Seventeenth Air Force

Seventeenth Expeditionary Air Force

Army General William E. "Kip" Ward (left), U.S. Africa Command commander, and Maj. Gen. Ronald R. Ladnier, commander of Seventeenth Air Force, unfurl the Seventeenth Air Force's guidon during an assumption-of-command ceremony at Ramstein Air Base, Germany.

SSgt. Josh Woolridge,37th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, and MSgt. Garrick Lewis, drop zone support lead for Seventeenth Air Force, explain how to "cook" meals-ready-to-eat to members of the Ugandan Peoples Defense Forces

Members of the Senegal 3d Infantry Brigade Honor Platoon greet 17 AF Commander Brig. Gen. Mike Callan
Active 17 April 1953 – 30 September 1996
1 October 2008 – 24 April 2012
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Garrison/HQ Rabat-Sale, Morocco (1953–1956)
Wheelus Air Base Libya (1956–1959)
Ramstein Air Base West Germany (1959–1973)
Sembach Air Base Germany (1973–1996)
Ramstein Air Base Germany (2008–2012)
Emblem of the Seventeenth Air Force

Seventeenth Expeditionary Air Force (17 EAF) is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force located at Ramstein Air Base, Germany. The command served the United States Air Forces in Europe during (1953–1996) and United States Air Forces Africa during 2008-2012. Upon reactivation on 1 October 2008, it became the air and space component of United States Africa Command.[1] In this capacity, Seventeenth Air Force was referred to as U.S. Air Forces Africa (AFAFRICA). 17 AF was inactivated in April 2012.[2][3]

Seventeenth Air Force housed the traditional A-staff and special staff functions which are responsible for developing strategy and plans to execute air and space operations in support of U.S. Africa Command objectives. In addition, 17 AF housed the "tailored" 617th Air and Space Operations Center (AOC) which provided command and control capabilities for the planning and execution of aerial missions on the African continent. Seventeenth Air Force also had a collaborative relationship with the 110th Air Operations Group, Michigan Air National Guard.


Cold War

The establishment of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in 1949, increased USAFE's responsibilities. Seventeenth Air Force was thus established on 17 April 1953 and then activated on 25 April 1953 at Rabat, Morocco. Seventeenth Air Force operated throughout North Africa, Portugal, Austria, the Middle East, Pakistan, India, Ceylon and the Mediterranean islands. Seventeenth Air Force had been solely assigned to U.S. Air Forces, Europe, throughout its existence.

Seventeenth Air Force was moved to Wheelus Air Base, Libya, on 1 August 1956 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, West Germany. At Ramstein, Seventeenth Air Force exchanged its support mission in the southern region for the defensive and offensive air mission in central Europe. The command's inventory included more than 500 tactical and 150 support aircraft operating from bases in West 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.

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, West Germany, in October 1972.

In the 1980s, Seventeenth Air Force saw the number of its subordinate units almost double. Its area of responsibility included three of the Ground Launched Cruise Missile sites in Europe. In 1985, for the first time ever, Seventeenth Air Force brought together all European-based electronic warfare aircraft under a single command when it activated the 65th Air Division and the 66th Electronic Combat Wing at Sembach Air Base.[4] All of these units were inactivated in the early 1990s.

The air bases at Hahn, Bitburg, Wiesbaden and Zweibrücken were closed by USAFE and turned over to the German government by 1993. Rhein-Main was closed at the end of 2005, its logistics missions being transferred to Ramstein and Spangdahlem.

Seventeenth Air Force was inactivated effective 30 September 1996, due to reductions in force after the Cold War.

Structure in 1989

At the end of the Cold War Seventeenth Air Force consisted of the following units, which in case of war with the Warsaw Pact would have come under Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force:


It was announced on 12 September 2008 that Seventeenth Air Force would be reactivated, to be headquartered at Ramstein Air Base, located west of Kaiserslautern in the German federal state of Rhineland-Palatinate.[13] It was to form part of United States Africa Command. The stand-up ceremony occurred on 18 September 2008, under the command of Major General Ron Ladnier. It was officially reactivated by the Air Force on 1 October 2008. In this capacity, it was subordinate to the United States Air Forces in Europe, and be referred to by its componency name: Air Forces Africa (AFAFRICA).

Air Forces Africa conducts sustained security engagement and operations as directed to promote air safety, security and development on the African continent. Through Theater Security Cooperation (TSC) events, Air Forces Africa carries out U.S. Africa Command's policy of seeking long-term partnership with the African Union and regional organizations as well as individual nations on the continent. AFAFRICA works with the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), to assist African states in developing their national and regional security institutions to promote security and stability and facilitate development.

AFAFRICA includes at least two air expeditionary groups. The 449th Air Expeditionary Group, Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti provides combat search and rescue for the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa. It consists of HC-130Ps from the 81st Expeditionary Rescue Squadron, and pararescuemen from the 82nd Expeditionary Rescue Squadron. The 404th Air Expeditionary Group is co-located with AFAFRICA at Ramstein. During contingency operations, the group forward-deploys to facilitate air and support operations for varied missions on the continent, ranging from humanitarian airlift to presidential support. The 404 AEG deployed to Rwanda in January 2009 to provide airlift for peacekeeping equipment in support of the United Nations African Union Mission in Darfur. In July 2009, the 404 AEG deployed to Ghana to provide aerial port and aircraft maintenance teams, along with forward communications, early warning and air domain safety and security elements for U.S. President Barack Obama's visit.

In June 2010, Brigadier General Margaret H. Woodward took command of Seventeenth Air Force.[14][15] Seventeenth Air Force directed the U.S. air involvement in the 2011 military intervention in Libya, dubbed Operation Odyssey Dawn,before command of the whole operation was transferred to NATO.[15]

As of 13 January 2010, the Secretary of the Air Force Michael Donley announced that the 617th AOC will be consolidated with the 603d Air and Space Operations Center (according to AFA reporting).

Seventeenth Air Force was inactivated in April 2012 as part of an Air Force cost savings effort.[16] United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE) assumed the former staff functions of Seventeenth Air Force, while the Third Air Force and the 603d Air and Space Operations Center (603 AOC) assumed responsibility for USAFRICOM air operations, with the 603 AOC absorbing the former 617th Air Operations Center.[17]


Organized 25 Apr 1953
Inactivated on 30 September 1996
Assumed joint designation Air Forces Africa, 1 October 2008
Inactivated on 24 April 2012




1 June 1985 – 30 June 1991
14 June 1985 – 1 May 1991
7 August – 15 November 1959


1 October 1966 – 31 January 1973, Ramstein AB, West Germany
31 January 1973 – 31 July 1991, Zweibrücken AB, West Germany (later Germany)
15 November 1959 – 1 September 1966
30 June 1991 – 31 March 1992
15 November 1959 – 1 September 1966
30 June 1991 – 1 October 1991
15 November 1959 – 25 September 1966 Sembach Air Base, West Germany
1 April 1985 – 22 August 1990 Wueschheim AS, West Germany
15 November 1959 – 30 September 1991
31 December 1971 – 1 June 1985
30 June 1991 – 31 July 1996
15 November 1959 – 1 September 1966
30 June 1991 – 31 March 1992

15 November 1959 – 1 July 1963
1 September 1963 – 20 May 1965
5 October – 14 November 1968
1 November 1969 – 14 June 1985
1 May 1991 – 31 July 1996
1985 – 1 October 1991
August 1987 (Activated, never equipped. Inactivated almost immediately)
1 July 1968 – 1 October 1993
  • 7100th Combat Support Wing, Lindsey AS, West Germany (later Germany)
15 November 1959 – 15 April 1985



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

  1. Official: AfriCom will need Air Force aircraft – Air Force News, news from Iraq – Air Force Times and
  2. 17th Air Force inactivated after 3½ busy years, Stars and Stripes
  3. 17th Air Force stands down, passes African mission to USAFE, 4/24/2012
  5. "Factsheet 65 Air Division (Defense)". Air Force Historical Research Agency. 5 October 2007. Archived from the original on 14 October 2012. Retrieved 2 April 2014.
  6. "52 Fighter Wing (USAFE) Fact Sheet". US Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  7. "377 Air Base Wing (AFMC) Fact Sheet". US Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  8. "36 Wing (PACAF) Fact Sheet". US Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  9. "50 Space Wing (AFSPC) Fact Sheet". US Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  10. "38 Combat Support Wing (USAFE) Fact Sheet". US Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  11. Dragoner, 193.
  12. "4 Air Support Operations Group (USAFE) Fact Sheet". US Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  13. Seventeenth Air Force ready for 1 October stand-up
  14. "MAJOR GENERAL MARGARET H. WOODWARD". US Air Force. Archived from the original on 23 April 2011. Retrieved 23 April 2011.
  15. 1 2 Thompson, Mark (April 2011). "Air Boss". Time Magazine (April 18): 28.
  16. "17th Air Force stands down, AFAFRICA mission carries on". U.S. Air Forces in Europe Public Affairs. Retrieved 1 May 2012.
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