Fifteenth Air Force
Active1 November 1943 – 15 September 1945
31 March 1946 – 20 March 2012
20 August 2020 – present
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
TypeNumbered Air Force
Part ofAir Combat Command
Garrison/HQShaw Air Force Base, South Carolina
World War II – EAME Theater
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (10x)
CommanderMaj Gen David B. Lyons
Deputy CommanderBrig Gen Steven G. Behmer[1]
Senior Enlisted LeaderCMSgt Sonia T. Lee[2]

The Fifteenth Air Force (15 AF) is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force's Air Combat Command (ACC). It is headquartered at Shaw Air Force Base. It was reactivated on 20 August 2020, merging the previous units of the Ninth Air Force and Twelfth Air Force into a new numbered air force responsible for generating and presenting Air Combat Command’s conventional forces. [3]

Established on 1 November 1943, Fifteenth AF was a United States Army Air Forces combat air force deployed to the European Theater of World War II, bombing Europe from bases in southern Italy and engaging in air-to-air fighter combat against enemy aircraft.

During the Cold War, 15 AF was one of three Numbered Air Forces of the United States Air Force Strategic Air Command (SAC), commanding USAF strategic bombers and missiles on a global scale. Elements of 15th Air Force engaged in combat operations during the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Operation Desert Storm.

15 AF was redesignated Fifteenth Expeditionary Mobility Task Force (15 EMTF) on 1 October 2003. 15 EMTF provided support for strategic airlift for all United States Department of Defense agencies as well as air refueling for the Air Force in both peace and wartime for the Pacific region. 15 EMTF inactivated on 20 March 2012.

US F-16 from the 15th AF exits it's hangar while a Pakistani F-16B from No. 9 Squadron PAF taxis to the runway during Exercise Falcon Talon 2022

On 20 August 2020, 15 AF was reactivated as an Air Combat Command numbered air force, taking over the previous conventional flying forces of both the Ninth and Twelfth Air Forces.

Second World War

15th USAAF patch
15th USAAF patch

Fifteenth Air Force (15th AF) was established on 1 November 1943 in Tunis, Tunisia as part of the United States Army Air Forces in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations as a strategic air force. It commenced combat operations the day after it was formed. The first commander was General Jimmy Doolittle.

15th AF resulted from a reorganization of American air forces in the Mediterranean in late 1943. Lewis H. Brereton's Ninth Air Force (9th AF) was moved to England, taking over the medium bomber units of Eighth Air Force, while Twelfth Air Force gave its strategic units to 15th AF, becoming the Americans' Mediterranean tactical air force. The new air force was activated with a strength of ninety B-24 Liberators and 210 B-17 Flying Fortresses, inherited from the Twelfth Air Force and Ninth Air Force. In December, new groups, most of which were equipped with B-24s soon started arriving from the United States. 13 new groups were added.

It was hoped that the 15th AF – stationed in the Mediterranean – would be able to operate when the Eighth Air Force (8th AF) in England was socked in by bad English weather. The 9th AF would later move to England to serve as a tactical unit to take part in the invasion of Europe. Once bases around Foggia in Italy became available, the 15th was able to reach targets in southern France, Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, and the Balkans, some of which were difficult to reach from England.

Operational Units

Transferred from: Twelfth Air Force
Headquartered: Foggia, Italy, 13 December 1943 – 2 November 1945

Airfields: Amendola Airfield (2d BW), Celone Airfield (463d BW), Cerignola Airfield (97th BW), Foggia (2d BW, 463d BW), Lucera Airfield (301st BW), Manduria, (68th RG), Maricianise (97th BW), Sterparone (483d BW), Tortorella (99th BW, 483d BW)

Transferred from Ninth Air Force
Headquartered: Manduria, Italy, 11 November 1943 – May 1945

Airfields: Brindisi (98th BG), Grottaglie (449th BG), Lecce (98th BG), Manduria (98th BG), San Pancrazio (376th BG, 450th BG)

Transferred from Greenville AAB, South Carolina 6 April 1944
Headquartered: Bari Airfield, Italy, 6 April 1944 – 16 October 1945

Airfields: Gioia del Colle (451st BG), San Pancrazio (451st BG), Torretta (484th BG)

Transferred from: MacDill Field, Florida
Headquartered: Taranto, Italy, March 1944 – July 1945

Airfields: Gioia (464th BG), Pantanella (465th BG), Spinazzola Airfield (460th BG), Venosa Airfield (485th BG)

Activated in Italy
Headquartered: Cerignola Airfield, Italy, 29 December 1943 – September 1945

Airfields: Giulia Airfield (455th BG), San Giovanni Airfield (454th BG, 455th BG, 456th BG)

Transferred from Twelfth Air Force, 1943

Airfields: Gioia del Colle Airfield (1st FG), Lesina (14th FG 82d FG), Salosa (1st FG), Triolo Airfield (14th FG), Vincenzo Airfield (82d FG)

Activated in Italy