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Eighteenth Air Force
C-17 Globemaster IIIs of the 18th Air Force at McChord AFB, Washington
Active 28 March 1951 – 1 January 1958
1 October 2003–present
Country  United States
Branch  United States Air Force
Part of Air Mobility Command.svg  Air Mobility Command
Garrison/HQ Scott Air Force Base, Illinois
Lt Gen Darren McDew [1]
Col. Earl Young [2]
Emblem of the Eighteenth Air Force 18th Air Force.png

Eighteenth Air Force (18 AF) is a Numbered Air Force component of the United States Air Force Air Mobility Command (AMC). It was activated on 1 October 2003 and headquartered at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Eighteenth Air Force is the war fighting component of AMC.


Eighteenth Air Force's mission is to command assigned forces, present air mobility forces (airlift and air refueling) and support forces to combatant commanders as Air Forces Transportation (AFTRANS), the air component of United States Transportation Command, and act as the Commander, Air Force Forces (COMAFFOR), and Joint Force Air Component Commander (JFACC), when so designated.

The command's mobility aircraft include the C-5 Galaxy, KC-10 Extender, C-17 Globemaster III, C-130 Hercules, and KC-135 Stratotanker. Operational support aircraft are the VC-25 (Air Force One), C-9, C-20, C-32, C-37, C-40, and UH-1.

Eighteenth Air Force has an assigned military and civilian workforce of more than 54,000 people.


Units reporting to 18 AF include all Air Mobility Command wings and groups based in the continental United States (CONUS), as well as two expeditionary mobility task forces. The 15th Expeditionary Mobility Task Force (15 EMTF) at Travis AFB, California and the 21st Expeditionary Mobility Task Force (21 EMTF) at McGuire AFB, New Jersey. The 15th and 21st EMTFs serve as lead agencies for conducting mobility operations worldwide. They are key to the execution phase of war fighting, providing worldwide expeditionary mobility support.

The 618th Air and Space Operations Center (Tanker Airlift Control Center), located at Scott AFB, also reports to Eighteenth Air Force and serves as the organization's air operations hub, planning and directing tanker and transport aircraft operations around the world.

Other AMC units assigned to 18th AF are:

  • Airlift Wings/Groups
19th Airlift Wing, C-130H/J
Little Rock AFB, Arkansas
43d Airlift Wing, C-130E/H
Pope AFB, North Carolina (Re-designated 43d Airlift Group 1 March 2011)
62d Airlift Wing, C-17
McChord AFB, Washington
89th Airlift Wing,
VC-25A (Air Force One), C-20B (Gulfstream III), C-32A (Boeing 757), C-37A (Gulfstream V), C-40B (Boeing 737)
Andrews AFB, Maryland
436th Airlift Wing, C-5, C-17
Dover AFB, Delaware
437th Airlift Wing C-17
Charleston AFB, South Carolina
317th Airlift Group, C-130J
Dyess AFB, Texas

  • Air Mobility Wings
6th Air Mobility Wing, KC-135R, C-37
MacDill AFB, Florida
60th Air Mobility Wing, C-5, C-17, KC-10
Travis AFB, California
305th Air Mobility Wing, C-17, KC-10
McGuire AFB, New Jersey
375th Air Mobility Wing, C-21, (acquiring KC-135R)
Scott AFB, Illinois
  • Air Refueling Wings/Groups
22d Air Refueling Wing, KC-135R
McConnell AFB, Kansas
92d Air Refueling Wing, KC-135R
Fairchild AFB, Washington
319th Air Refueling Wing, KC-135R
Grand Forks AFB, North Dakota



When the Army Air Forces (AAF) reorganized in 1946, Tactical Air Command (TAC) was established as one of its three major commands. The AAF IX Troop Carrier Command (TCC) was inactivated as part of this reorganization and Third Air Force was reassigned to TAC to control the troop carrier units formerly part of IX TCC. It was headquartered at Greenville Army Airfield, South Carolina. The C-46 Commando and C-47 Skytrain were the primary troop carrier aircraft, but surplus C-54 Skymasters that had been originally purchased for the Air Transport Command (ATC) were made available for troop carrier use.

Third Air Force was inactivated on 1 November 1946 and TAC's troop carrier mission was reassigned to Ninth Air Force which moved to Greenville. In 1947, many of TAC's Troop Carrier Groups/Wings were assigned directly to HQ TAC with the rest to the Air Defense Command's Fourteenth Air Force reserve 302d Troop Carrier Wing. The theater troop carrier mission was expanded rapidly during the Korean War when many of these reserve units were ecalled into active service and assigned directly to HQ TAC.

Cold War

Eighteenth Air Force was established and activated in March 1951 to discharge Tactical Air Command's troop carrier responsibilities. The organization became operational on 1 June 1951 at Donaldson AFB, South Carolina and assumed control initially of nine continental "medium" C-119 Flying Boxcar troop carrier wings (314th, 375th, 403d, 433d, 434th, 435th, 443d, 514th and 515th), seven of which were Air Force Reserve wings called to active duty during the Korean War. The command added a "heavy" (C-124 Globemaster) wing (62d Troop Carrier Wing) in Fall 1951 and another in early 1953 (463d Troop Carrier Wing).

In the spring of 1952 Eighteenth Air Force C-124 Globemasters were sent to Japan and by July 1952, C-124s from the 22d Troop Carrier Squadron were flying missions into South Korea. The arrival of the C-124 introduced the aircraft loadmaster position to the troop carrier mission. As the Korean War wound down, C-119 Flying Boxcar crews from the 483d Troop Carrier Wing begin supporting French operations in Indochina. USAF-supplied C-47s and C-119s were placed "on-loan" to the French Air Force at Tourane Air Base.

By early 1953 the Reserve wing designations were replaced by active duty wings. Eighteenth Air Force organized, administered, equipped, trained, and prepared for combat assigned troop carrier units. Augmented troop carrier forces in the Far East and Europe and provided trained crews and replacement personnel to units in the Korean War.

The next year, Eighteenth Air Force C-119s from the 483d TCW and flown by civilian crews employed by Civil Air Transport airdrop supplies to besieged French paratroops at Dien Bien Phu, Indochina. Some 483d personnel flew missions in an unofficial capacity, some of whom would play key roles in the troop carrier mission in later years. After the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, 374th TCW and TAC C-124s airlifted wounded French soldiers out of Indochina to Japan.

The command provided USAF troop carrier participation in joint operations training. Took part in joint exercises and provided support for airborne paratroop training. Worked to improve communications capabilities and to include AF medical air evacuation in joint exercises. Provided airlift support to other USAF major commands and to other Tactical Air Command (TAC) organizations.

The advent of the Jet Age saw TAC with a new mission, as it became the focal point for a new military philosophy based on the rapid deployment of heavily armed TAC fighter/bomber units and Army airborne and light infantry units to overseas "troublespots" before conflicts could escalate into full-scale war. Eighteenth Air Force units supplemented Military Air Transport Service (MATS) airlift when needed. Moved units of USAF and US Army for training and/or deployment.

As a result of the need during the Korean War for a medium transport capable of operating from dirt airstrips led several new transport aircraft. The delivery of the jet-prop powered C-130 Hercules began at the end of 1956. Eighteenth Air Force also took deliveries of the Fairchild C-123 Provider, a twin-engine transport designed for assault operations into landing zones that had been only rudimentarily prepared.

With the advent of the C-130, TAC established the Composite Air Strike Force, commonly known as a CASF, which was centered around troop carrier C-130s supplemented by MATS aircraft to deliver support personnel and cargo for TAC fighter/bombers to overseas destinations at a moment's notice. With these new aircraft, Eighteenth Air Force units rotated troop carrier units to Europe in support of NATO.

The command was heavily committed to airlift operations in arctic areas beginning autumn 1952. It airlanded and airdropped equipment supporting the construction of the Distant Early Warning radar system across northern Canada in proximity to the Arctic Circle, 1955–1957. Helicopters of the 310th Troop Carrier Squadron, operating from two icebreakers, provided support airlift to the U.S. Navy in the HIRAN (High Precision Air Navigation) project, January 1956. Provided airlift and airlift expertise to the U.S. Navy in Antarctic operations Deep Freeze I and II, establishing a base at the South Pole. Crews of the 63d Troop Carrier Wing performed the first airdrop at the South Pole in October 1956; a combat controller of the 1st Aerial Port Squadron performed the first parachute jump at the South Pole in November 1956 in order to determine necessary corrections to ongoing airdrops of equipment. Provided airdrop and airland support, March – early June 1957, to Alaskan Air Command and Northeast Air Command to establish similar sites on ice islands in north polar regions.

Instrumental in development of aerial port concept, including techniques and equipment for loading troop carrier aircraft and airdropping cargo. Developed the Air Force "pathfinder" combat controller capability to establish ground to air communications and navigation aids at jump sites, and to select landing sites. Developed fixed wing assault mission using C-123 aircraft for landing on small unimproved landing areas. Organized the first rotary assault group in the USAF before losing the mission to the U.S. Army. Served as advisory body for reserve troop carrier wings. Tested new aerial delivery equipment, equipment and techniques for dropping paratroops and cargo, and navigation devices to determine "point of release".

A realignment of Troop Carrier forces in 1957 led to Eighteenth Air Force's C-124 wings to be reassigned to MATS. Also the command's headquarters was moved to Connally AFB, Texas on 1 September 1957 when Donaldson AFB was turned over to MATS along with the C-124s and 63d TCW assigned there. At Connany the command gained responsibility for TAC's day fighter, fighter-bomber, and aerial tanker operations on western U.S. bases.

Eighteenth Air Force was inactivated effective 1 January 1958 due to budgetary reasons, and its units were reassigned to Twelfth Air Force which was reassigned from USAFE at Ramstein Air Base, West Germany to James Connally AFB, Texas.

Air Mobility Command

Eighteenth Air Force was reactivated on 1 October 2003 as part of an overall Air Mobility Command reorganization to improve mobility support to the war fighters. The command's mission was stated to lead the command's global airlift, air refueling and aeromedical evacuation operations.


  • Established as Eighteenth Air Force (Troop Carrier) on 7 March 1951.
Organized on 28 March 1951.
Redesignated Eighteenth Air Force on 26 June 1951.
Inactivated on 1 January 1958.
  • Activated on 1 October 2003.




Bergstrom AFB, Texas
George AFB, California
Cannon AFB, New Mexico
England AFB, Louisiana


(detached 14 April 1952 – 1 January 1953).

(413th Fighter-Day Group attached to 479th FDW)


  • 309th Troop Carrier Group: 8 July 1955 – 2 June 1956 (detached 8 July 1955 – May 1956)
Assigned to: Ardmore AFB, Oklahoma (USAFR), C-122, C-123


Aircraft Assigned


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website

  • Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9.

External links

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