The Fifth Air Force (5 AF) is a numbered air force of the United States Air Force Pacific Air Forces (PACAF). It is headquartered at Yokota Air Base, Japan. It is the U.S. Air Force's oldest continuously serving Numbered Air Force. The organization has provided 80 years of continuous air power to the Pacific since its establishment in September 1941.
|Fifth Air Force|
|Active||5 February 1942 - present (as Fifth Air Force)|
5 February 1942 - 18 September 1942 (as 5 Air Force)
28 October 1941 - 5 February 1942 (Far Eastern Air Force)
16 August 1941 - 28 October 1941 (as Philippine Department Air Force)
(81 years, 1 month)
|Country||United States of America|
|Branch|| United States Air Force (18 September 1947 – present)|
United States Army ( Army Air Forces, 16 August 1941 – 18 September 1947)
|Type||Numbered Air Force|
|Role||Provide combat-ready air forces for U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and U.S. Forces Japan, along with serving as the air component for U.S. Forces Japan|
|Part of|| Pacific Air Forces|
U.S. Indo-Pacific Command
U.S. Forces Japan
|Headquarters||Yokota Air Base, Tokyo Metropolis, Japan|
|Commander||Lt Gen Ricky N. Rupp|
|Deputy Commander||Brig Gen Jesse J. Friedel|
|Command Chief||CCM Shawn M. Aiello|
Earle E. Partridge
Samuel E. Anderson
Fifth Air Force is the Headquarters Pacific Air Forces forward element in Japan, and maximizes partnership capabilities and promotes bilateral defense cooperation. In addition, 5 AF is the air component to United States Forces Japan.
Its mission is three-fold. First, it plans, conducts, controls, and coordinates air operations assigned by the PACAF Commander. Fifth Air Force maintains a level of readiness necessary for successful completion of directed military operations. And last, but certainly not least, Fifth Air Force assists in the mutual defense of Japan and enhances regional stability by planning, exercising, and executing joint air operations in partnership with Japan. To achieve this mission, Fifth Air Force maintains its deterrent force posture to protect both U.S. and Japanese interests, and conducts appropriate air operations should deterrence fail.
Fourteen Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses that survived the Battle of the Philippines left Mindanao for Darwin, Australia, between 17 and 20 December 1941, the only aircraft of the Far East Air Force to escape. After its evacuation from the Philippines on 24 December 1941, FEAF headquarters moved to Australia and was reorganized and redesignated 5 Air Force on 5 February 1942, with most of its combat aircraft based on fields on Java. It seemed at the time that the Japanese were advancing just about everywhere. The remaining heavy bombers of the 19th Bombardment Group, based at Malang on Java, flew missions against the Japanese in an attempt to stop their advance. They were joined in January and February, two or three at a time, by 37 B-17Es and 12 LB-30s of the 7th Bombardment Group. The small force of bombers, never numbering more than 20 operational at any time, could do little to prevent the invasion of the Netherlands East Indies, launching valiant but futile attacks against the masses of Japanese shipping, with six lost in combat, six in accidents, and 26 destroyed on the ground.
The 7th Bombardment Group was withdrawn to India in March 1942, leaving the 19th to carry on as the only B-17 Fortress-equipped group in the South Pacific. About this time it was decided that replacement B-17s would not be sent to the southwest Pacific, but be sent exclusively to the Eighth Air Force which was building up in England. By May, Fifth Air Force's surviving personnel and aircraft were detached to other commands and the headquarters remained unmanned for several months, but elements played a small part in the Battle of the Coral Sea (7–8 May 1942) when the 435th Bomb Squadron of the 19th Bomb Group saw the Japanese fleet gathering in Rabaul area nearly two weeks before the battle actually took place. Because of the reconnaissance activity of the 435th Bomb Squadron, the US Navy was prepared to cope adequately with the situation. The squadron was commended by the US Navy for its valuable assistance not only for its excellent reconnaissance work but for the part played in the battle.
Headquarters Fifth Air Force was re-staffed at Brisbane, Australia on 18 September 1942 and placed under the command of Major General George Kenney. United States Army Air Forces units in Australia, including Fifth Air Force, were eventually reinforced and re-organised following their initial defeats in the Philippines and the East Indies. At the time that Kenney had arrived, Fifth Air Force was equipped with three fighter groups and five bombardment groups.
In addition, Fifth Air Force controlled two transport squadrons and one photographic squadron comprising 1,602 officers and 18,116 men.
Kenney was later appointed commander of Allied air forces in the South West Pacific Area, reporting directly to General Douglas MacArthur. Under Kenney's leadership, the Fifth Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force provided the aerial spearhead for MacArthur's island hopping campaign.
On 4 November 1942, the Fifth Air Force commenced sustained action against the Japanese in Papua New Guinea and was a key component of the New Guinea campaign (1942–1945). Fifth Air Force engaged the Japanese again in the Philippines campaign (1944–45) as well as in the Battle of Okinawa (1945).
Fifth Air Force along with Thirteenth Air Force in the Central Pacific and Seventh Air Force in Hawaii were assigned to the newly created United States Far East Air Forces (FEAF) on 3 August 1944. FEAF was subordinate to the U.S. Army Forces Far East and served as the headquarters of Allied Air Forces Southwest Pacific Area. By 1945, the three numbered air forces were supporting operations throughout the Pacific. FEAF was the functional equivalent in the Pacific of the United States Strategic Air Forces (USSTAF) in the European Theater of Operations.
|V Fighter Command||Night Fighter Units||V Bomber Command||Photo Reconnaissance||54th Troop Carrier Wing|
|3d ACG (P-51, C-47)||418th NFS||3d BG (L) (B-25, A-20)||6th RG (F-5, F-7)||2d CCG|
|8th FG (P-40, P-38)||421st NFS||22d BG (M/H) (B-26 – B-24)||71st RG (B-25)||317th TCG|
|35th FG (P-47, P-51)||547th NFS||38th BG (M) (B-25)||374th TCG (1943 only)|
|49th FG (P-40, P-47, P-38)||43d BG (H) (B-24)||375th TCG|
|58th FG (P-47)||90th BG (H) (B-24)||433d TCG|
|348th FG (P-47, P-51)||312th BG (L) (A-20)|
|475th FG (P-38)||345th BG (M) (B-25)|
|380th BG (H) (B-24)|
|417th BG (L) (A-20)|
LEGEND: ACG – Air Commando Group, FG – Fighter Group, NFS – Night Fighter Squadron, BG (L) – Light Bomb Group, BG (M) – Medium Bomb Group, BG (H) – Heavy Bomb Group, RG – Reconnaissance Group, CCG – Combat Cargo Group, TCG – Troop Carrier Group
When the war ended, Fifth Air Force had an unmatched record of 3,445 aerial victories, led by the nation's two top fighter aces Major Richard Bong and Major Thomas McGuire, with 40 and 38 confirmed victories respectively, and two of Fifth Air Force's ten Medal of Honor recipients.
Shortly after World War II ended in August, Fifth Air Force relocated to Irumagawa Air Base, Japan, about 25 September 1945 as part of the Allied occupation forces. The command remained in Japan until 1 December 1950 performing occupation duties.
for the units, stations and type aircraft flown in combat during the war (25 June 1950 – 27 July 1953)
In 1950, Fifth Air Force was called upon again, becoming the main United Nations Command combat air command during the Korean War, and assisted in bringing about the Korean Armistice Agreement that formally ended the war in 1953.
In the early morning hours of 25 June, North Korea launched a sudden, all-out attack against the south. Reacting quickly to the invasion, Fifth Air Force units provided air cover over the skies of Seoul. The command transferred to Seoul on 1 December 1950, remaining in South Korea until 1 September 1954.
In this first Jet War, units assigned to the Fifth Air Force racked up an unprecedented 14.5 to 1 victory ratio. By the time the truce was signed in 1953, Fifth Air Force had flown over 625,000 missions, downing 953 North Korean and Chinese aircraft, while close air support accounted for 47 percent of all enemy troop casualties.
Thirty-eight fighter pilots were identified as aces, including Lieutenant Colonel James Jabara, America's first jet ace; and Captain Joseph McConnell, the leading Korean War ace with 16 confirmed victories. Additionally, four Medals of Honor were awarded to Fifth Air Force members. One other pilot of note was Marine Major John Glenn, who flew for Fifth Air Force as part of an exchange program.
With the end of combat in Korea, Fifth Air Force returned to normal peacetime readiness Japan in 1954.
Not only concerned with maintaining a strong tactical posture for the defense of both Japan and South Korea, Fifth Air Force played a critical role in helping the establishment of the Japan Air Self-Defense Force as well as the Republic of Korea Air Force. These and other peacetime efforts lasted a decade before war clouds once again developed in the Pacific.
This time, the area of concern was Southeast Asia, beginning in 1964 with the Gulf of Tonkin Crisis. Fifth Air Force furnished aircraft, aircrews, Support personnel, and supplies throughout the eight years of combat operations in South Vietnam and Laos. Since 1972, the Pacific has seen relative calm, but that doesn't mean Fifth Air Force hasn't been active in other roles. The command has played active or supporting roles in a variety of issues ranging from being first on the scene at the Korean Air Lines Flight 007 shoot down in 1983 to deploying personnel and supplies for the Persian Gulf War in 1990.
During this time span, the size of Fifth Air Force changed as well. With the activation of Seventh Air Force in 1986, fifth left the Korean Peninsula and focused its energy on continuing the growing bilateral relationship with Japan.
The Fifth Air Force's efforts also go beyond combat operations. Fifth Air force has reacted to natural disasters in Japan and abroad. These efforts include the Great Hanshin earthquake in 1995 and Super Typhoon Paka which hit Guam in 1997. Fifth Air Force has reached out to provide assistance to victims of floods, typhoons, volcanoes, and earthquakes throughout the region.
The 432d Tactical Fighter Wing flew F-16s from Misawa Air Base from July 1, 1984 – October 31, 1994. On the inactivation of the wing, its personnel, aircraft, and other assets were used to reform the 35th Fighter Wing.
Today, according to the organization's website, major components include the 18th Wing, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa Prefecture, Japan; the 35th Fighter Wing at Misawa Air Base, and the 374th Airlift Wing at Yokota Air Base. Kadena AB hosts the 18th Wing, the largest combat wing in the USAF. The Wing includes F-15 fighters, KC-135 refuelers, E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System aircraft, and HH-60G Pave Hawk rescue helicopters, and represents a major combat presence and capability in the Western Pacific. The 35th Fighter Wing, Misawa Air Base, Japan, includes two squadrons equipped with the most modern Block 50 F-16 variant, dedicated to the suppression of enemy air defenses. The final formation is the 374th Airlift Wing, at Yokota Air Base, Japan.
According to a 2017 study by two US Navy commanders, in case of a surprise Chinese ballistic missile attack against airbases in Japan, more than 200 U.S. aircraft would be trapped or destroyed on the ground in the first hours of the conflict.
Fifth Air Force is not to be confused with a second "Fifth" air force created as a temporary establishment to handle combat operations after the outbreak of hostilities on 25 June 1950, in Korea. This numbered air force was established as Fifth Air Force, Advance, and organized at Itazuki AB, Japan, assigned to Fifth Air Force, on 14 July 1950. It moved to Taegu AB, South Korea, on 24 July 1950, and was redesignated Fifth Air Force in Korea at the same time. After moving, it apparently received command control from U.S. Far East Air Forces. The establishment operated from Pusan, Taegu, and Seoul before being discontinued on 1 December 1950.
Wings (incomplete listing)
|Portrait||Name||Took office||Left office||Term length|
Henry C. Morrow
|3 September 1942||5 June 1944||1 year, 276 days|
Ennis C. Whitehead
|15 June 1944||4 October 1945||1 year, 111 days|
Kenneth B. Wolfe
|4 October 1945||16 January 1948||2 years, 104 days|
Thomas D. White
|16 January 1948||6 October 1948||264 days|
Earle E. Partridge
|6 October 1948||21 May 1951||2 years, 227 days|
Edward J. Timberlake
|21 May 1951||1 June 1951||11 days|
Frank F. Everest
|1 June 1951||30 May 1952||364 days|
Glenn O. Barcus
|30 May 1952||31 May 1953||1 year, 1 day|
Samuel E. Anderson
|31 May 1953||1 June 1954||1 year, 1 day|
Roger M. Ramey
|1 June 1954||20 June 1956||2 years, 19 days|
Frederic H. Smith Jr.
|20 June 1956||4 August 1958||2 years, 45 days|
Robert W. Burns
|4 August 1958||6 July 1961||2 years, 336 days|
Robert F. Tate
|6 July 1961||2 August 1961||27 days|
Jacob E. Smart
|2 August 1961||30 July 1963||1 year, 362 days|
Maurice A. Preston
|30 July 1963||1 August 1966||3 years, 2 days|
Seth J. McKee
|1 August 1966||13 July 1968||1 year, 347 days|
Thomas K. McGehee
|13 July 1968||24 February 1970||1 year, 226 days|
Gordon M. Graham
|24 February 1970||15 November 1972||2 years, 265 days|
Robert E. Pursley
|15 November 1972||1 March 1974||1 year, 106 days|
Edward P. McNeff
|1 March 1974||8 May 1974||68 days|
Walter T. Galligan
|8 May 1974||22 June 1977||3 years, 45 days|
George G. Loving Jr.
|22 June 1977||14 June 1979||1 year, 357 days|
William H. Ginn Jr.
|14 June 1979||5 August 1981||2 years, 52 days|
Charles L. Donnelly Jr.
|5 August 1981||19 July 1984||2 years, 349 days|
Edward L. Tixier
|19 July 1984||22 January 1988||3 years, 187 days|
James B. Davis
|22 January 1988||18 July 1991||3 years, 177 days|
James M. Johnston III
|18 July 1991||9 August 1991||22 days|
Richard E. Hawley
|9 August 1991||13 November 1993||2 years, 96 days|
Richard B. Myers
|13 November 1993||18 June 1996||2 years, 218 days|
Ralph E. Eberhart
|18 June 1996||27 June 1997||1 year, 9 days|
John B. Hall Jr.
|27 June 1997||3 September 1999||2 years, 68 days|
Paul V. Hester
|3 September 1999||19 November 2001||2 years, 77 days|
Thomas C. Waskow
|19 November 2001||10 February 2005||3 years, 83 days|
Bruce A. Wright
|10 February 2005||25 February 2008||3 years, 15 days|
Edward A. Rice Jr.
|25 February 2008||October 2010||~2 years, 218 days|
Burton M. Field
|October 2010||20 July 2012||~1 year, 293 days|
Salvatore A. Angelella
|20 July 2012||5 June 2015||2 years, 320 days|
John L. Dolan
|5 June 2015||6 October 2016||1 year, 123 days|
Jerry P. Martinez
|6 October 2016||5 February 2019||2 years, 122 days|
Kevin B. Schneider
|5 February 2019||27 August 2021||2 years, 203 days|
Ricky N. Rupp
|27 August 2021||Incumbent||1 year, 41 days|
This article incorporates public domain material from the Air Force Historical Research Agency.