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Eleventh Air Force
11th Air Force.png
Eleventh Air Force emblem
Active 15 January 1942
Country United States of America
Branch United States Air Force
Part of Pacific Air Forces/Alaskan Command
Garrison/HQ Elmendorf Air Force Base
Engagements
World War II Victory Medal ribbon.svg American Campaign Medal ribbon.svg
  • World War II
American Campaign (1941-1945)
Commanders
Current
commander
Lieutenant General Dana T. Atkins
90th Fighter Squadron Lockheed Martin F-22A Block 30 Raptor 05-4105, 3d Wing, Elmendorf AFB
517th Airlift Squadron Boeing C-17A Lot XI Globemaster III 99-0168, 3d Wing, Elmendorf AFB
F-16 Aggressors, 354th Fighter Wing, Elelson AFB, Alaska

The Eleventh Air Force (11 AF) is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). It is headquartered at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska.

11 AF plans, conducts, controls and coordinates air operations in accordance with the tasks assigned by the commander, Pacific Air Forces, and is the force provider for Alaskan Command, the Alaska North American Aerospace Defense Command Region and other unified commanders.

Established on 28 December 1941 as the Alaskan Air Force at Elmendorf Field, Alaska Territory. 11 AF was a United States Army Air Forces combat air force in the American Theater of World War II, providing air defense of Alaska and engaging in combat operations primarily in the Aleutian Islands and Northern Pacific during the Aleutian Campaign.

During the Cold War, 11 AF provided air defense of Alaska and the northwestern region of North America.

11 AF is commanded by Lt. Gen. Dana T. Atkins. Its Command Chief Master Sergeant is Chief Master Sergeant Robert W. Moore.

Contents

Overview

The commander of the Eleventh Air Force also serves as the commander of the joint, sub-unified Alaskan Command, and commander of the Alaskan North American Aerospace Defense Command Region. This mission is accomplished largely through the 611th Air Operations Group and the 611th Air Support Group. Together, they provide a network of critical air surveillance and command, control and communications functions necessary to perform tactical warning and attack assessment in defense of Alaska.

Units

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Active Duty

  • 3d Wing
    The 3rd Wing is a United States Air Force unit stationed at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska. Its mission is to support and defend U.S. interests in the Asia-Pacific region and around the world by providing units who are ready for worldwide air power projection and a base that is capable of meeting PACOM's theater staging and throughput requirements.
  • 611th Air and Space Operations Center
    The 611th Air and Space Operations Center at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska consists of five squadrons and two numbered flights that develop plans, procedures and directives for the employment of Alaskan combat and support forces assigned to the 11th Air Force, PACAF and NORAD.
  • 611th Air Support Group
    The 611th Air Support Group at Elmendorf Air Force Base, Alaska consists of two squadrons that provides surveillance radars, arctic infrastructure including airfields, communications and worldwide ready EAF warriors for homeland defense, decisive force projection, and aerospace command and control in Alaska.
  • Missile Defense Flight or Command Representative for Missile Defense
    Serves as the focal point for all issues related to Ground-based Midcourse Defense in Alaska, in support of Alaska Command, Alaska NORAD Region, and 11 AF.
  • 11th Air Force/Alaska NORAD Region (ANR) Logistics Flight
    Provides a core group of logisticians to support Air Force and NORAD air operations throughout the theater, including manning the ANR Battlestaff and establishing logistics readiness centers when necessary.

Alaska Air National Guard

The 11th Air Force has two major units that are gained upon their activation. These units are part of the Alaska Air National Guard.

History

Military aircraft began to deploy to Alaska during the last half of 1940. To coordinate air activities there, the Alaskan Defense Command established the Air Field Forces, Alaskan Defense Command on May 29, 1941.

Lineage

  • Established as Alaskan Air Force* on 28 Dec 1941
Activated on 15 Jan 1942
Redesignated 11th Air Force on 5 Feb 1942
Redesignated Eleventh Air Force on 18 Sep 1942
Redesignated Alaskan Air Command on 18 Dec 1945
Assumed Major Command Status 18 Dec 1945
Redesignated Eleventh Air Force on 9 Aug 1990
Became subordinate organization to Pacific Air Forces, 9 Aug 1990

Note: Organization not to be confused with "Eleventh Air Force" established on 13 May 1946. Activated on June 13, 1946 at Olmsted Field, Pennsylvania, and assigned to Air Defense Command. Inactivated on 1 Jul 1948.

.* Under authority from Western Defense Command, the Alaskan Defense Command replaced the Air Field Forces, Alaskan Defense Command, with the Air Force, Alaskan Defense Command, on October 17, 1941. Neither the Air Field Forces nor the Air Force, Alaskan Defense Command, were legitimate War Department establishments and must be classified in the same category as provisional units, although the term "provisional" was never used in connection with them.

The War Department activated the Alaskan Air Force to manage the buildup of the Army Air Forces in Alaska and replacing the Air Force, Alaskan Defense Command.

Assignments

Stations

World War II

11th usaaf.png

Alaska was at that time nearly entirely a pristine wilderness and the operating environment for the Army Air Corps was among the most challenging seen anywhere in World War II. Redesignated the 11th Air Force on 5 February 1942, the Air Forces in Alaska worked feverishly to shore up defenses stretching thousands of miles. With the establishment of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF), the command was again redesignated Eleventh Air Force on September 18, 1942 and the USAAF established a series of airfields to support it's wartime mission.

Wartime Airfields

Operations

Following the Japanese bombing of Dutch Harbor in the eastern Aleutian Islands and the occupation of Attu and Kiska in the western Aleutians in early June 1942, the 11th Air Force launched an air offensive against the Japanese on the two islands. Known units of Eleventh Air Force were:

  • 28th Bombardment Group (Composite) (Elmendorf, Adak, Shemya AAFs)
    Aircraft flown included P-38's, P-39's, P-40's, B-26's and LB-30's during 1941-1943, and B-24's and B-25's during 1944-1945.
  • 343d Fighter Group (Elmendorf, Ft Glenn, Adak, Alexai Point, Shemya AAFs)
    Flew P-38's and P-40's.

As the mission was almost solely in in the Western Aleutian Islands, Headquarters 11th Air Force moved to Davis AAF on Adak Island in early 1943. The United States retook Attu in May 1943, and the Japanese withdrew their garrison from Kiska in late July the same year.

The Aleutian Campaign ended with the reoccupation of Kiska on 15 August 1943. Primarily an air war, it was the only World War II campaign fought on North American soil. The 11th Air Force flew 297 missions and dropped 3,662.00 tons of bombs. One hundred and fourteen airmen died in action, another forty-two were listed as missing in action, and forty-six died as a result of accidents.

Illustrative of the challenges omnipresent in Alaska, only 35 aircraft were lost in combat compared to 150 operational accidents. It was the highest American combat-to-accidental loss ratio for any theater in World War II. Weather was the prime culprit.

The Eleventh Air Force accounted for approximately 60 Japanese aircraft, one destroyer, one submarine and seven transport ships destroyed by air operations. Following the occupation of Kiska, the Eleventh Air Force declined from peak strength of 16,526 in August 1943 to 6,849 by the end of the war. For the remainder of the war, it flew bombing and reconnaissance missions against Japanese military installations in the northern Kuril Islands from Attu and Shemya Islands.

  • On July 10, 1943 the first bombardment against Shumushu and Paramushiro Japanese bases. From Alexai airfield eight B-25 Mitchells of the 77th Bomb Sqdn. (28th BG) struck Paramushiro bases principally.
  • Another mission, was flown during September 11, 1943, when Eleventh Air Force dispatched eight B-24 Liberators and 12 B-25s. However the Japanese were alert and reinforced their defenses. 74 crew members in three B-24s and seven B-25 failed to return. Twenty two men were killed in action, one taken prisoner and 51 interned in Kamchatka, Russia.
  • Eleventh Air Force implemented aother bombing mission against northern Kurils on February 5, 1944, when it attacked with six B-24s from the 404th Bomb Sqdn. (28th BG) and 16 P-38s from the 54th Fighter Sqdn. (343d FG).
  • Japanese reports that on Matsuwa island, military installations were attacked by American air strikes between 1943–44.
  • Americans planners had briefly contemplated an invasion of northern Japan from Aleutians during fall of 1943, but rejected that idea as too risky and impractical. They considered the use of Boeing B-29 Superfortresses, on Amchitka and Shemya Bases, but rejected that idea too. U.S. military maintained interest in these plans when they ordered the expansion of bases in the western Aleutians, and major construction began on Shemya for a possible invasion of Japan via the Northern route in 1945.
  • Eleventh Air Force, sent between August 24 and September 4, 1945 two B-24s of the 28th BG flew reconnaissance overflights over the North Kuril Islands to take photos of the Soviet occupation in the area. Soviet fighters intercepted and forced them away a foretaste of the Cold war that lay ahead.

With the end of World War II, the 28th Bomb Group was inactivated on 20 October 1945, the 343d Fighter Group on 15 August 1946.

Alaskan Air Command

Alaskan Air Command.png

After the war, Alaska remained strategically important in posturing against new threats. The vast construction completed in World War II brought Alaska distinctly into a new age and into the American consciousness. The 11th Air Force became the Alaskan Air Command (AAC) on 18 December 1945, and its headquarters moved from Davis AAF to Elmendorf AAF once more on 1 October 1946 to better manage Alaska's emerging air defense system.

The mission of the Alaskan Air Command was to provide early warning of an aerial attack on the United States and Canada.

By 1957, Alaskan Air Command had reached its peak strength with over 200 fighter interceptors assigned to six Air Defense squadrons in addition to Strategic Air Command elements operating through and around Alaska, and performing other operational support missions as directed by the Commander-in-Chief, Alaskan Command HQ and Headquarters USAF.

With the activation of the Alaskan Command in 1989, the next logical step was to place its air component (AAC) under the Pacific Air Forces. By reorganizing from AAC to a Numbered Air Force, the Air Force was able to reduce its administrative manpower requirements during a period of massive reoragnization and down-sizing throughout the Air Force. On 9 August 1990, the Alaskan Air Command was redesignated the 11th Air Force once again and assigned as a Numbered Air Force (NAF) under United States Pacific Air Forces.

Pacific Air Forces

The early 1990s marked a period of major organizational mission changes and force modernization. The 11th Air Force was reorganized as an objective Numbered Air Force during 1992-1993 and its headquarters reduced to but 100 authorizations. Its major units also changed. The 21st Tactical Fighter Wing was inactivated and the 3rd Wing transferred from Clark AB to Elmendorf AFB in December 1991. The F-15E-equipped 90th Fighter Squadron was added as were the 517th Airlift Squadron (C-130Hs and C-12Fs) and the 962th Airborne Control and Warning Squadron (E-3B).

There were also significant changes at Eielson AFB. The A-10 Thunderbolt II assigned to the 18th Fighter Squadron were replaced with F-16C Fighting Falcons in 1992 and an OA-10A squadron was activated. Eielson AFB became home of the Cope Thunder training exercise series and the Alaskan range complex was greatly expanded and improved to accommodate not only Cope Thunder but other joint training requirements as well. Finally, in keeping with Air Force Chief of Staff guidance to retain the most illustrious units, the 343rd Wing, a veteran of the Aleutian Campaign, was inactivated in August 1993. The 354th Fighter Wing was activated in its place.

Other changes during the period included upgrading the 11th Tactical Air Control Group to the 11th Air Control Wing (11 ACW) in January 1992. During yet another reorganization, the wing subsequently inactivated 1 July 1994 in favor of three smaller groups directly subordinate to the 11th Air Force; the 611th Air Operations Group, 611th Logistics Group and the 611th Air Support Group. The 11th Air Force also accomplished the daunting drawdown of the forward operating bases at Galena Airport, King Salmon Airport and Eareckson Air Force Station (Shemya Island), in a two-year period of time, 1993-1995.

The mission of the 11th Air Force moved inexorably from statically defending Alaska against a bomber threat to committing its forces to worldwide deployment. The shift from a Major Command to an Objective Numbered Air Force was among the most drastic reorganizations undertaken anywhere in the Air Force.

See also

References

 This article incorporates public domain material from websites or documents of the Air Force Historical Research Agency.

  • Maurer, Maurer (1983). Air Force Combat Units Of World War II. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0892010924.
  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947-1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0912799129.

External links


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