4417th Air Expeditionary Force
Almost 1,200 personnel from the 4417th Air Expeditionary Force set up camp at Shaheed Mwaffaq Air Base near Azraq, Jordon between 30 March and 28 June 1996. The Air Force dubbed the deployed contingent in Azraq: "AEF II." The first expeditionary force went to Shaikh Isa Air Base in Bahrain in October 1995 for 45 days; however, only one aircraft type-18 F-16s-and two bases-about 650 people from Moody AFB, Ga. and Shaw AFB, S.C.-deployed to Bahrain during AEF I.
Of the 1,200 Air Force people at Azraq, enlisted members outnumbered officers 10 to 1. The AEF wes flying 34 aircraft-12 F-15C's from the 94th Fighter Squadron at Langley, to provide air superiority; 12 F-16CG's from the 68th FS at Moody AFB, Ga., used primarily for its air-to-ground role and dropping precision-guided munitions; six F-16CJ's from the 389th FS at Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, to suppress enemy air defenses and knock out SAM sites; and four KC-135R's from the 96th Air Refueling Squadron at Fairchild AFB, Wash., to gas up jets in flight. A typical Operation Southern Watch mission out of Azraq consisted of 12 AEF aircraft, along with the EF-111A Raven, Airborne Early Warning and Control System and Rivet Joint electronic reconnaissance aircraft from Saudi Arabia.
The KC-135 refueling crews worked 25 miles northeast of Azraq at Prince Hassan Air Base but still lived at the Azraq base. Four KC-135T refueling tankers rested at H-5 on the flight line at Prince Hassan Air Base, Jordan, awaiting their mission in support of Air Force F-15 and F-16 fighters stationed at Shaheed Mwaffaq Air Base. Aircrews are flying with an Air Mobility Command waiver for the width of the Prince Hassan taxiway. The normal requirement is 75 feet wide, said Cook. The taxiway is 70 feet. Because of the taxiway's width, when the tankers take off, their engines extend over the edges of the taxiway kicking up sand and dust. Pilots had to be extremely careful. One misplaced rock in an engine could destroy it. In conjunction with the AEF goal of building American-Jordanian relationships, the AEF headed renovations to extend the width of the taxiway. The taxiway renovation efforts are in line with the spirit of good will and mutual cooperation that had been evident since the arrival of H-5 members.
The AEF's mission included building strong Jordanian relationships, training with Jordan and participating in Operation Southern Watch by flying combat missions to enforce United Nations sanctions in the "no-fly" zone, an area below Iraq's 32nd parallel.
For four months, the 4417th Air Expeditionary Force (Provisional) made a home at a desert airfield outside of Doha, Qatar. The 4th Fighter Wing from Seymour-Johnson AFB, N.C., was AEF III's host unit. The rest of the force was made up of people and aircraft from the 33rd Fighter Wing, Eglin AFB, Fla.; 20th FW, Shaw AFB, S.C.; and the 319th Air Refueling Wing, Grand Forks AFB, N.D. More than 30 aircraft and 1,000 people from four bases made up AEF III in Qatar, providing rapid, responsive and reliable airpower to meet specific theater needs for a wide range of capabilities.
Air Force fighters, bombers and tankers, assigned to Air Expeditionary Force III and stateside bases played a large role supporting "Rugged Nautilus," a joint exercise held in July and August in the Arabian Gulf. The short-notice deployment exercise was designed to test U.S. Central Command's ability to rapidly gather and organize forces in theater. It also showed how joint forces can quickly establish a command-and-control element to execute air, ground and naval surface operations, and then exercise and evaluate their operations. The Air Force role in Rugged Nautilus was embodied in AEF III, which flew 23 percent of the sorties in the exercise. Meanwhile, AEF III continued to support Operation Southern Watch over Iraq.
One typical AEF III mission for Rugged Nautilus originated from Barksdale shortly after noon Aug. 1. B-52s from the 2nd Bomb Wing flew to Udairi Weapons Range in Kuwait, where they each dropped 27 live 750-pound bombs. When the heavy bombers returned to Barksdale, they had logged more than 16,000 miles on the 35-hour round trip that included six refuelings. This was the first time bombers flew with an AEF, and officials say this showed the B-52's ability to reach out and touch someone anytime and anywhere.
The AEF is a relatively new Air Force concept that uses aircraft, people and equipment from several different wings to deploy rapidly around the world wherever needed, and to hit targets hard and fast. The first AEF was an 18-aircraft proof-of-concept deployment to Bahrain in October 1995. The second AEF took 30 aircraft to Jordan in April. AEF III marks the first time the bombers have participated in theater. AEF IV deployed in February 1997, to AEF III site in Qatar.
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