Pacific Air Forces, headquartered at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii, is one of nine U.S. Air Force major commands and the air component of U.S. Pacific Command.
PACAF's primary mission is to deliver rapid and precise air, space and cyberspace capabilities to protect and defend the United States, its territories and our allies and partners; provide integrated air and missile warning and defense; promote interoperability throughout the Pacific area of responsibility; maintain strategic access and freedom of movement across all domains; and posture to respond across the full spectrum of military contingencies in order to restore regional security.
The command's vision is to provide combat-ready American Airmen who are the foundation of Pacific stability and security.
PACAF's area of responsibility is home to 60 percent of the world's population in 36 nations spread across 53 percent of the Earth's surface and 16 time zones, with more than 1,000 languages spoken. The unique location of the Strategic Triangle (Hawaii-Guam-Alaska) gives our nation persistent presence and options to project U.S. airpower from sovereign territory.
Personnel and Resources
The command has approximately 46,000 military and civilian personnel serving in nine strategic locations and numerous smaller facilities, primarily in Hawaii, Alaska, Japan, Guam and the Republic of Korea. Approximately 320 fighter and attack aircraft are assigned to the command with approximately 100 additional deployed aircraft rotating on Guam.
Approximately 1,700 PACAF Airmen are deployed at any given time in support of the Overseas Contingency Operations, many participating in non-traditional missions such as convoy and detainee operations
PACAF is home to three Numbered Air Force units which are 5th Air Force at Yokota Air Base, Japan; 7th Air Force at Osan AB, Republic of Korea; and 11th Air Force at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska.
Major units include the 3rd Wing at JBER; the 8th Fighter Wing at Kunsan Air Base, ROK; the 15th Airlift Wing at JBPHH; the 18th Wing at Kadena Air Base, Japan; the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan; the 354th Fighter Wing Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska; 35th Fighter Wing, Misawa AB, Japan; 374th Airlift Wing, Yokota AB; and the 36th Wing, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam.
Pacific Air Forces (PACAF) traces its roots to the activation of Far East Air Forces (FEAF), on August 3, 1944, at Brisbane, Queensland, Australia commanded by Lt Gen George Kenney. FEAF was subordinate to the U.S. Army Forces Far East and served as the headquarters of Allied Air Forces Southwest Pacific Area. By mid-1945, three numbered air forces—5th, 7th, and 13th—were supporting operations in the Pacific. At that time, the Army Air Forces in the Pacific became part of the largest and most powerful military organization ever fielded by any country in the world.
After World II, FEAF and 5th Air Force remained in Japan, while 7th Air Force operated from Hawaii, and 13th Air Force from the Philippines. In the post-war years, FEAF was designated the theater air force for the Far East Command. All air forces in the Far East and Southwest Pacific were placed under one Air Force commander for the first time.
When the North Koreans crossed the 38th parallel June 25, 1950, FEAF consisted of 5th Air Force, 13th Air Force, 20th Air Force, and the Far East Materiel Command. Four years after the Korean War armistice, FEAF was re-designated Pacific Air Forces and transferred its headquarters to Hickam AFB, Hawaii.
By 1960, PACAF maintained a combat-ready deterrent force of some 35 squadrons, operating from 10 major bases in a half-dozen countries. In the early 1960s communist military strength and firepower in Vietnam increased. As a result, PACAF began a buildup in the area with the addition of troops and better arms and equipment.
Combat aircraft from PACAF flew their last strikes in Cambodia August 15, 1973, writing the final chapter to the long and costly history of active American participation in the Indochina War. The post-Vietnam era found the command focusing on improving its readiness.
PACAF's organizational structure saw a marked period of rapid and extensive changes. Andersen Air Force Base was reassigned from Strategic Air Command in 1989, and 11th Air Force became a part of the command in late 1990. Following the volcanic eruption of Mount Pinatubo, Clark Air Base, in the Philippines closed and 13th Air Force relocated to Andersen Air Force Base in 1991.
In 1992, changes took place in force structure within PACAF as the command assumed control of theater-based tactical airlift wings, theater C-130 aircraft and crews, and associated theater C-130 support. PACAF also gained control of all operational support aircraft and all aeromedical airlift assets in the Pacific.
Throughout its history, PACAF has played a vital role in world events. In addition to its key combat role in World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, PACAF units fought in DESERT STORM in 1991. PACAF provided its expertise, aircraft, personnel, and equipment to facilitate the new Expeditionary Air Force, especially as it applied to successful air bridge operations spanning the vast Pacific Ocean. Following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the United States, PACAF again demonstrated its intrepid spirit through its units deployed in support of Operations NOBLE EAGLE, ENDURING FREEDOM, IRAQI FREEDOM and NEW DAWN.
Since 1944, the command has participated in more than 275 humanitarian operations within its area of responsibility and beyond. In these operations, PACAF personnel quickly and efficiently airlifted food, medicine, and other supplies to areas devastated by storms, floods, earthquakes, volcanoes, and other natural disasters.
Additionally, the command supported three of the largest evacuations ever undertaken by the Air Force—the NEWLIFE evacuation of Vietnamese in 1975, the FIERY VIGIL evacuation of Clark Air Base, Philippines after the 1991 volcanic eruption of Mount Pinatubo, and the PACIFIC HAVEN operation to support and resettle Kurdish evacuees in 1997.
On September 28, 2012, 13th Air Force inactivated and its personnel combined with the staff of Pacific Air Forces at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam.
For more than seven decades, PACAF has served in defense of the nation. The command continually prepares to bring air power quickly and decisively to the far reaches of the Pacific.