With its headquarters at Tyndall Air Force Base in the community of Panama City, Fla., First Air Force (Air Forces Northern) is one of three numbered air forces assigned to Headquarters Air Combat Command.
It has sole responsibility for ensuring the aerospace control and air defense of the continental United States, U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. As the Continental U.S. Region for NORAD, the bi-national North American Aerospace Defense Command, CONR provides air defense in the form of airspace surveillance and airspace control.
First Air Force is also the designated air component for the U.S. Northern Command. USNORTHCOM's area of responsibility includes the continental United States, Alaska, Canada and Mexico, and its air, land and maritime approaches.
As the USNORTHCOM air component, AFNORTH is the senior agency in the United States Theater Air Control System and is specifically responsible for the land areas of the continental United States, U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico and the surrounding seas out to approximately 500 nautical miles. When tasked, it conducts homeland defense and Defense Support of Civil Authorities operations in the USNORTHCOM area of responsibility. The DSCA mission is to support local, state, regional, and federal emergency service agencies; and protect the American people and their way of life.
Since Sept. 11, 2001, First Air Force has been the lead agency for Operation Noble Eagle in the Continental United States. Its continuing mission is to protect the United States from terrorist air attack from inside or outside the contiguous United States. First Air Force accomplishes this task by providing surveillance and command and control for air defense forces 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
First Air Force units include the 601st Air Operations Center, known as "America's AOC," the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center, and the 702nd Computer Support Squadron at Tyndall AFB. CONR is further divided into two air defense sectors; the Eastern Air Defense Sector in Rome, N.Y., and the Western Air Defense Sector at McChord AFB, Wash., and also includes nine aligned Air National Guard fighter wings. The best of USAF's aircraft inventory, the F-22 Raptor, F-15 Eagle, F-16 Fighting Falcon and the E-3 Sentry are some of the weapons systems used to perform this mission. Additionally, the realignment of CAP-USAF to ACC provides 1AF the ability to increase the utilization of the Air Force Auxiliary as part of the Total Force. First Air Force can better assist CAP-USAF in its responsibility for ensuring that CAP is organized, trained, and equipped to fulfill Air Force-assigned missions.
First Air Force rapidly responds to non-military threats. Under our Defense Support of Civil Authorities mission, the organization assists civilian agencies before and during emergencies, natural or man-made disasters and other DoD-approved activities. This role provides the ability to save lives, relieve suffering, prevent property damage and provide humanitarian assistance where and when it is needed most in the U.S.
The 601st AOC plans, directs and assesses air and space operations and provides aerospace warning and control for NORAD's air defense activities in support of USNORTHCOM's homeland security mission. The AOC is also responsible for the detection, deterrence, defense and defeat of aviation threats to the citizens of the United States and to U.S. critical infrastructure.
The Air Force Rescue Coordination Center serves as the U.S. inland search and rescue coordinator and is the single agency responsible for coordinating on-land Federal searches. These search and rescue operations can be conducted anywhere in the 48 states, Mexico and Canada. The AFRCC has direct ties to the FAA alerting system and the U.S. Mission Control Center. Since its inception in 1974, the center has recorded more than 15,000 saves. The Civil Air Patrol, flying as the USAF Auxiliary, is a significant partner in search and rescue and other DSCA missions.
First Air Force has been an Air Combat Command organization since June 1, 1992. Its subordinate units are located throughout the continental United States.
Personnel and Resources
First Air Force is a "Total Force" organization comprised of five direct-reporting units, ten alligned Air National Guard units, 1,400 Civil Air Patrol Units, and a large number of active air-defense alert sites encompassing 15,000 Active Duty, National Guard, Air Force Reserve, and Canadian Forces. As many as 30 ANG fighter wings reported to this Numbered Air Force during the early months of Operation Noble Eagle.
One of the four original numbered air forces, First Air Force was activated as the Northeast Air District on Dec. 18, 1940, at Mitchel Field, Long Island, N.Y. It was redesignated First Air Force on April 9, 1941.
In the first months of World War II, First Air Force was responsible for the air defense of the entire eastern seaboard of the United States. In January 1942, the command commenced shore-based anti-submarine operations flying Boeing B-17 "Flying Fortresses" from Langley Field, Va. Later that year, First Air Force turned to the task of training combat aircrews for immediate deployment to overseas theaters.
At the end of World War II, First Air Force was tasked with the air defense of the Northeast. It continued in the training role (primarily with the Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve) until its inactivation on June 23, 1958.
First Air Force was reactivated at Stewart Air Force Base, Newburgh, N.Y., on Jan. 20, 1966. During this period, the unit was charged with the air defense of the northeastern United States, Greenland, Iceland and parts of Canada. By July 1968, First Air Force had again assumed total responsibility for the air defense of the eastern seaboard, just as it had during World War II. Its second period of service was short-lived, however, and the unit was inactivated as the result of an air defense reorganization on Dec. 31, 1969.
On Dec. 6, 1985, the Air Force reactivated the historic First Air Force at Langley Air Force Base, Va., and assigned it to Tactical Air Command. Since that time, its mission has been to provide, train and equip combat-ready forces for the air defense of the North American continent.
Upon its reactivation, First Air Force was composed of units of the active Air Force and the Air National Guard. Because of its unique mission and its binational responsibilities, First Air Force works closely with the Canadian Forces. Canadian personnel are stationed at First Air Force Headquarters at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and at the various regional air defense sectors located throughout the United States.
Activation of the CONUS/NORAD Region on Oct. 1, 1986, resulted in a new structure for the 30-year-old, binational NORAD. Although the U.S. Air Force had already deactivated its Aerospace Defense Command, the continental U.S. region, along with Alaskan and Canadian regions, provided an improved command and operational system for North American air defense.
In recent years since its third activation, responsibility for the defense of American air space sovereignty has shifted to the Air National Guard. Reorganization of the command structure of the U.S. Air Force saw the assignment of air defense to Tactical Air Command and later, its successor, Air Combat Command.
In the 1970s and 1980s, the role of the Air National Guard in the defense of North America increased. As this role changed, discussions between the active Air Force and the Air National Guard commenced concerning roles and responsibilities.
As the Cold War began to wind down and budgetary constraints became realities, more of the missions previously carried out by active duty forces began to be transferred to the reserve components. By the 1990s, the Air National Guard handled 90 percent of the air defense mission.
Today, First Air Force consists of members of the Active Duty force, the Air National Guard, and the Air Force Reserve. Its headquarters is located at Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. It is comprised of multiple Air National Guard fighter wings throughout the continental United States and two air defense sectors for the Eastern and Western regions of the country.