New ‘warfighting headquarters’ in works for Ramstein
KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany — The Air Force will merge parts of its two numbered air forces in Europe and create a new “warfighting headquarters” at Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
The move is part of the military’s efforts to streamline and consolidate ground, air and naval headquarters across the continent, Lt. Cmdr. Rick Haupt, said Monday in response to a Stars and Stripes query. The change will help cut bureaucracy and costs.
Under the plan, the Air Force would move elements of the 3rd Air Force, based at RAF Mildenhall, England, and the 16th Air Force, based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, to Ramstein, said Haupt, who is a U.S. European Command spokesman in Stuttgart, Germany.
Air Force officials have been discussing the move for months, but have released little information about it. The military has not made an official announcement about the new headquarters, but Haupt said more details would come after the nations involved are briefed on the plan.
The German paper Die Rheinpfalz first reported about the new command in an article last month.
An Air Force source told Stars and Stripes on the condition of anonymity that the goal is to stand up the new headquarters by the end of the year, shifting about 100 airmen from Mildenhall and 150 at Aviano, along with their families, to Germany.
Most of the missions from the 3rd and the 16th would be dished out to two new divisions, the Air Force source said. One would be in charge of operations, while the other would be responsible for providing supply support.
U.S. Air Forces in Europe, which oversees 16 bases and 26,000 airmen in Europe, is headquartered at Ramstein — a military hub for troops and cargo heading to and from the Middle East and Central Asia.
News about the new headquarters comes as the Air Force names a new commander of the 3rd Air Force in England. Maj. Gen. Paul J. Fletcher, assistant deputy chief of staff, plans and programs, for U.S. Air Force Headquarters at the Pentagon, will replace Maj. Gen. Michael C. Gould. The Pentagon made the announcement Friday.
Combining commands in Europe is part of the military’s ongoing attempt to overhaul and reposition forces from a Cold War structure to one better able to fight terrorism and 21st-century threats. For example, the Navy has joined its European headquarters, U.S. Naval Forces Europe, with the 6th Fleet in Naples, Italy.
The history of the 3rd Air Force dates to 1951, when the organization oversaw tactical air operations based in the United Kingdom and supported the 7th Air Division, according to the U.S. Air Forces in Europe Web site.
The 16th Air Force was activated in the 1950s and was originally based in Spain.