Sixteenth Air Force (Air Forces Cyber)
Shield of the Sixteenth Air Force
Country United States
Branch United States Air Force
TypeNumbered Air Force
Part of Air Combat Command
HeadquartersJoint Base San Antonio, Texas, U.S.

  • Kosovo Campaign

  • Air Force Outstanding Unit Award (7x)
Commander Lt Gen Kevin B. Kennedy Jr.
Vice Commander Maj Gen Thomas K. Hensley
Deputy CommanderCol Melissa A. Stone
Command ChiefCMSgt Robert L. Hopkins
Winfield S. Harpe
Shield of Air Forces Cyber
Headquarters of Joint Force Headquarters – Cyber Air Force

The Sixteenth Air Force (Air Forces Cyber) (16 AF) is a United States Air Force (USAF) organization responsible for information warfare, which encompasses intelligence gathering and analysis, surveillance, reconnaissance, cyber warfare and electronic warfare operations. Its headquarters is at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland in Texas.

The organization was the first newly established Numbered Air Force (NAF) by the USAF after World War II. It was activated in 1954 as a Joint Military Group to provide command and control of USAF activities in Spain, being designated a NAF in 1956. In 1957, 16 AF was realigned under Strategic Air Command (SAC) to provide command and control of SAC bases and B-47 Stratojet rotational units assigned and deployed to Spain and Morocco.

In 1966, after SAC withdrew its forces from Europe, 16 AF became part of the United States Air Forces in Europe, providing command and control of USAFE forces initially in Spain and North Africa, and later in Italy and Turkey until 2006. It later became a provisional Air Expeditionary Task Force under USAFE as part of the Global War on Terrorism.


The Sixteenth Air Force provides global intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, cyber and electronic warfare, and information operations, and serves as the Service Cryptologic Component responsible to the National Security Agency/Central Security Service and the Service Cyber Component to US Cyber Command.

Component units

The following units are subordinate to the Sixteenth Air Force.[1][2]


Aircraft Assigned: RQ-4 Global Hawk, RQ-180, T-38A Talon, U-2S Dragon Lady
Aircraft Assigned: OC-135B Open Skies, RC-135 Rivet Joint, TC-135W, WC-135R Constant Phoenix, RC-135 COBRA BALL, RC-135 COMBAT SENT, EC-130H COMPASS CALL
Aircraft Assigned: RQ-4 Global Hawk



Sixteenth Air Force (16 AF)'s original ancestor was the Joint United States Military Group, Air Administration (Spain), which was established on 20 May 1954. It was attached to the Joint U.S. Military Group, which oversaw implementation of the 1953 Spanish-American Defense Cooperation Agreement.

On 15 July 1956, Sixteenth Air Force was created when the Air Administration (Spain) was re-designated as Headquarters, 16 AF, and aligned directly under Headquarters, U.S. Air Force. Existing Spanish Air Force bases near Madrid, Sevilla, and Zaragoza were expanded to accommodate the 16 AF. On 1 July 1957, the 16 AF was transferred to Strategic Air Command (SAC).[3] Its main operating bases in Spain were used for SAC B-47 Stratojet rotational alert aircraft until April 1965.

The 16 AF also operated SAC bases in Morocco from 1958 through 1963. They included Nouasseur Air Base, Ben Guerir Air Base, and Rabat-Sale. In 1966, a year after SAC withdrew its B-47 alert force from Spain, the 16 AF was reassigned to U.S. Air Forces in Europe. The 401st Tactical Fighter Wing, with three squadrons of F-100D Super Sabres, moved from the United States to Torrejon Air Base, Spain. The wing later converted to F-4 Phantom IIs, and in 1983, to F-16 Fighting Falcons.

In 1961, General David Wade was dispatched to Torrejón, where he took command of SAC's 16th Air Expeditionary Task Force. He received his promotion to lieutenant general on 1 August 1963 and left Torrejón to assume command of SAC's Second Air Force with headquarters then at Barksdale Air Force Base in Bossier City, Louisiana.[4]

Structure in 1989

At the end of the Cold War Sixteenth Air Force consisted of the following units:[3][5][6]

From 1992

The 401st FW moved from Spain to Aviano AB, Italy, in May 1992 and was re-designated as the 31st FW in April 1994. It has two squadrons of F-16Cs. Headquarters, 16 AF moved to Aviano AB in August 1992.

An F-16C Fighting Falcon of the 31st Fighter Wing landing upon returning from an air-strike against the Bosnian Serbs during Operation Deliberate Force in 1995
A F-16C Fighting Falcon of the 31st Fighter Wing landing upon returning from an air-strike against the Bosnian Serbs during Operation Deliberate Force in 1995

During its time at Aviano AB, Sixteenth Air Force was the operational air force for USAF combat operations in the Balkans, supporting Operation Deny Flight, enforcing the U.N. ordered no-fly zone over Bosnia. Sixteenth Air Force aircraft participated in the raid on the Bosnian-Serb held airfield at Udbina in November 1994. In the fall of 1995, 16 AF supported Operation Deliberate Force, the U.N.-sanctioned/NATO executed attacks on Bosnian-Serb forces. In 1995, 16 AF supported Operation Joint Endeavor, the NATO peacekeeping mission to the former Yugoslavia, through operations in Croatia, Hungary, and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The years 1996 through 1998 saw continued high operations in the 16 AF. It was the first U.S. Air Force organization to fully employ the Expeditionary Wing concept. The 16th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force, consisting of the 16th and 31st Air Expeditionary Wings, was activated in support of Operation Joint Guardian and its air component, Operation Deliberate Guard, engaging air power for peace enforcement operations in Bosnia-Herzegovina. The 39th Air and Space Expeditionary Wing was activated in support of Operation Northern Watch, engaging air power to enforce the no-fly zone over northern Iraq.

Headquarters 16 AF formed the joint force air component command for Operation Silver Wake, the evacuation of Americans and allied non-combatants from Albania. The 31st Fighter Wing was the first F-16 Falcon unit to fly combat missions utilizing night vision goggles; wing aircraft provided close air support during Pope John Paul II's historic visit to Sarajevo. Today the wing remains a major participant in support of Balkan air operations. The 39th Wing at Incirlik AB, Turkey, deployed a flying ambulance surgical team to Dhahran Air Base, Saudi Arabia in response to the Khobar Towers bombing. The wing assisted in the evacuation of 6,500 pro-U.S. Kurds from northern Iraq.

Beginning in March 1999, the 16th Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force grew to ten air expeditionary wings and 480 Air Force aircraft in ten countries supporting Operation Allied Force, NATO's air campaign in the former Republic of Yugoslavia. Approximately 13,200 airmen, in addition to 32,000 airmen through Europe, deployed in support of the 78-day air campaign that led to Serbian withdrawal of forces from the province of Kosovo.

In 2005, the Sixteenth Air Force moved to Ramstein AB, Germany to become USAFE's new Warfighting Headquarters. Its mission was to execute aerospace operations through expeditionary force command and control in support of the U.S. European Command and NATO. Supporting this mission, 16 AF planned and executed combat air operations in southern Europe and portions of the Middle East and northern Africa as an air component or joint task force headquarters. It supported approximately 11,000 Air Force and civilian members at two main operating bases, four support bases and other sites in Spain, France, Germany, Italy, Croatia, Kosovo, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Hungary, Macedonia, Greece, and Turkey, and conducted peacetime engagement throughout the region.

On 1 December 2006, the Sixteenth Air Force was inactivated at Ramstein AB and simultaneously reconstituted as the Sixteenth Air Expeditionary Task Force at Izmir Air Base, Turkey. It was replaced at Ramstein by the Third Air Force.

The 16th AETF was inactivated in April 2008.

Information warfare

On 11 October 2019, Sixteenth Air Force (16 AF) was reactivated as the new Information Warfare (IW) Numbered Air Force (NAF), following the merger of the Twenty-Fourth and Twenty-Fifth Air Forces.

Air Combat Command consolidated and inactivated the Twenty-Fourth Air Force and Twenty-Fifth Air Force capabilities into a new organization under a single commander, who is responsible for providing information warfare capabilities to combatant commanders.


Emblem of Sixteenth Air Force
Activated on 20 May 1954 as a separate operating agency of the USAF
Redesignated Sixteenth Air Force on 15 July 1956
Inactivated 29 August 2014
Activated on 11 October 2019[3]



Air Divisions


List of commanders

No. Commander Term
Portrait Name Took office Left office Duration
Timothy D. Haugh
Lieutenant General
Timothy D. Haugh
11 October 201921 July 20222 years, 283 days
Kevin B. Kennedy
Lieutenant General
Kevin B. Kennedy
21 July 2022Incumbent1 year, 197 days


  1. ^ "Units". Sixteenth Air Force (Air Forces Cyber). US Air Force. Retrieved 12 April 2020.
  2. ^ "Air Force Information Warfare's new warfighting unit activates". Sixteenth Air Force (Air Forces Cyber). US Air Force. 18 March 2020. Retrieved 12 April 2020.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h Musser, James (22 October 2019). "Factsheet Sixteenth Air Force (Air Forces Cyber) ACC". Air Force Historical Research Agency. Retrieved 8 February 2020.
  4. ^ "Lieutenant General David Wade". United States Air Force Military Information Biographies. Archived from the original on 11 March 2013. Retrieved 10 June 2012.
  5. ^ Butler, William M. (1 May 2004). "Fifty Years On Nato's Southern Flank – A History Of Sixteenth Air Force 1954 – 2004" (PDF). Office of History Headquarters, Sixteenth Air Force United States Air Forces in Europe Aviano Air Base, Italy. p. 43. Retrieved 1 November 2016.
  6. ^ Dragoner, O. W. (September 2013). "United States Air Force 1989" (PDF) (in German) (1): 184–190. Retrieved 1 November 2016. ((cite journal)): Cite journal requires |journal= (help)

See also


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