14th Air Force

Fourteenth Air Force is headquartered at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. It is responsible for the organization, training, equipping, command and control (C2), and employment of Air Force space forces to support operational plans and missions for U.S. combatant commanders and air component commanders. Fourteenth Air Force is the sole numbered air force for space and is the Air Force's space task force to U.S. Strategic Command, located at Offutt AFB, Neb.


Fourteenth Air Force traces its roots to the late 1930s when Claire L. Chennault organized a group of American civilian volunteer pilots to fight the Japanese in the China-Burma-India theater. Throughout World War II, the Flying Tigers, known for the distinctive tiger shark paintings on their P-40's, compiled a stellar war record against numerically superior forces. Following several post-war reorganizations that included a variety of reserve and airlift roles, 14th Air Force became the 14th Aerospace Force (AEROF) in 1968, the first command dedicated to space surveillance and tracking. In 1993, 14th Air Force was restructured in its space role, becoming a numbered Air Force within Air Force Space Command.


The Fourteenth Air Force mission is to control and exploit space for global and theater operations. The organization is comprised of a headquarters, a space operations command and control center, and five subordinate wings that conduct a full range of space operations. As the day-to-day operators of Air Force Space Command's space forces, 14th Air Force provides space capabilities that ensure global presence, vigilance and reach for the nation. The unit performs five key missions:

C2 of Space Forces - Plan, task, direct and synchronize space operations to support global and theater missions.

Space Superiority - Provide surveillance, tracking and intelligence of more than 22,000 man-made objects ranging from active and inactive satellites to vehicle fragments, using a variety of sensors such as phased-array radars and optical surveillance systems. Conduct defensive and offensive counterspace operations, and space environment assessments.

Surveillance, Warning, and Battlefield Characterization - Provide global and theater ballistic missile warning (strategic and tactical) and tracking capabilities to the U.S. and allied nations through the employment of satellite sensors and phased array radars.

Satellite and Network Operations - Command and control over 100 satellites that provide weather, communications, navigation, and surveillance-warning capabilities and operate a global network of satellite control centers and stations supporting a variety of defense and civil users.

Space Launch and Range - Provide assured access to space and conduct launch operations from Western and Eastern U.S. launch sites to support military, civil and commercial users. Additionally, operates ranges to include testing and evaluating space, air, and missile systems.


Fourteenth Air Force is comprised of nearly 20,000 men and women who conduct or support 24-hour operations involving 28 weapons. This includes 7,600 military, 6,600 civilians, and 11,200 contractor personnel.


Fourteenth Air Force is comprised of five wings and a Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC). This includes 155 units at 44 locations worldwide. The JSpOC, headquartered at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., is comprised of approximately 155 military and civilians. It provides 24-hour C2 of all space operations forces. The JSpOC conducts space combat planning and directs space combat operations across the spectrum of conflict (peace, crisis, war) by planning, tasking, synchronizing, integrating, and assessing execution of assigned and attached worldwide space forces.

Operational Space Capabilities

Spacelift operations at the East and West Coast launch bases provide services, facilities and range safety control for the conduct of DoD, National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and commercial launches. Through the C2 of all DoD satellites, satellite operators provide force-multiplying effects such as continuous global coverage, low vulnerability and autonomous operations. Satellites provide essential in-theater secure communications, weather and navigational data for ground, air and fleet operations, and threat warning. Ground-based radar and Defense Support Program satellites monitor ballistic missile launches around the world to guard against a surprise attack on North America. Space surveillance radars provide vital information on the location of satellites and space debris for the nation and the world.


Fourteenth Air Force operates and supports the Global Positioning System, Defense Satellite Communications Systems II/III, Defense Meteorological Support Program, Defense Support Program, NATO III and IV communications and Fleet Satellite Communications System UHF follow-on and MILSTAR satellites. The unit currently operates the Atlas II, Delta II, Titan II and Titan IV launch vehicles. This includes all of the nation's primary boosters from the Eastern and Western ranges. Fourteenth Air Force also operates a worldwide network of satellite tracking stations to provide communications links to satellites.

Ground-based radars used primarily for ballistic missile warning include the Ballistic Missile Early Warning System, PAVE PAWS and PARCS radars. The Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance System, phased-array and mechanical radars provide space surveillance coverage.

The 21st Space Wing, headquartered at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., is the Air Force's only organization providing worldwide missile warning, space situational awareness and space superiority capabilities to unified commanders and combat forces worldwide, making us a vital component of our nation's defense.

The wing provides missile warning and space control to North American Aerospace Defense Command in Colorado Springs, Colo., and U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt AFB, Neb., through a network of command and control units and ground sensors operated by geographically separated units around the world. The wing provides early warning of strategic and theater ballistic missile attacks and foreign space launches. The men and women of the 21st SW also detect, track and catalog more than 22,000 orbiting objects in space. The 21st manages and controls 42 units in 16 states and nine countries, spanning 15 time zones around the world. Made up of more than 4,500 military, civilians and contractors, it also operates and supports Cheyenne Mountain Air Force Station, Colo.; Cavalier AFS, N.D.; Cape Cod AFS, Mass.; Clear AFS, Alaska; and Thule Air Base, Greenland.

At Peterson, the wing supports a myriad of mission partners, including North American Aerospace Defense Command, U.S. Northern Command, Air Force Space Command, Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Strategic Command, and the 302nd Airlift Wing (Reserve) for a total of 53 mission partners. About 11,000 personnel (including Airmen, Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Coast Guardsmen, civil servants, and contractors) pass through the gates every day, and the wing is also responsible for providing services to more than 17,000 retirees in the Colorado Springs area.

Lastly, the wing is tasked with providing combat-ready and disciplined forces to deploy worldwide in response to combatant commander taskings. Approximately 15 percent of the wing's military personnel deploy each year in support of overseas contingency operations.

The 30th Space Wing, headquartered at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif., conducts and supports space lift operations, including processing and launching Atlas and Titan rockets that carry Department of Defense, civil and commercial satellites into polar orbits. The 30th SW also supports flight tests of the nation's intercontinental ballistic missile force. The wing provides support for aircraft testing, booster tests, and ICBM force development evaluation through operations at the Western Range, a geographic region consisting of instrumentation sites along the California coast and extending downrange to Hawaii.

As the host wing, the 30th also provides support services for the Vandenberg community, composed of about 2,500 civilians and military.

The45th Space Wing, headquartered at Patrick Air Force Base, Fla., oversees the preparation and launching of U.S. government, civil and commercial satellites from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., and operates the Eastern Range.

The wing provides launch facilities, property and services to support NASA and commercial space operations from Cape Canaveral AFS, the historic base for man's quest of space flight. It was from the Cape that Alan Shepard, John Glenn and many other space pioneers first rocketed into the unknown. It was also location from which the first commercial launch happened to the International Space Station.

The approximately 2,000 civilians and military personnel of the 45th Space Wing also provide support to Navy submarine and missile test operations at Cape Canaveral. The wing's more than 11,000 government and contractor personnel are located at Patrick AFB, Cape Canaveral AFS, Antigua Air Station and Ascension Auxiliary Airfield.

The 50th Space Wing is located at Schriever Air Force Base, Colo., and operates and supports more than 150 Department of Defense satellites and provides installation support to 15 major tenant units with a workforce of more than 8,100 personnel. The wing operates and supports satellite programs including the Global Positioning System, Defense Satellite Communications System, Wideband Global SATCOM, Milstar, Defense Meteorological Satellite Program, Space Based Space Surveillance, Operationally Responsive Space-1, Advanced Extremely High Frequency and the worldwide Air Force Satellite Control Network supporting more than 150 satellites. The wing operates satellite operation centers at Schriever AFB and remote tracking stations and other command and control facilities around the world. Through these facilities, wing personnel monitor satellites during launch, put satellites in their proper orbits following launch, operate the satellites while they are in orbit, ensure effective and efficient satellites operations and properly dispose of the satellites at their end of life.

The 460th Space Wing is the installation host for Buckley Air Force Base and provides space-based missile warning and battle space awareness for the U.S., national decision-makers, combatant commanders, and allies around the globe. The "Panthers" perform this mission 365 days per year, 24-hours-a-day, seven days a week. Per their vision, they are "America's premier space wing providing unrivaled space operations and installation support for the Nation's defense."

The 460th accomplishes its mission by operating three different weapon systems: the legacy Defense Support Program (DSP), the "taskable" Highly-Elliptical Orbit Space-Based Infrared System (HEO SBIRS), and the DoD's most advanced and newest satellite, the Geosynchronous Earth Orbit Space-Based Infrared System (GEO SBIRS).

Unlike other space wings, the 460th not only commands and controls its satellites, but it also processes the mission data; missile warning, battle space awareness, technical intelligence, and nuclear detection.

Other key missions performed at Buckley include: F-16 flying operations and mobile space warning operations by the Colorado Air National Guard; helicopter (Chinook, Blackhawk, and Lakota) flight operations by the Colorado Army National Guard; intelligence operations by the Aerospace Data Facility-Colorado; intelligence operations by the Naval Operational Support Center; and personnel services by the Air Reserve Personnel Center.

As the Buckley host, the wing provides installation support to 83 partner organizations comprising over 14,000 military and civilian personnel (every military service and component, and foreign allies representatives) who work on the base, as well as nearly 90,000 retirees across the Front Range.