Operation Enduring Freedom - Deployments
Roughly 150 aircraft were intially deployed for Operation Enduring Freedom, including some two dozen bombers and support aircraft. Lt. General Charles F. Wald, Commander of Air Forces assigned to the Middle East and South West Asia, left for Prince Sultan AB near Riyadh, Saudi Arabia in late September 2001. Prior to Operation Enduring Freedom there were 175 aircraft already in the region.
Other deployments include B-52s from the 5th Bomb Wing based at Minot AFB and the 917th Wing from Barksdale, which would be deployed to Diego Garcia. The exact number of B-52s being deployed was not disclosed, but 9 left Barksdale on 21 September 2001. B-1B bombers from the 28th Bomb Wing at Ellsworth and the 34th Bomb Squadron at Mountain Home were also deployed.
As of the end of November 2001 8 B-1s and 10 B-52s were deployed to Diego Garcia. The commanding officer at Ellsworth Air Force Base, Colonel Edward Rice, deployed to Diego Garcia where he commanded the 28th Air Expeditionary Wing. This unit consisted of B-1 Lancer bombers from Ellsworth and B-52 Stratofortress bombers from other bases.
F-15s from Langley Air Force Base and Okinawa also reportedly received deployment orders, and additional orders were initially anticipated for other F-15s, F-16s, and F-117s. As of 26 October 2001 it was reported that the Air Force had flown two F-15E attack planes nearly every day because it was the only aircraft that could carry 5,000 pound bunker-busting bombs or the AGM-130 long-range television-guided missile.
Refueling aircraft from Fairchild and Beale Air Force Bases had also been deployed, as had E-3 AWACS from undisclosed locations. U-2 spy planes and RC-135 Rivet Joint reconnaissance aircraft were included in Secretary Rumsfeld's second deployment order. C-130 cargo planes were reported to have landed in Uzbekistan at a former Soviet air field located near Tashkent. The planes were carrying equipment and roughly 100 US personnel. Combat Search and Rescue Units were prepared for deployment, reportedly to Uzbekistan or Tajikistan. France also agreed to let US forces operate out of its base at Djibouti.
In late November 2001 it was reported that three additional AC-130 gunships were deploying to Uzbekistan, adding to the 6 AC-130s that had flown missions from Oman. On 21 November 2001 the Pentagon asked Uzbekistan to accept three AC-130 Special Forces gunships.
On 28 November 2001 CENTCOM Commander General Tommy R. Franks stated that additional attack aircraft from the United States and France (and possibly other nations) would be sent to Central Asia in early December 2001. Kyrgyzstan was reportedly the most likely base for most of the aircraft. The movement of aircraft would include F-15E fighter-bombers and A-10 attack jets, deployed for the first time in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. The squadron of 24 fighter aircraft in Kyrgyzstan would consist of 6 F-15E's, 6 F-18's, and 6 other jets, either A-10's or F-16's, and 6 French fighters. France reportedly requested permission to base 6 Mirage-2000 multi-purpose fighter bombers, 2 C-130 tanker aircraft and 200 technicians in Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.
As a result of the intense level of effort required to support Operations Noble Eagle and Enduring Freedom, by late October 2001 the Air Force had impacted established Air Expeditionary Force deployment plans. A large portion of people assigned to support AEFs 7 and 8 were deployed. Additionally, some assets aligned against AEFs 9 and 10 had been tasked to deploy and in a very limited number of cases the Air Force had deployed people aligned against AEFs 1, 2 and beyond. As the Air Force weighed its options for future action, there was the potential for a delay in rotating deployed forces as scheduled under the established AEF rotation plan. The mission, theater commander requirements, and airlift constraints are all contributing factors to possibly extending those currently deployed.
In early March 2002 reinforcements included Air Force A-10's, which left their base in Kuwait to conduct attacks from a base in Pakistan. It was the first time that the A-10 ground attack planes had been used in the war.
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