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The Current USAF Organization; RAF Fairford, July, 16 – 17, 2017

The United States Air Force, part 4; Text and Photograph's by Alex van Noye

Today, the United States Air Force is the largest strongest and most modern air force in the world. Just like American politics, the Air Force plays also an important role during the majority of the conflicts and crises in the world. The USAF is to execute this effectively an well-organized branch of the American defense.

The USAF is a large body within the US Department of Defense. In total, the USAF has eight organization layers that ensure that all aircraft and ground staff are used effectively during any mission. These eight layers are in sequence the Department of the Air Force, Direct reporting unit, the Field operating agency, the Major Command (MAJCOM), the Numbered Air Force (NAF), the Wing/Group, the Squadron and a Flight. These layers consisted of elements from the entire organization to the level of a single group of aircraft that can be deployed. The Department of the Air Force (DAF) is one of three military departments within the US Department of Defense. The Department of the Air Force was established on September 18, 1947 and includes all elements and units of the United States Air Force (USAF). The DAF is organizationally the highest element that exists within the USAF. The DAF is under the leadership of the Secretary of the Air Force (SAF/OS). This person is a citizen who has the authority to carry out all matters under the direction and control of the Minister of Defense. The highest military officer in the department is the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, who is the military advisor to the secretary. Under the direction of the Minister of Defense, the Secretary of the Air Force assigns Air Force units to the Commanders of the Combatant Commands. Only the Minister of Defense and the President of America have the authority to approve the transfer of troops between Combatant Commands.

A Direct Reporting Unit (DRU) is an agency of the Department of the Air Force which is located outside the boundaries of the organization's standard hierarchy, in other words, in addition to the DAF. A DRU will be exclusively and uniquely under the control of the headquarters of the air force, instead of reporting via an important command within the air force. The term "Direct Reporting Unit" comes from the fact that the DRU reports directly to the Chief of Staff of the Air Force or to an appointed representative of the Air Staff. A DRU has a specialized and limited mission, usually with the

exclusion of other tasks, reporting to Air Staff only. A unit is a DRU because it performs specific and targeted tasks, such as legal issues that require the independence of the unit or other factors such as national security concerns. The USAF has a very limited number of DRU units, namely the Air Force District of Washington (AFDW) at the Joint Air Base and Naval Air Facility Andrews in Maryland, the Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center (AFOTEC) at Kirtland Air Force Base in New Mexico and the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado. The layer below the DAF is the Field Operating Agency (FOA) and is part of the air force that reports directly to a functional manager of the HQ USAF. A FOA carries out field activities outside the scope of one of the most important missions of the Air Force. The activities are specialized or associated with an Air Force-wide mission of the Major Commands.

The third layer in the organization is a Major Command (MAJCOM). This is the highest command level under the Headquarters Air Force (HAF) and is directly above the Numbered Air Forces (NAF). The USAF is organized on a functional basis in the United States and a geographic base abroad. A MAJCOM represents a large air force subdivision with a specific part of the air force mission. Since its establishment in 1947, a total of 27 organizations have been designated as important commands. In the course of time, the role of MAJCOMs has changed. Some MAJCOMs were replaced by NAFs, while some NAFs were replaced by MAJCOMs. Currently the USAF is organized in ten MAJCOMS (8 functional and 2 geographic). The Air National Guard reports to the headquarters of the United States Air Force (HAF) and thus falls outside this list. Some examples of the MAJCOMs, are; the Air Combat Command (ACC), the Air Mobility Command (AMC) and the United States Air Force Europe (USAFE). A Numbered Air Force (NAF) is a type of organization in the United States Air Force that is subordinate to a Major Command (MAJCOM) and has operational units such as Wings, Squadrons and Groups in its organization. Unlike MAJCOMs, who mainly have a management role, a NAF is a tactical organization with an operational focus and does not have the same functional staff as a MAJCOM. Numerical indications for NAFs are written without the use of ordinal numbers (e.g. Eight Air Force instead of 8th Air Force). Units that are directly subordinate to a NAF are generally numbered as 6XX (where XX is the NAF number).

The fifth layer in the USAF organization is the Wing. Wings have a specific mission with a specific scope and report to a NAF or HQ USAF. Wings consist of one or more groups and consist of different squadrons and usually fall under the command of a colonel. Wings now include both operational units and support units (maintenance groups, mission groups). There are usually three main types of wings, namely; an operational wing, an Air Base Wing and Specialized Mission Wing. As of September 30, 2006, the USAF had 120 Wings, including 57 flying Wings. In addition to Wings, Groups also exist in this layer. The Group was less visible for a few decades but returned to the foreground during a reorganization in the 1990s. There are two general types of groups, namely; Dependent Groups (operations, logistics, support or medical unit) and Independent Groups (a group with Wing functions but not Wing worth in size). From September 30, 2006, the USAF had 17 independent Groups. Directly below a Wing of Group are the Squadrons and is considered as the basic unit in the USAF organization. Squadrons usually consist of two flights, a few hundred people and 8 to 24 aircraft and are led by a Lieutenant Colonel. A flight is the smallest official capacity within the USAF and usually ranges typically of four aircraft. Letter designations can be used, such as Alpha Flight, Bravo Flight, etc.

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