Continental Air Forces


Continental Air Forces (CAF) was a United States Army Air Forces major command, active 1944–1946. It was tasked with combat training of bomber and fighter personnel, and for Continental United States (CONUS) air defense after the Aircraft Warning Corps and Ground Observer Corps were placed in standby during 1944. CAF conducted planning for the postwar United States general surveillance radar stations, and the planning to reorganize to a separate USAF was for CAF to become the USAF Air Defense Command (ADC was headquartered at CAF's Mitchel Field instead of the CAF HQ at Bolling Field.) On 21 March 1946, CAF headquarters personnel and facilities at Bolling Field, along with 1 of the 4 CAF Air Forces (2AF—which had its HQ inactivated on 30 March[1]) became Strategic Air Command. US Strategic Air Forces of WWII, e.g., Eighth Air Force and Fifteenth Air Force, transferred later to SAC. Most of the CAF airfields that had not been distributed to other commands when SAC was activated were subsequently transferred to Air Defense Command (to which CAF's First and Fourth Air Forces were assigned on 21 March), Tactical Air Command (Third Air Force), and Air Materiel Command between March 1946 and March 1947.[2]

Background edit

On 16 January 1941, four Air Districts were established (Northeast, Northwest, Southeast, and Southwest). The air districts handled air defense, "organization and training of bomber, fighter and other units and crews for assignments overseas", and training maneuvers with the Army Ground Forces. The four districts were redesignated on 26 March 1941 as the First Air Force, Second Air Force, Third Air Force, and Fourth Air Force, respectively.[3]

Activation edit

CAF was activated 12 December 1944[4] at Andrews Field with Brigadier General Eugene H. Beebe in command[5] and the "4 continental air forces" as components (First Air Force through Fourth Air Force)[3] which consolidated the CONUS air defense mission under one command.[6] In August 1945 CAF was assigned the AAF Radar Bomb Scoring mission for bomber training/evaluation when Mitchel Field's 63d Army Air Force Base Unit transferred to CAF.[7] CAF's air defense mission was documented in AAF Regulation 20-1, dated 15 September 1945.[6]

A plan for developing Andrews Field as the headquarters of the Continental Air Forces for September 1944 was enacted.[8]: 164  (CAF HQ eventually transferred from Andrews to Bolling Field).

Post-war radar network planning edit

After a June 1945 meeting with AAF headquarters about air defense, CAF recommended "research and development be undertaken on radar and allied equipment for an air defense system [for] the future threat", e.g., a "radar [with] range of 1,000 miles, [to detect] at an altitude of 200 miles, and at a speed of 1,000 miles per hour".[9] The HQ AAF Director of Operations responded that "until the kind of defense needed to counter future attacks could be determined, AC&W planning would have to be restricted to the use of available radar sets".[10] CAF's January 1946 Radar Defense Report for Continental United States recommended the military characteristics of a post-war Air Defense System "based upon such advanced equipment",[11] and the Plans organization of HQ AAF reminded "the command that radar defense planning had to be based on the available equipment".[12] At the Watson Laboratories in New Jersey,[13] AMC's Electronics Subdivision held a "Manufacturers Conference" on 26–28 June 1946 for planning the "Improved Search Radar".[14]

Air Force separation edit

Planning to reorganize for a separate USAF had begun by fall 1945 Simpson Board to plan "the reorganization of the Army and the Air Force".[15] In January 1946 "Generals Eisenhower and Spaatz agreed on an Air Force organization [composed of] the Strategic Air Command, the Air Defense Command, the Tactical Air Command, the Air Transport Command and the supporting Air Technical Service Command, Air Training Command, the Air University, and the Air Force Center."[15]

Reorganization edit

The Continental Air Forces reorganization began by 31 January 1946 when Abilene Army Airfield was closed.[16][2] On 16 October 1945 CAF's Muroc Field was transferred from CAF to Air Technical Service Command. Moody Army Airfield transferred to AAF Training Command on 1 November 1945. CAF's Bolling Field was assigned control of Andrews Field on 3 January 1946 and also Richmond Army Air Base on 2 February 1946.

Tyndall Field transferred quickly to Continental Air Forces on 28 February 1946, then TAC, and the Air University (15 May 1946).[2][17] CAF had 13 bombardment groups transferred to its numbered air forces just before it was disestablished, e.g., 40th,[failed verification] 44th (2 AF), the 93d, 444th, 448th (became 92d), 449th, 467th (effectively became 301st), 485th, 498th (became 307th), 58th Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy[18][verification needed], and 73d Bombardment Wing, Very Heavy.

Interceptor and radar network plans at CAF HQ were passed on to ADC.[6] CAF installations reassigned on 21 March 1946 included Grandview transferred to the Army Division Engineers,[clarification needed] Mitchel Field to ADC, and both Tyndall Field and Army Air Base, Knob Knoster, to TAC.[2] After the HQ transfer to SAC on 21 March, numerous CAF airfields transferred to TAC, ADC, and AMC from 23 March 1946 to 16 March 1947:[2]

Air Defense Command's first Cold War network was the Lashup Radar Network, which was replaced by the Permanent System that included an improved search radar, which had been recommended by CAF. CAF's studies for computerized airborne early warning and control were developed into the 1950s Lincoln Transition System that became the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment.

Aftermath edit

Continental Air Forces was superseded by Strategic Air Command in 1946. In 1992 SAC was inactivated. On 7 August 2009 SAC was redesignated as Air Force Global Strike Command (AFGSC), and activated that same day. In 2020 AFGSC retained[clarification needed] the nuclear deterrence and global strike mission.

References edit

  1. ^ History of Strategic Air Command: Chapter III Operations and Training (Report). Vol. Historical Study No. 61. Historical Division, SAC Office of Information. Archived from the original (partial transcript at on 2 October 2013. Retrieved 27 September 2013. Continental Air Forces had executed...all Army Air Forces' responsibilities in the Zone of the Interior, including the redeployment of air power from the European to the Pacific Theater, the air defense of the United States, joint air-ground training, and the formation and command of a Continental Strategic Reserve on completion of redeployment. During the last four months of 1945 the Continental Air Forces had also been responsible for the demobilization of Army Air Forces personnel stationed in the Zone of the Interior. Dated 21 March tbd--declassified 11 October 1991.
  2. ^ a b c d e Mueller, Robert (1989). Air Force Bases (PDF) (Report). Vol. I: Active Air Force Bases Within the United States of America on 17 September 1982. Office of Air Force History. p. 600. ISBN 0-912799-53-6. Retrieved 15 August 2013.
  3. ^ a b Arnold, Henry H. (June 1944) [May 1944]. "Foreword". AAF: The Official Guide to the Army Air Forces. New York: Pocket Books. pp. 13–15.
  4. ^ quotation from Grant p. 1, which cites "ltr, Hq AAF to CG CAF, subj: Directive, 14 Dec 44, in Hist CAF, 15 Dec 44 – 21 Mar 46, doc 47"
  5. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 21 September 2013. Retrieved 28 September 2013.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  6. ^ a b c Grant, Dr C. L. (1 December 1944). The Development of Continental Air Defense to 1 September 1954 (Report). Vol. USAF Historical Studies: No. 126 (AU-126-54-RSI). Research Studies Institute (USAF Historical Division). Continental Air Forces, activated 12 December 1944, had been assigned the mission of continental air defense upon activation ... 26 July - United States Air Force created as co-equal of the Army and Navy.
  7. ^ author tbd (9 November 1983). Historical Summary: Radar Bomb Scoring, 1945–1983 ( transcription) (Report). Office of History, 1st Combat Evaluation Group. Retrieved 31 August 2013. On 24 July 1945, the 206th was redesignated the 63rd AAFBU (RBS) and three weeks later was moved to Mitchell Field, New York, and placed under the command of the Continental Air Force. {{cite report}}: |author= has generic name (help)
  8. ^ Futrell, Robert F. (July 1947). Development of AAF Base Facilities in the United States: 1939-1945 (Report). Vol. ARS-69: US Air Force Historical Study No 69 (Copy No. 2). Air Historical Office.
  9. ^ quotation from Grant, which cites: "Ltr, Hq CAF to CG AAF, subj: Defensive Communications and Electronics in the Postwar Period, 21 Jul 45, in Case Hist AC&W System, doc 4."
  10. ^ quotation from Grant Ch. V--citation 31 cites "1st Ind (ltr, Hq CAF to CG AAF, subj: Defensive Communications and Electronics in the Postwar Period, 21 Jul 45), Hq AAF to CG CAF, 30 Aug 45, in Case Hist AC&W System, doc 4."
  11. ^ the quotation from Grant Ch. V used citation 32 to cite a letter to "Guided Missile Br [in the] AC/AS-4 R&E Div" and a Hq CAF letter: R&R AC/AS-3, Guided Missiles Div to AC/AS-4 R&E Div, attn: Guided Missiles Br, subj: Military Characteristics of an Air Defense System, 23 Jan 46, in DRB War Plans Miscellaneous National Defense 1946-47, v2; ltr, Hq CAF to CG AAF, subj: Radar Defense Report for Continental United States, 28 Jan 46 in Case Hist AC&W System, doc 9." NOTE: Grant's text & citation indicate the Guided Missile Branch was in the HQ AAF Plans organization (Air Materiel Command had not yet been activated from its predecessors.)
  12. ^ Grant Ch. V citation 33
  13. ^ Grant's p. 8 citation 60 (also used in Ch. V citation 34) cites "AMC "Short Range Air Defense," Project Description as presented at Electronics Subdivision Manufacturers' Conference, 26-28 Jun 46, in Air University Library, Maxwell AFB, M-31353-S no. 4.07."
  14. ^ Grant Ch. V citation 34 cites "AMC, Improved Search Radar, Project Description as presented at Electronics Subdivision Manufacturers' Conference, 26–28 June 1946, in AUL M-31353-S, no 4.02; AMC, Short Range Air Defense, Project Description as presented to Electronics Subdivision Manufacturers' Conference, 26–28 June 1946, in AUL M-31353-S, no 4.07.
  15. ^ a b Leonard, Barry (2009). History of Strategic Air and Ballistic Missile Defense (PDF). Vol. II, 1955–1972. Fort McNair: Center for Military History. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-4379-2131-1. Archived from the original (PDF) on 16 December 2019. Retrieved 28 September 2013. In November 1945, General Dwight D. Eisenhower became Army Chief of Staff. One of General Eisenhower's first actions was to appoint a board of officers, headed by Lieutenant General W. H. Simpson, to prepare a definitive plan for the reorganization of the Army and the Air Force that could be effected without enabling legislation and would provide for the separation of the Air Force from the Army.
  16. ^ Grant p. 76 cites "ADS HS-9, Organization and Responsibility for Air Defense, March 1946-September 1955"
  17. ^ A Brief History of Keesler AFB and the 81st Training Wing (PDF) (Report). Vol. A-090203-089. Archived from the original (PDF) on 4 September 2012. Retrieved 8 July 2013.
  18. ^ Moody, Walton S. (1995). Building a Strategic Air Force. Air Force History and Museums Program. pp. 60, 62.