Seventeenth Air Force History
Published September 24, 2008
Seventeenth Air Force has enjoyed a rich heritage and significant place in the history of the United States Air Forces in Europe. The establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in 1949, increased USAFE's responsibilities and resulted in the designation and activation of Seventeenth Air Force on April 25, 1953 at Rabat, Morocco. Seventeenth Air Force supported a geographic area of North Africa, Portugal, Austria, the Middle East, Pakistan, India, Ceylon and the Mediterranean Islands.
Headquarters Moves to Central Europe
The command's units and resources steadily expanded through the mid-50s. In August 1956, HQ USAFE relocated 17 AF headquarters to a more central location at Wheelus Air Base, Libya, as the command expanded into Italy, Greece and Turkey. The command exchanged its support mission for the defensive and offensive air missions in Central Europe in 1959. The headquarters was then relocated in November 1959 to Ramstein AB, Germany. The command's inventory included more than 500 tactical and 150 support aircraft operating from bases in Germany, France, the Netherlands and Italy. After the 1961 Berlin Crisis and a USAFE headquarters reorganization, 17 AF assumed responsibility for five bases in Great Britain from Third Air Force.
Headquarters moves to Sembach
During the 1972 USAFE reorganization, CINCUSAFE moved his headquarters across Germany from Lindsey Air Station to Ramstein Air Base. To accommodate USAFE HQ, 17 AF relocated to Sembach Air Base, Germany, in October 1972.
Seventeenth Air Force Expansion
During 1984 and 1985, the command activated the 485th and 38th Tactical Missile Wings at Florennes Air Base, Belgium, and Wiischheim Air Station, Germany, respectively. On June 1, 1992 the 65th Air Division and 66th Electronic Combat Wing were activated at Sembach. The command continued its role in electronic combat and air defense until September 30, 1996, when it was inactivated, due to reorganization and realignment in the wake of the end of the Cold War.
A new beginning with U.S. AFRICOM
In February 2007, the creation of U.S. Africa Command was announced. By December, the Air Force had begun organizing its Air component for the new command, later to stand-up as 17 AF, the unit which began in Africa in 1953. The Seventeenth Air Force of today, also known as Air Forces Africa, supports U.S. Africa Command via command and control of air forces to conduct sustained security engagement and operations as directed to promote air safety, security and development. For the foreseeable future, 17 AF will operate as a functional staff without assigned weapon systems, headquartered at Ramstein AB, Germany.
Unit Honors: Air Force Outstanding Unit Award , July 1, 1987 - June 30, 1989; July 1, 1990 - June 30, 1992; and Oct. 1, 1994 - Sept. 30, 1996.