: Royal Air Force unit with nuclear strike role with 18x WE.177 tactical nuclear weapons. Note 2: Nuclear sharing unit capable of delivering B61 tactical nuclear weapons.


  • O. W. Dragoner, Die Bundeswehr 1989 Volume 2.1, available here
  • O. W. Dragoner, Die Bundeswehr 1989 Volume 3, available here[permanent dead link]