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First Air Force (Air Forces Northern)
1st Air Force.png
First Air Force emblem

Active 18 December 1940
Country United States of America
Branch United States Air Force
Size 2,300
Part of Air Combat Command
United States Northern Command
Garrison/HQ Tyndall Air Force Base
Maj. Gen. Garry C. Dean
Two F-16 Fighting Falcons begin to roll into position for a rapid descent during an Operation Noble Eagle training patrol over San Francisco. The F-16s are assigned to the California Air National Guard's 144th Fighter Wing in Fresno.
An F-15 Eagle from the Massachusetts Air National Guard’s 102d Fighter Wing flies a combat air patrol mission over New York City in support of Operation Noble Eagle.
An F-16 Fighting Falcon of the 177th Fighter Wing, New Jersey Air National Guard prepares to land at the Atlantic City International Airport.

The First Air Force (Air Forces Northern) (1 AF-AFNORTH) is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Air Combat Command (ACC). It is headquartered at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida.

Its primary mission is the air defense of the Contiguous United States (CONUS), United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Its mission lineage can be traced to the Air Defense Command, one of the original USAAF major commands formed in 1946.

One of the four original pre-World War II numbered air forces, 1 AF was activated on 18 December 1940, at Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York with a mission of air defense of the Northeastern United States and Great Lakes regions. During the war, its primary mission became the organization and training of combat units prior to their deployment to the overseas combat air forces.

1 AF is commanded by Major General Garry C. Dean. Its Command Chief Master Sergeant is Chief Master Sgt. Joseph E. Thornell Sr..



The command has sole responsibility for ensuring the air sovereignty and air defense of the Contiguous United States (CONUS), United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. As the CONUS Region (CONR) for NORAD, the bi-national North American Aerospace Defense Command, CONR provides air defense in the form of airspace surveillance and airspace control.

1AF (AFNORTH) is also the designated air component for the United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM). USNORTHCOM's area of responsibility includes the continental United States, Alaska, Canada and Mexico, and its air, land and maritime approaches.

The command is unique in both its mission and composition. With the transfer of responsibility for continental air defense from the active duty component of the Air Force to the Air National Guard, 1 AF became the first numbered air force to be made up primarily of citizen airmen.


First Air Force has been an Air Combat Command organization since June 1, 1992. Its subordinate units are located throughout the continental United States.

Units aligned under First Air Force/AFNORTH include:

Additionally, First Air Force provides operational control of alert Air National Guard air defense fighter units:

Detach. 1, 119 FW, Langley AFB, Virginia
Detach. 1, 144 FW, March ARB, California

Non-flying units



  • Established as Northeast Air District on October 19, 1940
Activated on December 18, 1940.
Redesignated: 1 Air Force on March 26, 1941
Redesignated: First Air Force on September 18, 1942
Discontinued on June 23, 1958
  • Activated on January 20, 1966
Organized on April 1, 1966
Inactivated on December 31, 1969
  • Activated on December 6, 1985.
Redesignated First Air Force (ANG) on October 1, 1995


  • General Headquarters Air Force
(later, Air Force Combat Command), December 18, 1940
  • Eastern Theater of Operations
(later, Eastern Defense Command), December 24, 1941

Major Components


  • 1st Air Force Service (later, 1st Air Force Base; 1st Base): October 1, 1941 – May 13, 1942
  • 1st Air Support (later, I Air Support; I Ground Air Support): September 1, 1941 – August 17, 1942
  • 1st Bomber: September 5, 1941 – October 15, 1942
Redesignated: I Bomber: August 24, 1943 – March 21, 1946
  • 1st Interceptor (later, I Interceptor; I Fighter): June 5, 1941 – March 21, 1946
  • XVI Air Force Service: December 27, 1946 – April 1, 1949
  • XVII Air Force Service: July 1, 1948 – February 23, 1949
  • XIX Air Force Service: August 13, 1948 – February 23, 1949.



November 16, 1948 – April 1, 1949
November 16, 1949 – September 1, 1950
Attached to Eastern Air Defense Force, November 17, 1949 – August 31, 1950
December 6, 1985 – September 30, 1990
December 8, 1949 – September 1, 1950
Attached to Eastern Air Defense Force, September 1, 1950 – August 1, 1959
July 1, 1968 – December 31, 1969
  • 33d Air: April 1, 1966 – November 19, 1969
  • 34th Air: April 1, 1966 – December 31, 1969
  • 35th Air: April 1, 1966 – November 19, 1969
  • 36th Air: April 1, 1966 – September 30, 1969
  • 37th Air: April 1, 1966 – December 1, 1969
  • 69th Air: July 1, 1948 – February 23, 1949
  • 90th Air (formerly, 90th Reconnaissance Wing): December 20, 1946 – June 27, 1949
  • 91st Air (formerly, 91st Reconnaissance Wing): December 20, 1946 – June 27, 1949



First Air Force region of the United States, World War II

One of the four original numbered air forces, First Air Force was activated as the Northeast Air District of the GHQ Air Force on 18 December 1940, at Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York. It was redesignated First Air Force on 9 April 1941 with a mission for the defense of the Northeast and Great Lakes regions of the United States.

World War II

During the initial months after the Pearl Harbor Attack, First Air Force organized what would eventually become the Army Air Forces Antisubmarine Command (AAFSC), obtaining most of its forces from I Bomber Command to combat the German U-Boat threat along the Atlantic Coast. AAFSC would eventually expand that mission to the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean until the Antisubmarine mission was taken over by the Navy in mid-1943.

Beginning in 1942, the mission of First Air Force became supporting the Army Air Forces Training Command's mission of training of units, crews, and individuals for bombardment, fighter, and reconnaissance operations. After personnel graduated from AAFTC flight schools; navigator training; flexible gunnery schools and various technical schools, First Air Force organized the personnel, aircraft and equipment into combat groups and squadrons. The newly-formed units received secondary training prior to their assignment to the deployed combat air forces in the various overseas theaters. Most P-47 Thunderbolt fighter groups were trained by I Fighter Command, along with P-39/P-63 Airacobra groups; C-47 Skytrain and later C-46 Commando groups by I Troop Carrier Command. In addition, the command performed training through Army Air Forces Training Command of units, crews, and individuals for specialized bombardment, and reconnaissance operations. By 1944, most of the Operational Training of groups ended, with the command concentrating on the training of replacement personnel, using Army Air Force Base Units (AAFBU) as training organizations at the airfields controlled by First Air Force.

Air Defense Wings were also organized for the major metropolitan areas along the northeast coast, using training units attached to the Wings. By 1944 the likelihood of an air attack along the eastern seaboard was remote, and these air defense wings were reduced to paper units.

By 1944, the vast majority of the USAAF was engaged in combat operations in various parts of the world, such as the Eighth Air Force in Europe and the Twentieth Air Force in the Pacific. The training units located within the United States (known as the Zone of the Interior, or "ZI".) under First, Second, Third and Fourth Air Force were all were placed under the unified command of the Continental Air Forces (CAF) on 13 December 1944, with the Numbered Air Forces becoming subordinate commands of CAF.

Postwar Era

In March 1946, USAAF Chief General Carl Spaatz had undertaken a major re-organization of the postwar USAAF that had included the establishment of Major Commands (MAJCOM), who would report directly to HQ United States Army Air Forces. Continental Air Forces was inactivated, and First Air Force was assigned to the postwar Air Defense Command in March 1946 and subsequently to Continental Air Command (ConAC) in December 1948 being primarily concerned with air defense. In 1949 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units were placed under First Air Force command. The command was inactivated on June 23, 1958 for budgetary reasons, its assigned units being reorganized under ConAC.


First Air Force was reactivated at Stewart Air Force Base, Newburgh, N.Y., on January 20, 1966. During this period, the command was again charged with the air defense of the northeastern United States, Greenland, Iceland and parts of Canada. By July 1968, First Air Force had again assumed total responsibility for the air defense of the eastern seaboard, just as it had during World War II.

Its second period of service was short lived, however, and the command was again inactivated as the result of an air defense reorganization on December 31, 1969.


As part of realignment of military assets. the Aerospace Defense Command was deactivated in the summer of 1979. The air assets of ADC were assigned to TAC. With this move many Air National Guard units that had an air defense mission also came under the control of TAC, which established a component called Air Defense, Tactical Air Command (ADTAC).

On December 6, 1985 HQ USAF reactivated First Air Force at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, and assigned it to Tactical Air Command (TAC). First Air Force was given the mission to provide, train and equip ADTAC combat ready forces for the air defense of the North American continent.

Upon its reactivation, First Air Force was composed of units of the active Air Force and the Air National Guard. Because of its unique mission and its binational responsibilities, First Air Force works closely with the Canadian Forces. Canadian personnel are stationed at First Air Force Headquarters at Tyndall Air Force Base Florida, and at the various regional air defense sectors located throughout the United States.

Activation of the Continental United States North American Aerospace Defense Regions on October 1, 1986, resulted in a new structure for the 30-year-old, binational North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD). Although the U.S. Air Force had already deactivated Aerospace Defense Command, the continental U.S. region, along with Alaskan and Canadian regions provided an improved command and operational system for North American air defense.

Air National Guard

In the years since its third activation, more of the responsibility for the defense of American air sovereignty has shifted to the Air National Guard. Also, reorganization of the command structure of the U.S. Air Force saw the assignment of air defense to Tactical Air Command and later, its successor, Air Combat Command.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the role of the Air National Guard in the defense of North America increased. As this role changed, discussions between the active Air Force and the Air National Guard commenced concerning roles and responsibilities.

As the Cold War began to wind down and budgetary constraints became realities, more and more of the missions previously carried out by active duty forces began to be transferred into the reserve components. By the 1990s, 90 percent of the air defense mission was being handled by the Air National Guard.

In October 1997, First Air Force became a primarily Air National Guard numbered air force charged with the air defense of the North American continent. Today, First Air Force consists primarily of members of the Air National Guard. Its headquarters is located at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. It comprises 10 Air National Guard fighter wings and three air defense sectors for the Northeast, Western and Southeast regions of the country.


PD-icon.svg 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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