The Long Arm

The United States Air Force in Europe and In Africa (USAFE- AFAFRICA) serves as the long arm of the United States in Europe, Africa and the Middle East The Long Arm The Long Arm

The United States is 100 percent committed to Israel’s security and qualitative military edge The Long Arm

By definition it operates outside the country to which it belongs The United States Air Force in Europe and In Africa (USAFE- AFAFRICA) serves as the long arm of the United States in Europe, Africa and the Middle East and keeps the peace in the region in conjunction with local forces. A closer look at the air force that has taken part in battles above Libya, Iraq and Afghanistan over the past decade

Michal Khayut

In March of 2011, the wave of protests in Libya quickly became a bloody civil war between the forces of the seemingly omnipotent ruler Muammar Gaddafi and the civil coalition that faced them.

The NATO command went out on an aerial operation that began with enforcing a no-fly zone and turned into large-scale airstrikes during the civil war. One of the major forces that took part in the operation was the United States Air Force In Europe and In Africa (USAFE-AFAFRICA) which constitutes the long arm of the United States Air Force, whose airbases are located throughout Europe and Africa.

“USAFE-AFAFRICA plans, controls and supports all operations, in the air or in space, based on the instructions of the command”, explains a senior official at the Operations Department of the USAFE-AFAFRICA. “Our job includes participating in fighting, humanitarian operations and special missions that deal with our area of responsibility”.

Operation “Odyssey Dawn”

The story of “Operation Odyssey Dawn”, which culminated in the toppling of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya, started earlier, when the “Arab Spring”, which swept the Middle East, brought about a situation in which the citizens of Libya stood against the armed threat of a tyrant. In response, the U.N. Security Counsel left the member states to take all necessary measures.

“The main danger we dealt with was the fact that we flew in areas that we were unfamiliar with”, says Major Molder, who took part in the operation. During a flight in an unfamiliar area, it is important to pay attention to the changing threats occurring in the surrounding area. But, it was not only the threat of the Libyan army that challenged USAFE-AFAFRICA fighter pilots, but also the massive amount of territory stretched across Libya.

Uncharted Territory
Of course, this was not the first time USAFE-AFAFRICA had dealt with missions in unfamiliar territory; by definition it operates outside the country to which it belongs. For example, in March 2003, the United States invaded Iraq.

“While the missions in Libya focused mostly on suppressing surface-to-air missile batteries and destroying the aerial capabilities of the enemy, the missions in Iraq mostly included providing close aerial assistance and armed overwatch of troops and conveys all over Iraq”.As part of the American government’s war on terror, the United States invaded Afghanistan in cooperation with other countries. After toppling the Taliban regime and occupying the capital, Kabul, a new regime was established. Nowadays, the United States is trying to stabilize the country and establish a democratic government before its expected withdrawal this year.

“Without stating the obvious, the geographic location was significantly different for all three missions, as was the command and control structure. The rules of engagement were very clear in Iraq and for Operation ‘Noble Eagle’ but in the early stages of OOD and OUP, the rules of engagement were changing rapidly due to the dynamic environment. Finally, the primary similarity of all the operations was the resolve and professionalism of everyone involved in launching and flying the fighters”, explains Major Molder.

Currently, after years of fighting in the region, USAFE-AFAFRICA is preparing to leave Afghanistan. “We cannot speculate as to how the withdrawal from Afghanistan will affect us”, says the senior official. “Nonetheless, we can confirm that we will work to remember the conclusions that were drawn from these confrontations, while emphasizing cooperation with other countries”.

Not Only Fighting

Cooperation with foreign air forces is not a one-time deal for the people of USAFE-AFAFRICA. “Cooperation among local armed forces is outstanding”, says Major Molder. “Not only does USAFE-AFAFRICA engage in bilateral military partnerships but our membership in NATO also drives even closer cooperation with our partners in Europe and beyond”.

“We work regularly with partners and allies”, adds the senior official. “As part of the cooperation, we focus on training and exercises, joint planning and development. There are other aspects in the development of the cooperation that benefits both sides. We also deal with a wide range of activities that include exchanging knowledge on issues such as medical evacuation, professional development of the army and more”.

Working with Israel

“The United States is 100 percent committed to Israel’s security and qualitative military edge. U.S. Air Forces in Europe and Air Forces Africa are very proud to play a major role in fulfilling that commitment by consistently participating in robust military-to-military training exercises with our partners in the Israeli Air Force. Through these engagements we are continually working together to improve our combined air defense, heavy airlift and ballistic missile defense capabilities.”