Allied Air Forces Central Europe (AAFCE) was the NATO command tasked with air and air defense operations in NATOs Allied Forces Central Europe (AFCENT) area of command.
Allied Air Forces Central Europe was activated on April, 2nd 1951 at Fontainebleau in France through General Dwight D. Eisenhower's General Order No. 1. The first commanding officer of AAFCE was U.S. Air Force general Lauris Norstad, commanding general of US Air Forces in Europe, Wiesbaden. AAFCE reported to Allied Forces Central Europe (AFCENT) at Fontainebleau, which in turn reported to Allied Command Europe, headquartered at Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe (SHAPE) in Rocquencourt. The task of AAFCE was to control and command allied air assets in the NATO Central Region [of Europe] in wartime.
Flight magazine, in the first of a three-part feature on 26 June 1953, described AAFCE as already comprising two allied tactical air forces, Second Allied Tactical Air Force, under RAF Air Marshal Sir Robert Foster, comprising British-Dutch No. 2 Group RAF, Belgian-Dutch 69 Group (which later issues described as being responsible for 'Low Countries Air Defence' and being alternately under Dutch and Belgian officers), and British-Belgian No. 83 Group RAF. Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force, under General Dean C. Strother (USAF), comprised the Twelfth Air Force, French 1er Air Division, and the Canadian No. 1 Air Division RCAF.
Commanders 1951 - 1967[edit | edit source]
|List of AAFCE Commanders|
|1||General Lauris Norstad||United States||US Air Force||2 April 1951 - 16 July 1953|
|2||Air Chief Marshal Sir Basil Embry||United Kingdom||Royal Air Force||16 July 1953 - 1 Jan 1956|
|3||Air Chief Marshal Sir George Mills||United Kingdom||Royal Air Force||1 Jan 1956 - 20 May 1959|
|4||Air Chief Marshal Sir Harry Broadhurst||United Kingdom||Royal Air Force||20 May 1959 - 1 March 1961|
|5||Air Chief Marshal The Earl of Bandon||United Kingdom||Royal Air Force||1 March 1961 - 1 December 1963|
|6||Air Chief Marshal Sir Edmund Hudleston*||United Kingdom||Royal Air Force||1 December 1963 - 1 March 1967|
- Air Chief Marshal Sir Edmund Hudleston was promoted to Deputy C-in-C Allied Forces Central Europe in 1965 and continued in both positions until 1 Mar 1967, after which NATO officially combined the two positions. With the move of allied headquarters from France after the French withdrawal from NATOs integrated military structures beginning in 1966 AAFCE was co-located with AFCENT at Brunssum in the Netherlands.
|Deputy C-in-C AFCENT|
|7||Air Chief Marshal Sir Augustus Walker||United Kingdom||Royal Air Force||1 March 1967 - 13 April 1970|
|8||Air Chief Marshal Sir Frederick Rosier||United Kingdom||Royal Air Force||13 April 1970 - 31 September 1973|
|9||Air Chief Marshal Sir Lewis Hodges||United Kingdom||Royal Air Force||31 September 1973 - 5 February 1976|
At Ramstein 1974- 1993[edit | edit source]
On 28 June 1974 Headquarters Allied Air Forces Central Europe (AAFCE) was re-established as an independent headquarters at Ramstein Air Base, Germany as one of three principal subordinate command under Allied Forces Central Europe (AFCENT). Its task was to provide central direction and control for NATO air forces in the European Central Region. Two existing headquarters, Second Allied Tactical Air Force (2 ATAF), based at RAF Rheindahlen, which covered the northern part of the region, and Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force (4 ATAF), based at Heidelberg, which was responsible for the southern part, both came under AAFCE's command.
Second Allied Tactical Air Force (2 ATAF) had been formed in 1958 to direct NATO air units in the Netherlands, Belgium, and the northern part of Germany in support of Northern Army Group (NORTHAG). Commander of 2ATAF was the commanding general of RAF Germany. The peacetime headquarters of 2 ATAF was at RAF Rheindahlen, the command center in case of war for 2 ATAF 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. 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 and one US Air Force Tactical Fighter Group, as well as extensive air defense and radar installations.
Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force (4 ATAF) had been formed in 1958 to direct NATO air units in the southern part of Germany in support of Central Army Group (CENTAG). Commander of 4ATAF was the commanding general of US Seventeenth Air Force. The peacetime headquarters of 4 ATAF was in Heidelberg, the command center in the case of war for 4 ATAF and CENTAG was a secret bunker facility known as Feudenheim Bunker in Mannheim-Feudenheim, Germany. In 1985 NATO began with the construction of a new command bunker for CENTAG and 4 ATAF in Ruppertsweiler, Germany. Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force commanded the Seventeenth Air Force, two divisions of the German Air Force and the 1 Canadian Air Group of the Royal Canadian Air Force, as well as extensive air defense and radar installations, including the United States Army's 32nd Army Air Defense Command.
Commanders[edit | edit source]
|List of AAFCE Commanders|
|10||Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Le Cheminant||United Kingdom||Royal Air Force||5 February 1976 - 1 June 1979|
|11||Air Chief Marshal Sir John Stacey||United Kingdom||Royal Air Force||1 June 1979 - 1 February 1981|
|12||Air Chief Marshal Sir Peter Terry||United Kingdom||Royal Air Force||1 February 1981 - 8 April 1981|
|13||Air Chief Marshal Sir John Gingell||United Kingdom||Royal Air Force||8 April 1981 - 14 March 1984|
|14||Air Chief Marshal Michael Beavis||United Kingdom||Royal Air Force||14 March 1984 - 19 September 1986|
|15||Air Chief Marshal Sir Joseph Gilbert||United Kingdom||Royal Air Force||19 September 1986 - 1 May 1989|
|16||Air Chief Marshal Sir Anthony Skingsley||United Kingdom||Royal Air Force||1 May 1989 - 27 August 1993|
Post Cold War[edit | edit source]
During the early 1990s, following the relaxation of the tensions between East and West, a major reorganization of the NATO command and control structure was undertaken. As part of this, and to take account of the decrease in the number of allied aircraft in Europe, a rationalization of the Central Region air force headquarters occurred in 1993 with the disbandment of 2ATAF and 4ATAF on 30 June 1993 and AAFCE absorbing the functions previously undertaken by the ATAFs. The new command was inaugurated on 1 June 1993 as Allied Air Forces Central Europe, but with a change in acronym to AIRCENT.
[edit | edit source]
References[edit | edit source]
- Another officially reported creation date is 20 August 1953. See http://www.fontainebleauveteransassociation.co.uk/index2.html
- See http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/FosterR.htm
- W.T. Gunston, 'AAFCE Part I : The Background to NATO and its Constituent Formations', Flight, 26 June 1953, 825-827.
- Air of Authority, Multinational Commands held by RAF Air Officers, accessed March 2008
- NATO, History of the NATO Air HQs at Ramstein Air Base, accessed March 2008
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