U.S. Air Forces in Europe - Air Forces Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA), with headquarters at Ramstein Air Base, Germany, is a major command of the U.S. Air Force. It is the air component for two Department of Defense unified commands - U.S. European Command (USEUCOM), and U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM).
As the air component for both USEUCOM and USAFRICOM, USAFE-AFAFRICA executes the Air Force, USEUCOM and USAFRICOM missions with forward-based airpower and infrastructure to conduct and enable theater and global operations. USAFE-AFAFRICA directs air operations in a theater spanning three continents, covering more than 15 million square miles, containing 104 independent states, and possessing more than one-fifth of the world's population and more than a quarter of the world's gross domestic product.
During most of the Cold War, USAFE-AFAFRICA 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 war-fighting as well as humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, and other non-traditional contingencies throughout its area of responsibility.
In peacetime, USAFE-AFAFRICA trains and equips Air Force units pledged to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and to the peace and stability of African states. In fulfilling its NATO responsibilities, USAFE-AFAFRICA maintains combat-ready wings based from the United Kingdom to Turkey. USAFE-AFAFRICA plans, conducts, controls, coordinates and supports air and space operations in Europe and Africa to achieve U.S. national and NATO objectives based on taskings by the USEUCOM and USAFRICOM commanders.
USAFE-AFAFRICA assets stand ready to perform close air support, air interdiction, air defense, in-flight refueling, long-range transport and support of maritime operations. It 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-AFAFRICA remains a highly responsive and capable combat force, as witnessed in the command's support of contingency and humanitarian operations throughout Europe and Africa.
Personnel and Resources
More than 35,000 active-duty, Reserve, Air National Guard and civilian employees are assigned to USAFE-AFAFRICA. Equipment assets include about 217 fighter, attack, rotary wing, tanker, and transport aircraft, and a full complement of conventional weapons.
USAFE-AFAFRICA consists of one Numbered Air Force, seven main operating bases and 114 geographically separated locations.
Third Air Force supports USEUCOM and USAFRICOM as the Component Numbered Air Force responsible for maintaining continuous theater-wide situational awareness and providing the commander of Air Force forces here the capability to command and control assigned and attached Airmen.
The USAFE-AFAFRICA main operating bases are: RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall in the United Kingdom; Ramstein and Spangdahlem Air Bases in Germany; Aviano Air Base, Italy; Lajes Field in the Azores; and Incirlik Air Base, Turkey. These bases report to Third Air Force for day-to-day and contingency operations.
USAFE-AFAFRICA originated as the 8th Air Force in 1942 during its bombardment missions in World War II. The command was officially given the name "U.S. Air Forces in Europe" in August 1945.
During the Berlin Airlift from 1948-1949, USAFE was responsible for transporting more than 1.6 million tons of food, fuel and medical supplies to Berlin and continued to play a strategic role in deterring Soviet aggression until its break-up in 1991.
Since the early 1990s, USAFE has played integral roles in multiple military combat operations, including Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Allied Force, Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Odyssey Dawn.
In addition to combat operations, USAFE has greatly contributed to several humanitarian operations, including Operations Provide Comfort and Northern Watch, and Operations Provide Promise and Joint Task Force Shining Hope. USAFE also provided humanitarian assistance to Georgia during its conflict with Russia in August 2008.
USAFE became USAFE-AFAFRICA on April 20, 2012, when 17th Air Force, which previously served as the air component for AFRICOM, officially stood down and transferred its mission responsibility to USAFE.
With the command now entering its eightieth decade of active service, USAFE-AFAFRICA continues to provide combat ready forces, maintain vital access to three continents, and give support to friends and allies while building their operational capacity.