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Fourth Air Force
4th Air Force.png
Fourth Air Force emblem
Active 18 December 1940
Country United States of America
Branch United States Air Force
Part of Air Force Reserve Command
Garrison/HQ March Air Reserve Base, CA
Carroll W. McColpin
McDonnell Douglas KC-10A Extender 82-0191 taking off at Travis AFB
A Travis C-5 Galaxy returns from a training flight
The newest Boeing C-17A Globemaster III, 06-6164, arrives at Travis AFB
A KC-135R Stratotanker from the 434th Air Refueling Wing refuels an F-22A from the 1st Fighter Wing, Langley AFB, Virginia
C-9 Nightingale used for Aeromedical Evacuation
A C-40B VIP transport taking off.

The Fourth Air Force (4 AF) is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Reserve (AFRC). It is headquartered at March Air Reserve Base, California.

4 AF directs the activities and supervises the training of more than 24,200 Air Force Reservists. If called to active duty, most of 4 AF's ready reserve units would be assigned to Air Mobility Command. Forces would also be gained to Air Force Materiel Command, Air Education and Training Command, and Pacific Air Forces.

One of the four original pre-World War II numbered air forces, 4 AF was activated on 18 December 1940, at March Field, California with a mission of air defense of the Southwestern United States and Lower Midwest 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.

4 AF is commanded by Brig. Gen. Eric W. Crabtree. Its Command Chief Master Sergeant is Chief Master Sergeant Patricia A. Thornton.



Fourth Air Force is dedicated to ensuring its units and personnel are fully prepared to accomplish all assigned missions in support of national objectives. The 200+ staff consists of air reserve technicians, civilian employees, and traditional reservists. They direct the activities and supervise the equipping and training of more than 23,000 Air Force reservists in unit programs located across the continental United States, Alaska, Hawaii and Guam. Reservists from 4 AF units are routinely deployed to Air Expeditionary units in combat areas of Central and Southwest Asia as part of the Global War on Terrorism.


Fourth Air Force flying units include one unit-equipped air mobility and two unit- equipped airlift wings, five unit-equipped air refueling wings, one associate air mobility wing, two associate airlift wings and one associate air refueling group.

C-5 Galaxy, KC-10 Extender, C-17 Globemaster III
C-5 Galaxy
KC-135R Stratotanker
C-5 Galaxy
C-17 Globemaster III
C-17 Globemaster III, KC-135R Stratotanker
KC-135R Stratotanker
KC-135R Stratotanker
KC-135R Stratotanker
KC-135R Stratotanker
KC-135R Stratotanker
C-9, C-40




  • Established as Southwest Air District on October 19, 1940
Activated on December 18, 1940
Redesignated: 4 Air Force on March 26, 1941
Redesignated; Fourth Air Force on September 18, 1942
Discontinued, and inactivated on September 1, 1960
  • Activated on January 20, 1966
Organized on April 1, 1966
Inactivated on September 30, 1969
  • Redesignated Fourth Air Force (Reserve) on September 24, 1976
Activated in the Reserve on October 8, 1976
Redesignated Fourth Air Force on December 1, 1985.





  • I Staging: November 19, 1945 – April 3, 1946
  • 4th Air Force Service (later, 4th Air Force Base; IV Air Force Base): October 1, 1941 – March 31, 1942
  • 4th Air Support (later, IV Air Support; IV Ground Air Support): September 3, 1941 – August 17, 1942
  • 4th Antiaircraft: May 1, 1944 – February 6, 1946
  • Bomber Command, 4th Air Force (later, 4th Bomber, IV Bomber): April 11 – September 19, 1941; September 19, 1941 – March 31, 1944
  • Interceptor Command, 4th Air Force (later, 4th Interceptor, IV Interceptor; IV Fighter): April 22 – July 8, 1941; July 8, 1941 – March 31, 1944.
  • IV Emergency Rescue (Provisional): December 30, 1943 – January 22, 1944.
  • Antiaircraft Artillery (Provisional): December 27, 1943 – April 30, 1944.


  • 25th Air Division (later, 25th Air): October 25, 1948 – April 1, 1949; July 8, 1949 – August 1, 1950 (detached November 10, 1949 – August 1, 1950); April 1, 1966 – September 15, 1969.
  • 26th Air Division: April 1, 1966 – September 30, 1969.
  • 27th Air Division: April 1, 1966 – September 15, 1969
  • 28th Air Division: December 8, 1949 – August 1, 1950 (detached January 1 – August 1, 1950).


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

One of the four original numbered air forces, Fourth Air Force was activated as the Southwest Air District of the GHQ Air Force on 18 December 1940, at March Field, California. It was redesignated Fourth Air Force on 26 March 1941 with a mission for the defense of the Southwest and Lower Midwest regions of the United States.

World War II

During World War II Fourth Air Force was the primary air defense command for the West Coast. The command also flew antisubmarine patrols along coastal areas of the Gulf of Mexico from after Pearl Harbor until October 1942.

After October 1942, the antisubmarine patrols were turned over to the Coast Guard and other agencies and the command was engaged primarily in training replacements for combat units. It supported 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, Fourth 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-51 Mustang and P-38 Lightning groups were trained by Fourth Air Force primarily due to the proximity of their manufacturing plants in Southern California. 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 Fourth Air Force.

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

By 1944, the majority of the Numbered Air Forces of the USAAF were fighting in various parts of the world, such as the Eighth Air Force in Europe and the Twentieth Air Force in the Pacific. They were supported by four numbered air forces located within the United States (known as the Zone of the Interior, or "ZI".) On December 13, 1944, First, Second, Third and Fourth Air Force were all were placed under the unified command of the Continental Air Forces, the predecessor of the later established Strategic Air Command, Tactical Air Command, and Air Defense Command, which were all established in 1946.

Cold war

After the war, Fourth Air Force assumed responsibility for the air defense of the west coast and the southwest. In addition, it added the job of training Air Force Reserve and Air National Guard personnel throughout the region. By 1949, the air defense mission transferred to other organizations, leaving Fourth free to focus on its reserve training tasks, which it did for the next decade. On September 1, 1960, the Air Force inactivated Fourth Air Force, transferring its missions to the Sixth Air Force Reserve Region.

Fourth Air Force activated again on January 20, 1966, as part of Air Defense Command. It again assumed responsibility for the air defense of the West Coast and parts of the Southwest. On September 30, 1969, the Air Force inactivated Fourth Air Force again. The command remained inactive until October 8, 1976, when it was activated as Fourth Air Force (Reserve) at McClellan Air Force Base, CA, and assigned to the Air Force Reserve. Fourth Air Force has been a key component of the Air Force reserve ever since.

Fourth Air Force personnel supported operations in Grenada (Operation Urgent Fury) and Panama (Operation Just Cause). More than 8,000 Air Force Reservists assigned to Fourth Air Force units served in the United States, Europe, and the Persian Gulf during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm. This included more than 2,878 medical personnel assigned to Fourth Air Force units.

Modern era

Since the end of the Cold War, Fourth Air Force has supported humanitarian missions such as Provide Promise in the Balkans and Provide Relief and Restore Hope in Somalia. Units rushed to provide aid and rescue service to the residents of Florida, the Gulf Coast, and the Caribbean in the aftermath of the traumatic and prolonged 1995 hurricane season. It supported immediate assistance to aid victims and disaster officials following the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building. Fourth Air Force units provided assistance for several natural disasters, including the Northridge (Los Angeles) earthquake in 1994, and the catastrophic midwest floods and the California wildfires in 1993.

Fourth Air Force units routinely support United Nations and Department of State missions. Fourth Air Force people were on the first teams into Haiti for Operation Uphold Democracy, and supported Vigilant Warrior and Desert Thunder deployments to Southwest Asia. The men and women of Fourth Air Force continue to perform international peacekeeping and humanitarian missions on an almost daily basis. Headquarters Fourth Air Force officially returned to its original home, now March Air Reserve Base, in Riverside, CA, in April, 1998.

In 2003 Fourth Air Force became an intermediate echelon responsible primarily for all Air Mobility Command (AMC) gained AFRC air refueling units in the United States and AMC gained AFRC strategic airlift units in the western United States.


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

The Museum is located off the grounds of the Base and displays in its aircraft collection examples bombers, fighters, cargo, refueling and reconnaissance aircraft, many of which served at March Field, March AFB and/or March ARB.


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