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Air Expeditionary Force
Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force (ASETF)

The Air Force is moving into the 21st century as an expeditionary aerospace force. And at the core of these efforts to move ahead are the air expeditionary forces -- the AEFs, which will be implemented by 01 January 2000. This new concept is one way of responding to the increasing number of contingencies that call for worldwide deployments. It attempts to answer a need for "predictability" by reducing OPTEMPO and enhance readiness.

Under the AEF concept almost all of the Air Force – active, Reserve and Guard -- will be divided into 10 force packages, each with a cross-section of Air Force weapon systems drawn from geographically separated units. Each AEF will have about 175 aircraft, and each will be more formidable than the air forces of most nations. These AEF packages will be able to respond within 72 hours of any unexpected contingency -- and will be trained and tailored to meet commanders' needs in a wide range of contingency operations. Each AEF will be on call to handle contingency operations for about 90 days every 15 months. And two will be on call at all times. About half of each AEF to wait on call at home bases during the 90-day window and about half to deploy.

The AEFs will help build predictability and stability into the way the Air Force schedules its people to respond to contingencies, both large and small. They are being designed as a direct response to increasing concerns about the high operations tempo under which today's Air Force operates. The AEF should lead to a substantial reduction in operation tempo -- and back-to-back Christmas deployments should be a thing of the past. The AEFs will take full advantage of the contributions made by the Total Air Force-Active, Guard and Reserve-by integrating all the Air components into cohesive deployable force packages. Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve personnel work a full-time job in civilian life and a part-time job with the Air Force. The AEF will schedule all facets of the each AEF one to two years in advance, so employers can have early notice of when their citizen airmen will be going back into uniform.

In any operation, a COMAFFOR is designated from the US Air Force and serves as the commander of US Air Force forces assigned and attached to the US Air Force component. Air Force elements deployed in an expeditionary role are designated as an Air and Space Expeditionary Task Force (ASETF). The COMAFFOR, with the ASETF, presents the JFC a task-organized, integrated package with the proper balance of force, sustainment, and force protection elements.

The ASETF is the designated organization to fulfill the JTF and JFACC campaign objectives. An ASETF encompasses all Air Force forces assigned or attached to the JTF and includes other forces dedicated to the JTF mission provided via reachback. It provides the JFACC with a single point of contact for air and space force capabilities in a task-organized, tailored package. Where appropriate, the functions of an ASETF can be accomplished by an in-place NAF. The ASETF can be sized depending on the level of conflict and the desired political and military objectives. The command element includes the COMAFFOR, a staff, and a command and control function.

Air Expeditionary Forces (AEFs) are deployed wings, groups, or squadrons attached to an ASETF or in-place NAF (the term “AEF” is, by itself, generic). Such wings, groups, and squadrons are designated “expeditionary” from the time they are attached until no longer attached. Squadrons and dependent groups assigned or attached to an ASETF add “expeditionary” to the designation of the unit; each wing committed to a joint operation is designated as an Air Expeditionary Wing (AEW) and each independent group is designated an Air Expeditionary Group (AEG).

Wings, groups, and squadrons that are permanently assigned in-theater, and that become attached or assigned to an ASETF, do not add “expeditionary” to their unit designation, because they are not deployed away from their home base. Other deployed wings, groups, and squadrons that are not assigned or attached to the ASETF, but provide significant support (such as airlift and tanker units in the intertheater air bridge or space and special operations units in direct support), may be designated “expeditionary” at the discre-tion of their owning MAJCOM commander. Normally, these “expeditionary” forces retain their peacetime or global operating chains of command.

The ASETF may grow to encompass several wings at geographically separate locations and to encompass the full range of aerospace power. This includes organic sustainment and the capability to plan and execute any operation across the range of military operations from military operations other than war (MOOTW) to a major theater war (MTW).

When attached to a joint force, a NAF that is required to deploy to execute its commitment, will be designated the XX ASETF, where XX refers to its NAF numerical designation. When an ASETF is established as a command echelon subordinate to a NAF, that ASETF will be designated using the number of the engaged NAF, then ASETF, followed by the name of the operation. For example, an ASETF subordinate to 16 AF for Operation DENY FLIGHT would be designated the 16 ASETF—DENY FLIGHT.

The 9 ASETF—SOUTHERN WATCH was deployed in 1997 to Southwest Asia. The 4 AEW (deployed from Seymour Johnson AFB to an in-theater location), the 4404th Composite Wing (Provisional) (already in theater), and the 2 AEW (operating from its CONUS location at Barksdale AFB and TACON to the Commander, 9 ASETF—SOUTHERN WATCH). The 4404 CW (P) receives the deploying 9 EFS to add to its units already in theater. The 4 AEW has added the C–130s of the 39 EAS from Dyess AFB to their two F–15E squadrons. The 9 ASETF—SOUTHERN WATCH commander (USCENTCOM’s JTF SWA) would exercise OPCON and ADCON of the forces assigned to his/her command; he/she would be under the OPCON of the JFC appointed by USCINCCENT, and he/she would be under the ADCON of 9 AF/CC. The COMAFFOR has complete ADCON of assigned forces and specified ADCON over attached forces, regardless of US Air Force component.

When an in-place (i.e., in-theater) NAF is assigned/attached to a joint operation as the Air Force component, it will use its NAF numerical designation. For example, 7 AF in Korea remains 7 AF. Figure 3.6 is an example of 7 AF with four wings (two in-place and two deployed). The 51 WG at Osan AB receives the additional support of the deploying 44 EFS from Kadena AB. The 4 AEW, a mixed force from Seymour Johnson AFB and Dyess AFB, deploys into the theater, as does the 354 AEW from Eielson AFB. The 8 FW stands up in-place at Kunsan AB as the 8 FW. Note that the 51 WG and the 8 FW are not designated “expeditionary” since they are operating from their home stations.

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