JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO – In March 2019, Air Force leaders decided to create a new information warfare numbered air force with enhanced missions and capabilities.
Sixteenth Air Force activated at Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Oct. 11, integrating Twenty-Fourth Air Force, to include Air Forces Cyber, and Twenty-Fifth Air Force into a single headquarters that will provide global intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance, cyber, electronic warfare and information operations.
The new information warfare NAF remains aligned under Air Combat Command and draws from decades of innovation and operational experience through the ISR, cyber and electronic warfare enterprises. Both the Air Force chief of staff and ACC commander spoke during the ceremony.
“This is an important and historic day for our Air Force and it’s an honor to share this event - the stand-up of the 16th Air Force as an information warfare-focused numbered air force - with all of you today,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “Today’s ceremony isn’t just about pulling organizations together, it is creating opportunity for new operational art to compete against transregional, all-domain and multifunctional challenges and conduct operations in the information environment.”
Goldfein recently spoke at the 2019 Air Force Association Air, Space and Cyber Conference about the need for an Air Force that seamlessly combines weapons, sensors, data and people from air, space, sea, cyber and information. Today, he expounded on those needs.
“The time has come to strengthen our Air Force’s information warfare capabilities. And the work of this community will provide the tools our nation’s leaders need to succeed in the 21st century. Perhaps our adversaries will watch how we are operating and take pause — and if we are successful at causing our enemies to pause and question whether they can achieve their political objectives, perhaps that is what deterrence looks like in the age of hybrid warfare,” Goldfein said.
Gen. Mike Holmes, ACC commander, reiterated that the activation of Sixteenth Air Force (Air Forces Cyber) was essential to synchronizing the mission areas of ISR, electronic warfare, cyber, and information operations capabilities across the conflict continuum, ensuring the joint force’s ability to compete, deter, fight and win wars across all domains.
“Our intel, cyber and information operations communities bring unparalleled expertise, warfighting capability and deterrence to the table,” Holmes said. “Each community is strong on its own, but we knew that integrating all of these capabilities would make them much stronger.”
The Twenty-Fourth and Twenty-Fifth Air Force flags were furled as the Sixteenth Air Force flag took center stage, opening a new chapter in the NAF’s history.
Lt. Gen. Timothy D. Haugh received the guidon from Holmes, along with responsibility for leading the nearly 32,000 military and civilian Airmen assigned to the new organization.
Haugh championed Goldfein’s vision for the future in his remarks.
“Sir, your vision for our service has postured us to compete and win in this era of great power competition across the board,” he said. “The Air Force is ready to forge new concepts for cognitive warfare in all domains; we stand prepared to create decisive outcomes against our adversaries.”
“We’re moving out with a mandate to transform the way the Air Force fights in the information environment,” Haugh continued. “Our adversaries should take note: No longer will they be able to effect a strategic double-speak – publicly engaging in the international process while simultaneously taking actions in the cyber and information space to undermine international norms. They will no longer have plausible deniability; we will expose actions that undermine international norms and take the conflict in the information environment to their front lines.”
Haugh sees the NAF stand-up as a natural growth on top of the rock-solid ISR and cyber foundations the Air Force has built.
“This is an incredibly exciting opportunity as we expand into this new mission space,” Haugh said. “We are now empowering our Airmen with the authorities required to achieve new outcomes for our nation. And we, the Sixteenth Air Force, stand ready to rise up and deliver.”
Editor’s note: Following the ceremony, Maj. Gen. Robert J. Skinner, the former Twenty-Fourth Air Force commander, moves to U.S. Pacific Command, where he will be the Command, Control Communications and Cyber director.