Eighth Air Force is one of two active duty numbered air forces in Air Force Global Strike Command. Eighth Air Force, with headquarters at Barksdale AFB, in the Bossier City - Shreveport, La. metro area, supports U.S. Joint Forces Command, and is designated as U.S. Strategic Command's Task Force 204, providing on-alert, combat-ready forces to the president. The mission of "The Mighty Eighth" is to safeguard America's interests through strategic deterrence and global combat power. Eighth Air Force controls long-range nuclear-capable bomber assets throughout the United States and overseas locations. Its flexible, conventional and nuclear deterrence mission provides the capability to deploy forces and engage enemy threats from home station or forward positioned, anywhere, any time. The 8th Air Force motto is "Deterrence through strength, global strike on demand."
The mission of the Mighty Eighth is to safeguard America's interests through strategic deterrence and global combat power. The flexible, conventional and nuclear strategic mission gives Eighth Air Force the ability to deploy forces and engage enemy threats both from home station or forward positioned, anywhere and at any time.
The Eighth Air Force team consists of more than 16,000 active-duty, Air National Guard and Reserve professionals operating and maintaining a variety of aircraft capable of deploying air power to any area of the world. This air power includes the heart of America's heavy bomber force: the B-1B Lancer, B-2 Spirit and B-52 Stratofortress.
Under Air Force Global Strike Command since Feb. 1, 2010, Eighth Air Force controls strategic bomber assets throughout the United States and overseas locations. Eighth Air Force is organized as a general purpose numbered Air Force with a warfighting mission to support the U.S. Joint Forces and U.S. Strategic Commands. The Eighth Air Force has three wings, two Air Force Reserve Total Force Integration wings and one detachment in the continental United States. Major bases and units include:
The 2nd Bomb Wing, located at Barksdale Air Force Base, La., conducts the primary mission of Barksdale Air Force Base, La., with three squadrons of B-52H Stratofortress bombers. The 2nd Bomb Wing provides flexible, responsive, global combat capability, autonomously or in concert with other forces, and trains all Air Force Global Strike Command and Air Force Reserve B-52 crews.
The 5th Bomb Wing, located at Minot Air Force Base, N.D., and its fleet of B-52H Stratofortress bombers serve as part of the Air Force's conventional and strategic combat force. The men and women of the wing are capable of flying anywhere around the world and delivering a wide range of precision-guided munitions
The 7th Bomb Wing, located at Dyess Air Force Base, Texas, provides world class Airmen and air power for the warfighter. It is also charged with producing combat-ready aircrews in the Air Force's only B-1B formal training unit. Groups assigned to the wing include the 7th Operations Group, the 7th Maintenance Group, the 7th Mission Support Group and the 7th Medical Group. In addition, the wing provides host-unit support for the 317th Airlift Group also stationed at the base.
The 28th Bomb Wing, located at Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., guarantees combat airpower for America. The base is home to more than 3,700 Airmen and is one of only two B-1B Lancer bases in the world. The 28th Bomb Wing is comprised of several wing staff agencies and four groups, including the 28th Operations Group, the 28th Maintenance Group, the 28th Mission Support Group and the 28th Medical Group.
The 509th Bomb Wing, located at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo., is one of only two Air Force units to operate the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber. The unit can launch combat sorties directly from Missouri to any spot on the globe, engaging adversaries with large payloads of traditional or precision-guided munitions.
The 608th Ira C. Eaker Air & Space Operations Center is the "Mighty Eighth's" senior element of our global warfighting Command and Control capabilities. The AOC operates at the operational level of warfare; where specific missions are planned, integrated, controlled and assessed. At this level, the 608th AOC conducts global operations and intelligence motoring for situational awareness, develops integrated executable plans and tasking orders for selected courses of action and provides command and control capability for execution of assigned Global Strike forces when directed.
Task Force 204 is the Air Force's nuclear command center responsible for the day-to-day capability provided by bombers and RISNO (Reconnaissance in Support of Nuclear Operations) assets. Task Force 204 presents worldwide strategic bomber and reconnaissance capabilities to U.S. Strategic Command and ensures assigned bomber and reconnaissance forces are able to perform their taskings under the U.S. Strategic Command's Operations Plan. The task force also actively monitors force generation for bomber and reconnaissance assets, weapons stockpiles and nuclear force training.
In addition, two other wings, the 917th Wing (AFRC), Barksdale AFB, La. and the 131st Bomb Wing (ANG), Whiteman AFB, Mo., work with 8th Air Force as well the 102nd Air Operations Group, 102nd Intelligence Wing (ANG), Otis Air National Guard Base, Mass.
The B-2 Spirit is a long-range nuclear and conventional stealthy bomber. The bomber can fly at high subsonic speeds at altitudes that can reach 50,000 feet. Its unrefueled range is at least 6,000 nautical miles. The B-2 brings massive firepower, in a short time, anywhere on the globe through the most challenging defenses.
The B-52 Stratofortress is a long-range, nuclear and conventional heavy bomber that can perform a variety of missions. The bomber can fly at high subsonic speeds at altitudes reaching 50,000 feet. It has an unrefueled combat range in excess of 8,800 miles. It can carry precision-guided ordnance with worldwide precision navigation.
The VIII Bomber Command (later redesignated Eighth Air Force on Feb. 22, 1944) was activated as part of the U.S. Army Air Force on Feb. 1, 1942, at Langley Field, Va. About ten days later, the VIII Bomber Command joined its parent unit, Eighth Air Force at Hunter Field in Savannah, Ga. Thirteen days later, Brig. Gen. Ira C. Eaker took VIII Bomber Command to Daws Hill, England. Once on English soil, a permanent home for VIII Bomber Command was soon established. From May 1942 until July 1945, VIII Bomber Command would plan and execute the American daylight, precision, and strategic bombing campaign over Nazi-occupied Europe from a former girls school at High Wycombe, England.
During World War II, under the leadership of such generals as Ira Eaker and Jimmy Doolittle, the VIII Bomber Command became the greatest air armada in history. On Feb. 22, 1944, the Army reorganized its Air Forces in Europe. In redesignation actions, Eighth Air Force became the United States Strategic Air Forces in Europe (now the United States Air Forces in Europe), and the VIII Bomber Command became Eighth Air Force. By mid-1944, Eighth Air Force had reached a total strength of more than 200,000 people (it is estimated that more than 350,000 Americans served in Eighth Air Force during the war in Europe.) At peak strength, Eighth Air Force could dispatch more than 2,000 four-engine bombers and more than 1,000 fighters on a single mission. For these reasons, Eighth Air Force became known as the "Mighty Eighth."
The Mighty Eighth compiled an impressive record in the war. This achievement, however, carried a high price. Half of the U.S. Army Air Force's casualties in WW II were suffered by Eighth Air Force (more than 47,000 casualties, with more than 26,000 dead). Seventeen Medals of Honor went to Eighth Air Force personnel during the war. By war's end, they had been awarded a number of other medals to include 220 Distinguished Service Crosses, and 442,000 Air Medals. Many more awards were made to Eighth Air Force veterans after the war that remain uncounted. There were 261 fighter aces in the Eighth Air Force during World War II. Thirty-one of these aces had 15 or more aircraft kills apiece. Another 305 enlisted gunners were also recognized as aces.
Following the end of the war in Europe, Eighth Air Force headquarters moved to Okinawa in July 1945, to train new bomber groups for combat against Japan. However, the Japanese surrendered before Eighth Air Force saw action in the Pacific theater. In June 1946, the headquarters moved to MacDill Field, Fla., to join the newly established Strategic Air Command. In November 1950, the headquarters transferred to Fort Worth Army Air Field (later Carswell AFB), Texas.
Eighth Air Force spent the next few years building its strategic capabilities. As a result, the Eighth had a minimal role in the Korean War, only deploying the 27th Fighter Wing to fly combat missions over Korea. On June 13, 1955, Eighth Air Force moved to Westover AFB, Mass., and began the transition to the jet age with the B-47 and KC-97 aircraft. These aircraft were phased out in the early 1960s and were replaced by the KC-135 tankers, the Atlas Inter-Continental Ballistic Missile (ICBM), the Titan I ICBM, and early models of the current workhorse, the B-52.
Eighth Air Force was called upon again in 1965 to perform combat missions in Southeast Asia. The Eighth periodically deployed its stateside-based B-52 bomber and KC-135 tanker units to operating bases in Guam, Okinawa and Thailand. In April 1970, Eighth Air Force Headquarters transferred to Andersen AFB, Guam to direct these operations. The intensive bombing of the Hanoi and Haiphong areas during the 11-day period in December 1972, known as Linebacker II, or the Christmas-Day Bombing Campaign, was but one highlight of the period. Those bombing missions influenced the North Vietnamese government to return to the negotiating table. Following the end of hostilities in Southeast Asia, Eighth Air Force moved to its current home, Barksdale AFB, La., replacing Second Air Force on Jan. 1, 1975.
In the 1980s, the Eighth participated in several key operations such as operating the tanker task force for Operation Urgent Fury in 1983 and directing all air refueling operations for Operation El Dorado Canyon in 1986 and Operation Just Cause in 1989.
Eighth Air Force units played a key role in Operation Desert Shield, and Operation Desert Storm, spearheading the combat phase with B-52G strikes from Barksdale Air Force Base, LA. The B-52s launched conventional air-launched cruise missiles on Iraq targets to begin the war. Eighth Air Force units, temporarily forward deployed into the Persian Gulf region, bombed Iraq's Republican Guard forces and other key strategic targets during the conflict. The majority of air refueling and tactical reconnaissance assets came from the Mighty Eighth as well.
On Dec. 16, 1998, Eighth Air Force was once again called into action during Operation Desert Fox. Joining other allied forces in the Arabian Gulf, B-52s, as well as B-1 bombers, in their combat debut, participated in the air strike campaign to reduce Iraq's weapons of mass destruction program and other strategic targets.
Units from the "Mighty Eighth" returned to combat in Europe for the first time in more than 50 years during Operation Allied Force, March 24 through June 10, 1999. During the 78-day air campaign, B-1s, B-2s and B-52s joined other NATO and allied forces in the operation against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. This first offensive action in NATO history included the combat debut of the B-2.
B-1 and B-52 bombers (deployed to RAF Fairford U.K.) and B-2s (which operated from Whiteman AFB, Mo.) flew close to 325 sorties, while dropping more than 7 million pounds of ordnance.
Eighth Air Force is again at the forefront of a new campaign ... the war on terrorism. Since the beginning of Operation Noble Eagle and Operation Enduring Freedom in September 2001, the "Mighty Eighth's" bomber forces have repeatedly deployed into the combat zone and engaged terrorist targets with precise lethal force. The bombers unique combination of all-weather precision strike, large payload, and long range/extended loiter time have greatly contributed to the nation's success in the skies over Afghanistan and Iraq.
Point of Contact
Eighth Air Force, Public Affairs Office, 245 Davis Ave. East., Room 152, Barksdale AFB, LA 71110; 318-529-1101; DSN 331-1101; e-mail: 8AF.PA.Workflow@us.af.mil