In 1993, Fourteenth Air Force became part of Air Force Space Command responsible for performing space operations. As the Air Force's sole Numbered Air Force for space and its concurrent United States Strategic Command mission of Joint Space Operations, the operational mission of 14 AF includes space launch from the east and west coasts, satellite command and control, missile warning, space surveillance and command and control of assigned and attached joint space forces. The overall mission is control and exploit space for global and theater operations, thereby ensuring warfighters are supported by the best space capabilities available.
In 1997, 14 AF established the Space Operations Center at Vandenberg AFB in California for the 24-hour command and control of all space operations resources. In 2002, 14 AF became the Air Force space operational component of United States Strategic Command. In 2005, 14 AF officially opened up its newly renovated operations center. The new command and control capabilities of the Joint Space Operations Center ensured unity of effort for all space capabilities supporting joint military operations around the globe.614th Air and Space Operations Center, operates Joint Space Operations Center
21st Space Wing, Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado
30th Space Wing, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California
45th Space Wing, Patrick Air Force Base, Florida
50th Space Wing, Schriever Air Force Base, Colorado
460th Space Wing, Buckley Air Force Base, Colorado
With the United States entry into World War II against the Empire of Japan in December 1941, Claire Chennault, the commander of the American Volunteer Group (AVG) (known as the Flying Tigers) of the Chinese Air Force was called to Chungking, China, on 29 March 1942, for a conference to decide the fate of the AVG. Present at the conference were Chiang Kai-shek; his wife, Madame Chiang Kai-shek; Lt. Gen. Joseph W. Stilwell, commander of all U.S. forces in the China Burma India Theater; and Colonel Clayton L. Bissell, who had arrived in early March. Bissell was General Henry H. ‘Hap’ Arnold's choice to command the USAAF's proposed combat organization in China.
As early as 30 December 1941, the U.S. War Department in Washington, D.C., had authorized the induction of the Flying Tigers into the U.S. Army Air Forces (USAAF). Chennault was opposed to inducting the Flying Tigers into the Army. Stilwell and Bissell made it clear to both Chennault and Chiang that unless the AVG became part of the U.S. Army Air Force, its supplies would be cut off. Chennault agreed to return to active duty but he made it clear to Stilwell that his men would have to speak for themselves.
Chiang Kai-shek finally agreed to induction of the AVG into the USAAF, after Stilwell promised that the fighter group absorbing the induction would remain in China with Chennault in command. With the situation in Burma rapidly deteriorating, Stilwell and Bissell wanted the AVG dissolved by 30 April 1942. Chennault, wanting to keep the Flying Tigers going as long as possible, proposed the group disband on 4 July, when the AVG’s contracts with the Nationalist Chinese government expired. Stilwell and Bissell accepted.
Chennault was recalled to active duty in the USAAF on 15 April 1942. He was promoted eight days later, on 23 April, from colonel to brigadier general. Chennault was told that he would have to be satisfied to command a China Air Task Force of fighters and bombers as part of the Tenth Air Force. Its mission was to defend the aerial supply operation over the Himalayan mountains between India and China — nicknamed the Hump — and to provide air support for Chinese ground forces. Bissell had been promoted to brigadier general with one day's seniority to Chennault in order to command all American air units in China as Stillwell's Air Commander (in August 1942 he became commanding general of the Tenth Air Force). Friction developed when Chennault and the Chinese government were disturbed by the possibility that Chennault would no longer control combat operations in China. However, when Tenth Air Force commanding general Lewis Brereton was transferred to Egypt on 26 June, Stillwell used the occasion to issue an announcement that Chennault would continue to command all air operations in China.
The CATF had 51 fighters in July 1942: 31 81A-1 and P-40B Tomahawks, and 20 P-40E Kittyhawks. Only 29 were flyable. The 81A-1s and P-40Bs were from the original 100 fighters China had purchased for use by the Flying Tigers; the P-40Es had been flown from India to China in May 1942 as part of the 23rd Fighter Group, attached to the AVG to gain experience and provide continuity to the takeover of operations of the AVG. Both fighters were good medium-altitude day fighters, with their best performance between 15,000 and 18,000 feet, and they were excellent ground-strafing aircraft. Chennault also had seven B-25C Mitchell medium bombers, out of an original 12 sent from India (four were lost on a bombing mission en route and a fifth developed mechanical problems such that it was grounded and used for spare parts).
The AVG was disbanded on 4 July 1942, simultaneous with the activation of the 23rd FG. Its personnel were offered USAAF commissions but only five of the AVG pilots accepted them. The remainder of the AVG pilots, many disgruntled with Bissell, became civilian transport pilots in China, went back to America into other jobs, or joined or rejoined the other military services and fought elsewhere in the war. An example was Fritz Wolf who returned to the Navy with the rank of Lieutenant, senior grade and assigned as fighter pilot instructor at the Jacksonville Naval Air Station in Florida.
The American Volunteer Group was replaced by the 23rd Fighter Group with the 74th, 75th and 76th Fighter squadrons, its organization rounded by the transfer of men and P-40s from two squadrons of the 51st Fighter Group in India.
A fourth fighter squadron for the 23rd Group was obtained by subterfuge. In June and July 1942, Chennault got the Tenth Air Force to relocate the 51st FG's 16th Fighter Squadron, commanded by Major John Alison, to his main base in Kunming, China, to gain combat experience. Chennault took them into the CATF — and never returned them. The 11th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), consisting of the seven B-25s flown in from India, made up the other half of Chennault’s command.
On 19 March 1943, the CATF was disbanded and its units made part of the newly activated Fourteenth Air Force, with Chennault, now a major general, still in command. In the nine months of its existence, the China Air Task Force shot down 149 Japanese planes, plus 85 probables, with a loss of only 16 P-40s. It had flown 65 bombing missions against Japanese targets in China, Burma and Indochina, dropping 311 tons of bombs and losing only one B-25 bomber.
The members of Fourteenth Air Force and the US press adopted the name Flying Tigers for themselves after the AVG's dissolution. Especially the 23d Fighter Group was often called by the same nickname.
The Fourteenth Air Force official web site says:
After the China Air Task Force was discontinued, the Fourteenth Air Force (14 AF) was established by the special order of President Roosevelt on 10 March 1943. Chennault was appointed the commander and promoted to Major General. The "Flying Tigers" of 14 AF (who adopted the "Flying Tigers" designation from the AVG) conducted highly effective fighter and bomber operations along a wide front that stretched from the bend of the Yellow River and Tsinan in the north to Indochina in the south, from Chengtu and the Salween River in the west to both East and South China Seas and the island of Formosa in the east. They were also instrumental in supplying Chinese forces through the airlift of cargo across "The Hump" in the China-Burma-India theater. By the end of World War II, 14 AF had achieved air superiority over the skies of China and established a ratio of 7.7 enemy planes destroyed for every American plane lost in combat. Overall, military officials estimated that over 4,000 Japanese planes were destroyed or damaged in the China-Burma-India theater during World War II. In addition, they estimated that air units in China destroyed 1,100,000 tons of shipping, 1,079 locomotives, 4,836 trucks and 580 bridges. The United States Army Air Corps credits 14 AF with the destruction of 2,315 Japanese aircraft, 356 bridges, 1,225 locomotives and 712 railroad cars.
In addition to the core Fourteenth Air Force (14AF) structure, a second group, the Chinese-American Composite Wing, existed as a combined 1st Bomber, 3rd Fighter, and 5th Fighter Group with pilots from both the United States and the Republic of China. U.S. service personnel destined for the CACW entered the China theater in mid-July 1943. Aircraft assigned to the CACW included late-model P-40 Warhawks (with the Nationalist Chinese Air Force blue sky and 12-pointed white sun national insignia, rudder markings, and squadron/aircraft numbering) and B-25 Mitchell light bombers. In late 1944, USAAF-marked P-51 Mustangs began to be assigned to CACW pilots—first P-51B and C models followed by, in early 1945, D and K models, which were reduced-weight versions sharing many of the external characteristics of the D model aircraft including the bubble canopy. All U.S. pilots assigned to the CACW were listed as rated pilots in Chinese Air Force and were authorized to wear the pilot's wings of both nations.
Members of the 3rd FG were honored with a Distinguished Unit Citation (now Presidential Unit Citation) for a sustained campaign: Mission "A" in the late summer of 1944. Mission "A" halted a major Japanese ground offensive and resulted in the award of individual decorations for several of the group's pilots for the planning and execution of the mission.
Most CACW bases existed near the boundary of Japanese-Occupied China and one "Valley Field" existed in an area within Japanese-held territory. Specific field locations included Hanchung, Ankang, Hsian, Laohokow, Enshih, Liangshan, Peishyi, Chihkiang, Hengyang, Kweilin, Liuchow, Chanyi, Suichwan, and Lingling. Today, the 1st, 3rd and 5th Groups of CACW are still operating in Taiwan, reorganized as 443rd, 427th and 401st Tactical Fighter Wings of the Republic of China Air Force.
American missionary John Birch was recommended to Chennault for intelligence work by Jimmy Doolittle, whom he had assisted when Doolittle's crew landed in China after the raid on Tokyo. Inducted into the Fourteenth on its formation, and later seconded to the OSS, he built a formidable network of Chinese informants to provide the Flying Tigers with intelligence on Japanese land and sea military positions and the disposition of shipping and railways. He was killed by Chinese communists when he attempted to see a downed plane they had been assigned to guard 10 days after the war ended, which led to him being chosen as the namesake of the John Birch Society. The incident is recounted in the memoir of Paul Frillmann, China: The Remembered Life,who had started the war as the chaplain for the Flying Tigers.
In March 1946, USAAF Chief General Carl Spaatz had undertaken a major re-organization of the postwar USAAF that had included the establishment of Major Commands (MAJCOM), who would report directly to HQ United States Army Air Forces. Continental Air Forces was inactivated, and Tenth Air Force was assigned to the postwar Air Defense Command in March 1946 and subsequently to Continental Air Command (ConAC) in December 1948 being primarily concerned with air defense.
The command was re-activated on 24 May 1946 at Orlando Army Air Base (later, AFB), Florida. It was originally assigned to provide air defense over a wide region of the Southeast United States along the border of North Carolina, Tennessee, Arkansas and Oklahoma, including Texas south to the Rio Grande. In addition to the command and control of the active Air Force interceptor and radar units in its region, it also became the command organization for the Air Force Reserve and state Air National Guard units.
By 1949 with the establishment of the Western Air Defense Force (WADF) and Eastern Air Defense Force (EADF), the air defense mission of the command was transferred to primary to the EADF, leaving Fourteenth AF free to focus on its reserve training tasks. It was then reassigned to Continental Air Command and moved to Robins AFB, Georgia, in October 1949.
During the Korean War, 14 AF participated in the mobilization of Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units and individuals from its headquarters at Robins Air Force Base (AFB), Georgia. After the Korean War, the reserve wings of 14 AF participated in various airlift operations, such as Operation SIXTEEN TONS, Operation SWIFT LIFT and Operation READY SWAP. 14 AF was inactivated on 1 September 1960.
Fourteenth Air Force was reactivated on 20 January 1966, at Gunter AFB, Alabama as part of Air Defense Command with the inactivation of its organization of Air Defense Sectors. Its area of responsibility was essentially the same as its 1948 region, with its region shifted slightly west to include New Mexico. Eastern North and South Carolina were under the reactivated First Air Force.
On 16 January 1968 Air Defense Command was re-designated Aerospace Defense Command (ADCOM) as part of a restructuring of USAF air defense forces. The command was re designated as Fourteenth Aerospace Force on 1 July 1968 and moved to Ent AFB, Colorado, absorbing resources of 9th Aerospace Defense Division. As part of ADCOM's new emphasis on defenses against the Intercontinental Ballistic Missile (ICBM) and Submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBMs), the mission of the 14th Aerospace Force it was responsible for detecting foreign missile launches, tracking missiles and satellites in space, providing space vehicle launch services, maintaining a satellite data base of all man-made objects in space and performing anti-satellite action. Its former region of the southeast being reassigned to the 31st and 32d Air Divisions.
As the 14th Aerospace Force, the command supervised the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System (BMEWS) network of Radars along the Arctic Circle. Additional radars came under the command's control for the sole purpose of detecting, identifying, tracking and sending back to NORAD data on any SLBM. All man-made objects became numbers in the USAF SPACETRACK network operated by the 14th Aerospace Force.
Budget reductions and reorganizations within ADCOM brought many changes and reductions in aerospace resources along with almost continual turmoil in the command structure of 14 AF during the 1970s. In 1976 the headquarters of the 14th Aerospace Force was inactivated, being moved to Dobbins AFB, Georgia and reactivated as the Fourteenth Air Force (Reserve).
The mission of the command at Dobbins was the command was changed to the supervision and support of Air Force Reserve Forces. Assigned to the Air Force Reserve it managed airlift forces for Military Air Command and participated in such missions as Operation JUST CAUSE. It was again re-designated Fourteenth Air Force on 1 December 1985, and inactivated on 1 July 1993.
On 1 July 1993, 14 AF returned to its former space role and became a Numbered Air Force for Air Force Space Command, responsible for performing space operations. In 1997, 14 AF established the Space Operations Center at Vandenberg AFB in California for the 24-hour command and control of all space operations resources. In 2002, 14 AF became the Air Force space operational component of United States Strategic Command.
In 2005, 14 AF officially opened up its newly renovated operations center. The new command and control capabilities of the Joint Space Operations Center ensured unity of effort for all space capabilities supporting joint military operations around the globe.Established as China Air Task Force (CATF) **, 14 July 1942
Activated on 14 July 1942 absorbing equipment and personnel of 1st AVG
Inactivated on 19 March 1943
Established as Fourteenth Air Force on 5 March 1943
Activated on 19 March 1943 absorbing equipment and personnel of CATF
Inactivated on 6 January 1946
Activated on 24 May 1946
Inactivated on 1 September 1960.
Activated on 20 January 1966
Redesignated Fourteenth Aerospace Force on 1 July 1968.
Inactivated on 1 October 1976.
Redesignated Fourteenth Air Force (Reserve), and activated on 8 October 1976
Redesignated Fourteenth Air Force on 1 December 1985.
Inactivated on 1 July 1993.
Reactivated 1 July 1993
* Authorized as a "Special Air Unit" by President Roosevelt in 1941 and equipped with United States equipment, however not officially affiliated with the United States military. The 1st American Volunteer Group was formally disbanded on 4 July 1942. Each member was offered a commission in the United States Army Air Forces. Some accepted the offer, once again put on their American uniforms, and remained in China. Others later returned to the ranks of the Army, Navy, or Marine Corps but fought in other areas of the world. Eighteen accepted offers to fly for the China National Aviation Corporation. The equipment and those members of the 1st AVG choosing to join the USAAF were absorbed into United States Army Air Forces China Air Task Force on 14 July 1942 as the 23d Fighter Group.Assigned to U.S. Army Forces, China-Burma-India Theater, 10 March 1943
Assigned to U.S. Forces, China Theater, about 24 October 1944
Air Defense Command, 20 January 1946
Continental Air Command, 1 December 1948
Air (later, Aerospace) Defense Command, 1 July 1968
** Assigned to Tenth Air Force.
Absorbed Resources of 9th Aerospace Defense Division
Air Force Reserve, 8 October 1976
Air Force Space Command 1 July 1993
8th Air Division, 1 May 1949 – 1 August 1950
9th Air Division, 1 May 1949 – 1 August 1950
31st Air Division, 1 April 1966 – 1 July 1968
32d Air Division, 1 April 1966 – 1 July 1968
10th Aerospace Defense Group
Reassigned from 9th Aerospace Defense Division, 1 July 1968
Stationed at Vandenberg AFB, California
Inactivated on 1 November 1979
12th Missile Warning Group
Reassigned from 71st Missile Warning Wing, 30 April 1971
Stationed at Thule Air Base, Greenland
Reassigned to 21st Air Division, 1 October 1976
Kunming, China, 10 March 1943
Peishiyi, China, 7 August – 15 December 1945
Fort Lawton, Washington, 5–6 January 1946
Orlando AB, Florida, 24 May 1946
Robins AFB, Georgia, October 1949
Gunter AFB, Alabama, 1 April 1966
Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1 July 1968
Dobbins AFB (later, ARB), Georgia, 8 October 1976
Vandenberg AFB, California, 1 July 1993