Eighteenth Air Force (18 AF) is a Numbered Air Force component of the United States Air Force Air Mobility Command (AMC). It was activated on 1 October 2003 and headquartered at Scott Air Force Base, Illinois. Eighteenth Air Force is the war fighting component of AMC.
The command's mobility aircraft include the C-5 Galaxy, KC-10 Extender, C-17 Globemaster III, C-130 Hercules, and KC-135 Stratotanker. Operational support aircraft are the VC-25 (Air Force One), C-9, C-20, C-32, C-37, C-40, and UH-1.
Eighteenth Air Force has an assigned military and civilian workforce of more than 54,000 people.
The 618th Tanker Airlift Control Center, located at Scott AFB, also reports to Eighteenth Air Force and serves as the organization's air operations hub, planning and directing tanker and transport aircraft operations around the world.
Other AMC units assigned to 18th AF are:
Third Air Force was inactivated on 1 November 1946 and TAC's troop carrier mission was reassigned to Ninth Air Force with its return from Europe and reassignment to Donaldson. In 1947, many of TAC's Troop Carrier Groups/Wings were assigned directly to HQ TAC with the rest to the Air Force Reserve Fourteenth Air Force 302d Air Division. The theater troop carrier mission was expanded rapidly during the Korean War when many of these reserve units were elevated to active service and assigned directly to HQ TAC. Eighteenth Air Force was activated in 1951 to discharge Tactical Air Command's troop carrier responsibilities.
In the spring of 1952 Eighteenth Air Force C-124s were sent to Japan and by July 1952, C-124s from the 22nd TCS were flying missions into Korea. The arrival of the C-124 introdced the aircraft loadmaster position to the troop carrier mission. As the Korean War wound down, C-119 crews from the 483rd Troop Carrier Wing begin supporting French operations in IndoChina. USAF-supplied C-47s and C-119s were placed "on-loan" to the French air force.
By early 1953 the Reserve wing designations were replaced by active duty wings. Eighteenth Air Force organized, administered, equipped, trained, and prepared for combat assigned troop carrier units. Augmented troop carrier forces in the Far East and Europe and provided trained crews and replacement personnel to units in the Korean War.
The next year, Eighteenth Air Force C-119s from the 483rd TCW and flown by civilian crews employed by Civil Air Transport airdrop supplies to besieged French paratroops at Dien Bien Phu. Some 483rd personnel fly missions in an unofficial capacity, some of whom will play key roles in the troop carrier mission in later years. After the Battle of Dien Bien Phu, 374th TCW and TAC C-124s airlifted wounded French soldiers out of Indochina to Japan.
Provided USAF troop carrier participation in joint operations training. Took part in joint exercises and provided support for airborne paratroop training. Worked to improve communications capabilities and to include AF medical air evacuation in joint exercises. Provided airlift support to other USAF major commands and to other Tactical Air Command (TAC) organizations.
The advent of the Jet Age saw TAC with a new mission, as it became the focal point for a new military philosophy based on the rapid deployment of heavily armed TAC fighter/bomber units and Army airborne and light infantry units to overseas "troublespots" before conflicts could escalate into full-scale war. Eighteenth Air Force units supplemented Military Air Transport Service (MATS) airlift when needed. Moved units of USAF and US Army for training and/or deployment.
As a result of the need during the Korean War for a medium transport capable of operating from dirt airstrips led several new transport aircraft. The delivery of the jet-prop powered C-130 began at the end of 1956. Eighteenth Air Force also took deliveries of the Fairchild C-123 Provider, a twin-engine transport designed for assault operations into landing zones that had been only rudimentary prepared.
With the advent of the C-130, TAC established the Composite Air Strike Force, commonly known as a CASF, which was centered around troop carrier C-130s supplemented by MATS aircraft to deliver support personnel and cargo for TAC fighter/bombers to overseas destinations at a moment's notice. With these new aircraft, Eighteenth Air Force units rotated troop carrier units to Europe in support of NATO.
The command was heavily committed to airlift operations in arctic areas beginning autumn 1952. It airlanded and airdropped equipment supporting the construction of the Distant Early Warning radar system across northern Canada in proximity to the Arctic Circle, 1955-1957. Helicopters of the 310th Troop Carrier Squadron, operating from two icebreakers, provided support airlift to the U.S. Navy in the HIRAN (High Precision Air Navigation) project, Jan 1956. Provided airlift and airlift expertise to the U.S. Navy in Antarctic operations Deep Freeze I and II, establishing a base at the South Pole. Crews of the 63d Troop Carrier Wing performed the first airdrop at the South Pole in Oct 1956; a combat controller of the 1st Aerial Port Squadron performed the first parachute jump at the South Pole in Nov 1956 in order to determine necessary corrections to ongoing airdrops of equipment. Provided airdrop and airland support, Mar-early Jun 1957, to Alaskan Air Command and Northeast Air Command to establish similar sites on ice islands in north polar regions.
Instrumental in development of aerial port concept, including techniques and equipment for loading troop carrier aircraft and airdropping cargo. Developed the Air Force "pathfinder" combat controller capability to establish ground to air communications and navigation aids at jump sites, and to select landing sites. Developed fixed wing assault mission using C-123 aircraft for landing on small unimproved landing areas. Organized the first rotary assault group in the USAF before losing the mission to the U.S. Army. Served as advisory body for reserve troop carrier wings. Tested new aerial delivery equipment, equipment and techniques for dropping paratroops and cargo, and navigation devices to determine "point of release".
A realignment of Troop Carrier forces in 1957 led to Eighteenth Air Force's C-124 wings to be reassigned to MATS. Also the command's headquarters was moved to Connally AFB, Texas on 1 Sep 1957 when Donaldson AFB was turned over to MATS along with the C-124s and 63d TCW assigned there. At Connany the command gained responsibility for TAC's day fighter, fighter-bomber, and aerial tanker operations on western U.S. bases.
Eighteenth Air Force was inactivated effective 1 Jan 1958 due to budgetary reasons, and its units were reassigned to Twelfth Air Force which moved on paper from Germany.