Sixteenth Air Force

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search

Sixteenth Air Force (Air Forces Cyber)
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 an airstrike against the Bosnian Serbs during Operation Deliberate Force
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Part ofACC Shield.svg Air Combat Command
  • Streamer KC.PNG
    Kosovo Campaign
  • US Air Force Outstanding Unit Award - Stremer.jpg
    Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (7x)
Winfield S. Harpe
Emblem of the former 16th Air Expeditionary Task Force16th Air Expeditionary Task Force - Emblem.jpg

The Sixteenth Air Force (Air Forces Cyber) (also known as 16th Air Force or 16th AF) is a United States Air Force organization responsible for information warfare, which encompasses intelligence gathering and analysis, surveillance, reconnaissance, cyber warfare and electronic warfare operations. Its headquarters is at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.

The organization 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 (SAC) 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.


Cold War[edit]

During the Cold War, the Sixteenth Air Force (16th AF) served both Strategic Air Command and United States Air Forces in Europe.

The 16th AF's ancestor organization was the Joint United States Military Group, Air Administration (Spain), which was established on 20 May 1954. It was attached to the Joint U.S. Military Group, which oversaw implementation of the 1953 Spanish-American Defense Cooperation Agreement.

On 15 July 1956, the Sixteenth Air Force was created when the Air Administration (Spain) was re-designated as Headquarters, 16th AF, and aligned directly under Headquarters, U.S. Air Force. Existing Spanish Air Force bases near Madrid, Sevilla, and Zaragoza were expanded to accommodate the 16th AF. On 1 July 1957, the 16th AF was realigned under the Strategic Air Command (SAC).[1] Its main operating bases in Spain were used for SAC B-47 Stratojet rotational alert aircraft until April 1965.

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

In 1961, General David Wade was dispatched to Torrejón, where he took command of SAC's 16th Air Expeditionary Task Force. He received his promotion to lieutenant general on 1 August 1963 and left Torrejón to assume command of SAC's Second Air Force with headquarters then at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, Louisiana.[2]

Structure in 1989[edit]

At the end of the Cold War Sixteenth Air Force consisted of the following units:

From 1992[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-16Cs. 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 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.

Information warfare[edit]

On 11 October 2019, Sixteenth Air Force (16th AF) was reactivated as the new Information Warfare (IW) Numbered Air Force (NAF), following the merger of the Twenty-Fourth and Twenty-Fifth Air Forces.

Air Combat Command consolidated into and inactivated Twenty-Fourth Air Force and Twenty-Fifth Air Force capabilities into a new organization under a single commander, who will be responsible for providing information warfare capabilities to combatant commanders with the speed to match today's technological environment.

Current Structure[edit]


Emblem of Sixteenth Air Force
  • Established as the Joint United States Military Group, Air Administration (Spain)
Activated on 20 May 1954 as a separate operating agency of the USAF
Redesignated Sixteenth Air Force on 15 July 1956
Inactivated 29 August 2014
  • Redesignated Sixteenth Air Force (Air Forces Cyber) on 30 September 2019
Activated on 11 October 2019[1]



Air Divisions
  • 39th Tactical Group (later 39th Wing, 39th Air Base Group, 39th Air Base Wing), 9 September 1970 – 15 October 1991, 7 July 1992 – 1 November 2005
  • 406th Tactical Fighter Training Group, 1 July 1970 – 15 July 1972
  • 3977th Support Group (see 7602d Support Wing)[1]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h Musser, James (22 October 2019). "Factsheet Sixteenth Air Force (Air Forces Cyber) ACC". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  2. ^ "Lieutenant General David Wade". United States Air Force Military Information Biographies. Archived from the original on 11 March 2013. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  3. ^ Butler, William M. (1 May 2004). "Fifty Years On Nato's Southern Flank – A History Of Sixteenth Air Force 1954 – 2004" (PDF). Office of History Headquarters, Sixteenth Air Force United States Air Forces in Europe Aviano Air Base, Italy. p. 43. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  4. ^ Dragoner, O. W. (September 2013). "United States Air Force 1989" (PDF) (in German) (1): 184–190. Retrieved 1 November 2016. Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ "16th Air Force > Home". Retrieved 10 January 2020.


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

External links[edit]