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Twenty-Third Air Force
Twenty-Third Air Force.png
Twenty-Third Air Force emblem
Active 1983–1990, 2008-Present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
Role Special Operations
Part of Air Force Special Operations Command
Garrison/HQ Hurlburt Field, Florida

Twenty-Third Air Force (23 AF) is a Numbered Air Force assigned to United States Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC). It is stationed at Hurlburt Field, Florida. It was activated on January 1, 2008



The mission of 23 AF is to provide highly trained special operations command and control (C2), intelligence, and reachback support forces to deployed air commanders for execution of assigned missions.

Mission tasks include:

  • Monitor, implement, guide, and report global air operations activity to senior AFSOC/23AF leadership.
  • Provide trained special operations C2, intelligence, and reachback support elements to theater special operations commanders.
  • Execute C2 for air, space and cyberspace operations supporting USSOCOM.

Once fully operational, 23 AF will provide a special operations liaison element to regional air operations centers and a forward command and control team to be the air component to a joint special operations task force commander.





  • Established as Twenty-Third Air Force on January 1, 2008
Activated on January 1, 2008

Note: this 23 AF is not to be confused with the first 23 AF. It's lineage is listed below:

  • Established as Twenty-Third Air Force on February 10, 1983
Activated on March 1, 1983




Operational History of the first Twenty-Third Air Force

In December 1982, the Air Force transferred responsibility for Air Force special operations from Tactical Air Command (TAC) to Military Airlift Command (MAC). Consequently, in March 1983, MAC activated Twenty-Third Air Force (23 AF) at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. This new numbered air force's responsibilities included worldwide missions of special operations, combat rescue, weather reconnaissance and aerial sampling, security support for intercontinental ballistic missile sites, training of USAF helicopter and HC-130 crewmen, pararescue training, and medical evacuation.

Operation Urgent Fury

In October 1983, 23 AF participated in the successful rescue of Americans from the island nation of Grenada. During the 7-day operation, centered at Point Salines Airport, 23 AF furnished MC-130s, AC-130s, aircrews, maintenance, and support people. An EC-130 from the 193d Special Operations Wing of the Air National Guard (ANG), played a significant psy-war role. An MC-130 pilot from the 8th Special Operations Squadron won the MacKay Trophy for his actions in leading the air drop on the Point Salines Airport.

US Special Operations Command

In May 1986, legislation led to the formation of the United States Special Operations Command. Senators William Cohen and Sam Nunn introduced the Senate bill, and the following month Congressman Dan Daniel introduced a like measure in the House of Representatives. The key provisions of the legislation formed the basis to amend the 1986 Defense Authorizations Bill. This bill, signed into law in October 1986, in part directed the formation of a unified command responsible for special operations. In April 1987 the DoD established the United States Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) at MacDill Air Force Base, Florida, and Army GEN James J. Lindsay assumed command. Four months later, 23 AF moved to Hurlburt Field, Florida.

In August 1989, Gen Duane H. Cassidy, MAC Commander in Chief, divested 23rd AF of its non-special operations units. Thus, 23 AF served a dual role--still reporting to MAC, but also functioning as the air component to USSOCOM.

Operation Just Cause

From late December 1989 to early January 1990, 23 AF participated in the re-establishment of democracy in the Republic of Panama during Operation Just Cause. Special operations aircraft included active and AFRES AC-130 Spectre gunships, EC-130 Volant Solo psychological operations aircraft from the ANG, HC-130P/N Combat Shadow tankers, MC-130E Combat Talons, and MH-53J Pave Low and MH-60G Pave Hawk helicopters. Special tactics combat controllers and medics provided important support to combat units during this operation.

Spectre gunship crews of the 1st SOW earned the Mackay Trophy and Tunner Award for their efforts, a 919th SOG Spectre crew earned the President's Award, and a 1st SOW Combat Talon crew ferried the captured Panamanian President, Manuel Noriega, to prison in the United States. Likewise, the efforts of the 1st SOW maintenance people earned them the Daedalian Award.

On May 22, 1990, Gen. Larry D. Welch, Air Force Chief of Staff, redesignated 23 AF as Air Force Special Operations Command (AFSOC).


On January 1, 2008, Twenty-Third Air Force stood up as Air Force Special Operations Command's first Numbered Air Force.


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



  • Littel, Donald D. Chronology of the Twenty-third Air Force, 1983–1990. Hurlburt Field, Florida: 23rd Air Force Head Office, 1990.

External links


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