First Air Force

Air Combat Command Lieutenant general (United States) Tyndall Air Force Base

First Air Force (Air Forces Northern)
1st Air Force.png
Shield of the First Air Force
USAF - Con AF North.png
Shield of CONUS NORAD Region - Air Forces Northern
Active1 November 2007 - present (as First Air Force (Air Forces Northern))
1 October 1995 – 1 November 2007 (as First Air Force (ANG))
6 December 1985 - 1 October 1995
20 January 1966 - 31 December 1969
18 September 1942 – 23 June 1958 (as First Air Force)
26 March 1941 – 18 September 1942 (as 1 Air Force)
19 October 1940 – 26 March 1941 (as Northeast Air District)
(79 years, 10 months)[1]
CountryUnited States United States of America
Branch United States Air Force (18 September 1947 - present)
Seal of the United States Department of War.png United States Army (US Army Air Corps Hap Arnold Wings.svg Army Air Forces, 20 June 1941 – 18 September 1947; USAAC Roundel 1919-1941.svg Army Air Corps 19 October 1940 – 20 June 1941)
TypeNumbered Air Force
RoleProvide forces for Air defense of the Continental United States and serve as the air component for U.S. Northern Command and the Continental NORAD Region[2][3]
Size15,000 Airmen [2]
Part ofACC Shield.svg Air Combat Command
Seal of the United States Northern Command.png United States Northern Command
Continental NORAD Region -Emblem.png Continental NORAD Region[3]
HeadquartersTyndall Air Force Base, Florida, U.S.
EngagementsWorld War II - American Campaign Streamer (Plain).png
World War II - American Theater[1]
DecorationsUS Air Force Outstanding Unit Award - Stremer.jpg
Air Force Outstanding Unit Award[1]
CommanderLt Gen Kirk S. Pierce[4]
Deputy CommanderMGen Derek W. Joyce, RCAF
Vice CommanderBrig Gen William D. Betts
Command ChiefCMSgt Tony L. Whitehead

The First Air Force (Air Forces Northern; 1 AF-AFNORTH) is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Air Combat Command (ACC). It is headquartered at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. Its primary mission is the air defense of the Contiguous United States (CONUS), United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

It was one of the four original pre-World War II numbered air forces formed during the existence of the United States Army Air Corps. It was activated as the Northeast Air District on 18 December 1940, at Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York with a mission of air defense of the Northeastern United States and Great Lakes regions. Its primary mission was the organization and training of new combat units prior to their deployment overseas. It was active in 1941–42; 1942–58; 1966–69; and with minor name and function changes from 1985 to the present.

First Air Force is commanded by Lieutenant General Kirk S. Pierce. Its Command Chief Master Sergeant is Chief Master Sgt. Tony L. Whitehead.[4]

It has the responsibility for ensuring the air sovereignty and air defense of the Contiguous United States (CONUS), United States Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. As the CONUS NORAD Region (CONR) for North American Aerospace Defense Command, CONR provides air defense in the form of airspace surveillance and airspace control. 1AF (AFNORTH) is also the designated air component for the United States Northern Command (USNORTHCOM). USNORTHCOM's area of responsibility includes the continental United States, Canada, and Mexico, and its air, land and maritime approaches.

With the transfer of responsibility for continental air defense from the active duty component of the Air Force to the Air National Guard, 1 AF became the first numbered air force to be made up primarily of citizen airmen. Furthermore, 1AF now has operational control (OPCON) of the Civil Air Patrol.


One of the four original numbered air forces, First Air Force was activated as the Northeast Air District of the GHQ Air Force on 18 December 1940, at Mitchel Field, Long Island, New York. It was redesignated First Air Force on 9 April 1941 with a mission for the defense of the Northeast and Great Lakes regions of the United States.

World War II

First Air Force region of the United States, World War II

During the initial months after the Pearl Harbor Attack, First Air Force organized what would eventually become the core of the Army Air Forces Antisubmarine Command (AAFSC), obtaining most of its forces from I Bomber Command to combat the German U-Boat threat along the Atlantic Coast. AAFSC would eventually expand that mission to the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean until the antisubmarine mission was taken over completely by the Navy in mid-1943.

Beginning in May 1942, the mission of First Air Force became operational training of units and crews, and the replacement training of individuals for bombardment, fighter, and reconnaissance operations. It received graduates of Army Air Forces Training Command flight schools; navigator training; flexible gunnery schools and various technical schools, organized them into newly activated combat groups and squadrons, and provided operational unit training (OTU) and replacement training (RTU) to prepare groups and replacements for deployment overseas to combat theaters. The First Air Force became predominantly a fighter OTU and RTU organization. Most P-47 Thunderbolt fighter groups were trained by I Fighter Command, along with P-39/P-63 Airacobra groups; C-47 Skytrain and later C-46 Commando groups by I Troop Carrier Command. By 1944, most of the Operational Training of groups ended, with the command concentrating on the training of individual replacements using Army Air Force Base Units (AAFBU) as training organizations at the airfields controlled by First Air Force.

Air Defense Wings were also organized for the major metropolitan areas along the northeast coast, using training units attached to the Wings. By 1944 the likelihood of an air attack along the eastern seaboard was remote, and these air defense wings were reduced to paper units.

By 1944, the vast majority of the USAAF was engaged in combat operations in various parts of the world, such as the Eighth Air Force in Europe and the Twentieth Air Force in the Pacific. The training units located within the United States (known as the Zone of the Interior, or "ZI".) under First, Second, Third and Fourth Air Force were all were placed under the unified command of the Continental Air Forces (CAF) on 13 December 1944, with the Numbered Air Forces becoming subordinate commands of CAF.

Air Defense Command

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 First 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. First Air Force Headquarters was located at Fort Slocum, New York, from 1946 to 1949.

The command was originally assigned the region of the New England states, along with New York and New Jersey. With the inactivation of the ADC Eleventh Air Force on 1 July 1948 due to budget restrictions, command's region of responsibility was increased to include the upper Midwest states of Michigan and Ohio, along with the Mid-Atlantic region south to the North Carolina/Virginia Border.

In 1949 Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve units were placed under First Air Force command, with its active-duty units being reassigned to Eastern Air Defense Force (EADF) or to the 30th, 32d or 26th Air Divisions. The command was inactivated on 23 June 1958 for budgetary reasons, its assigned units being placed under ConAC.

First Air Force was reactivated at Stewart Air Force Base, Newburgh, N.Y., on 20 January 1966 due to the inactivation of the ADC Air Defense Sectors. First Air Force assumed responsibility for the ADC 21st, 33d, 34th, 35th, and 36th Air Divisions, primarily located in the northeast and upper Midwest regions of the United States. It also was responsible for the air defense of 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.

On 16 January 1968 Air Defense Command was re-designated Aerospace Defense Command (ADCOM) as part of a restructuring of USAF air defense forces. First Air Force's second period of service was short lived, however, and the command was again inactivated as the result of a major ADCOM reorganization on 31 December 1969 of the First, Fourth, Tenth Air Forces and several Air Divisions. This reorganization was the result of the need to eliminate intermediate levels of command in ADCOM driven by budget reductions and a perceived lessening of the need for continental air defense against attacking Soviet aircraft.

ADCOM reassigned the units under the inactivated First Air Force were reassigned primarily to the 20th, 21st or 23d Air Divisions.

Tactical Air Command

As part of realignment of military assets. ADCOM was reorganized on 1 October 1979. The atmospheric defense resources (interceptors and warning radars) of ADCOM were reassigned to Tactical Air Command (TAC). With this move many Air National Guard units that had an air defense mission also came under the control of TAC, which established a component called Air Defense, Tactical Air Command (ADTAC), at the level of a numbered air force.

On 6 December 1985 HQ USAF reactivated First Air Force at Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, and assigned it to Tactical Air Command (TAC), replacing ADTAC. First Air Force was given the mission to provide, train and equip combat ready air defence 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 Florida, and at the various regional air defense sectors located throughout the United States.

Activation of the Continental NORAD Region on 1 October 1986, resulted in a new structure for North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD).[5] The continental U.S. region, along with Alaskan and Canadian regions provided the command and operational system for North American air defense.

The Montgomery Air Defense Sector (MOADS, Inactivated 1966) was reactivated as the Southeast Air Defense Sector (SEADS); assigned to 23d Air Division
23d Air Division inactivated 4 July 1987; assets transferred to SEADS.
The Los Angeles Air Defense Sector (LAADS, Inactivated 1966) was reactivated as the Southwest Air Defense Sector (SWADS); assigned to 26th Air Division
26th Air Division inactivated 30 September 1990; assets transferred to SWADS.
The Seattle Air Defense Sector (SEADS, Inactivated 1966) was reactivated as the Northwest Air Defense Sector (NWADS); assigned to 25th Air Division
25th Air Division inactivated 30 September 1990; assets transferred to NWADS.
The New York Air Defense Sector (NYADS, Inactivated 1966) was reactivated as the Northeast Air Defense Sector (NEADS); assigned to 24th Air Division.
24th Air Division inactivated 30 September 1990; assets transferred to NEADS.

The Air Defense Sectors were transferred by the Air Force to the National Guard Bureau and allotted to the Air National Guard on 1 October 1990. They were operationally gained by First Air Force, Tactical Air Command.

First Air Force was transferred to Air Combat Command along with the rest of TAC on 1 June 1992.[6]

Air Combat Command

In the years since its third activation, more of the responsibility for the defense of American air sovereignty has primarily shifted to the Air National Guard. Also, 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 and more of the missions previously carried out by active duty forces began to be transferred into the reserve components. By the 1990s, 90 percent of the air defense mission was being handled by the Air National Guard.

In October 1997, First Air Force became primarily composed of Air National Guard units charged with the air defense of the North American continent. Today, First Air Force consists primarily of members of the Air National Guard. Its headquarters is located at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida. It comprises 10 fighter wings and two air defense sectors for the East and Western regions of the country.

Units circa 2018

First Air Force also has operational control of the Civil Air Patrol, at Maxwell AFB, AL (Regular Air Force & Air Force Reserve CAP-USAF component). Administrative control of CAP remains with Air University.

Additionally, First Air Force provides operational control of alert Air National Guard air defense fighter units:

Detachment 1, 119 FW, Langley AFB, Virginia
Detachment 1 (OL-A), 125 FW, Homestead ARB, Florida
Detachment 1, 138 FW, Ellington Field JRB, Texas
Detachment 1, 144 FW, March ARB, California

Non-flying units


Activated on 18 December 1940.
Re-designated: 1 Air Force on 26 March 1941
Re-designated: First Air Force on 18 September 1942
Discontinued on 23 June 1958
Organized on 1 April 1966
Inactivated on 31 December 1969
Re-designated First Air Force (ANG) on 1 October 1995
Re-designated First Air Force (Air Forces Northern) on 1 November 2007.


Major components



Air Divisions




Wings and squadrons


List of commanders

No. Commander Term
Portrait Name Took office Left office Term length
Henry C. Morrow
Major General
Henry C. Morrow
1 November 2007November 2009~2 years, 0 days
Garry C. Dean
Major General
Garry C. Dean
November 2009August 2011~1 year, 273 days
Stanley E. Clarke III
Lieutenant General
Stanley E. Clarke III
August 2011March 2013~1 year, 212 days
R. Scott Williams
Lieutenant General
R. Scott Williams
March 2013July 2016~3 years, 122 days
William H. Etter
Lieutenant General
William H. Etter
July 2016June 2019~2 years, 335 days
Marc H. Sasseville
Lieutenant General
Marc H. Sasseville
June 2019July 2020~1 year, 30 days
Kirk S. Pierce
Lieutenant General
Kirk S. Pierce
July 2020Incumbent~77 days


 This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency website http://www.afhra.af.mil/.

  1. ^ a b c "First Air Force (Air Forces Northern) (ACC)". Air Force Historical Research Agency.
  2. ^ a b "1st AF Mission". CONR-1AF (AFNORTH).
  3. ^ a b "Continental U.S. NORAD Region". CONR-1AF (AFNORTH).
  4. ^ a b "Biographies". www.1af.acc.af.mil. Retrieved 30 July 2020.
  5. ^ A Brief History of NORAD (PDF). North American Aerospace Defense Command Office of History. 2013. p. 41.
  6. ^ Ravenstein, Charles A. (1984). Air Force Combat Wings Lineage and Honors Histories 1947–1977. Maxwell AFB, Alabama: Office of Air Force History. ISBN 0-912799-12-9