Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force

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Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force
Active 1951 - 1993
Allegiance NATO North Atlantic Treaty Organization
Part of Allied Air Forces Central Europe, Ramstein, Germany
Headquarters Trier Air Base (1951-1958)
Ramstein Air Base (1958-1980)
Heidelberg (1980-1993)

Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force (4 ATAF) was a NATO military formation under Allied Air Forces Central Europe tasked with providing air support to NATO's Central Army Group (CENTAG). 4 ATAF commanded all flying units based within its sector and all reinforcements flying into its sector, as well as ground based radar systems and stations, air defense units and the airfields in its sector.


Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force was formed in 1951 with its area of responsibility covering the Germany south of the city of Kassel. Commander of Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force was the commanding Major General of the American Twelfth Air Force based in the southwest of Germany.

The main establishment of 4 ATAF was a headquarters which had several locations over more than forty years. Established about 1951 at Trier Air Base, the unit was moved to Ramstein Air Base in November 1957 where it remained until December 1980 when it was moved to Heidelberg where it was colocated with Headquarters Central Army Group. An operational Air Defence Operations Centre was operated at Ouvrage Molvange from 1961 until 1967 when it was moved to a USAF site in Kindsbach just south of Ramstein Air Base. The HQ also operated a number of communications sites which were concerned with secure communications for the release of tactical nuclear weapons through the NATO Quick Reaction Alert Force. In 1985 NATO began with the construction of a new Static War Headquarters bunker in Ruppertsweiler, Germany. Fourth Allied Tactical Air Force commanded besides Seventeenth Air Force, the US Army's 32nd Air Defense Command, 1 Canadian Air Group and two German Air Force (Luftwaffe) divisions, as well as extensive secure communications, air defense and radar installations manned by Germany and the US Air Force.

If needed, 4 ATAF would have been reinforced with units from the US Third (UK based), Eighth (reconnaissance and bombing), Ninth (immediate reinforcements) and Twelfth Air Force (follow on reinforcements), and with Royal Canadian Air Force and French Air Force units. At the start of hostilities 4 ATAF would have had immediately around 600 combat aircraft at its disposal. The following units would have come under 4 ATAF in wartime:

4 ATAF was disbanded on 30 June 1993, its duties were taken over by Allied Air Forces Central Europe.

Wartime structure c.1989

note 1: Nuclear sharing unit capable of delivering tactical nuclear weapons.
note 2: The Canadian Forces reinforcement units were from CFB Cold Lake 416 Tactical Fighter Squadron and 441 Tactical Fighter Squadron, and from CFB Bagotville 425 Tactical Fighter Squadron and 433 Tactical Fighter Squadron each with 18x CF-18. These forces represented the complete combat-capable assets of Canadian Forces Air Command. The units marked as reinforcements were nominally assigned to the NORAD Canada East and Canada West regions.


  • Dragoner, O.W. Die Bundeswehr 1989 Volume 2.1, available here
  • Dragoner, O.W. Die Bundeswehr 1989 Volume 3, available here
  • Pedlow, Gregory W. The Evolution of NATO’s Command Structure, 1951–2009 available [1]