Commander, Naval Air Forces

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Commander, Naval Air Forces and
Commander, Naval Air Forces Pacific
Commander, Naval Air Forces.png
Insignia of the Commander, Naval Air Forces and Commander, Naval Air Forces Pacific
Vice Adm. Kenneth R. Whitesell.jpg
Vice Admiral Kenneth R. Whitesell

since 2 October 2020
Department of the Navy
Reports toChief of Naval Operations
United States Pacific Fleet
SeatNaval Air Station North Island
FormationCNAF – October 2001
CNAP – July 29, 1942
First holderAdmiral John B. Nathman
Unofficial names"Air Boss"
DeputyDeputy Commander, Naval Air Forces

Commander, Naval Air Forces (a.k.a. COMNAVAIRFOR, and CNAF; and dual-hatted as Commander, Naval Air Force, Pacific, and COMNAVAIRPAC) is the aviation Type Commander (TYCOM) for all United States Navy naval aviation units. Type Commanders are in Administrative Control (ADCON), and in some cases Operational Control (OPCON) of certain types of assets (ships, submarines, aircraft, and Fleet Marines) assigned to the Pacific and Atlantic Fleets. AIRFOR is responsible for the materiel readiness, administration, training, and inspection of units/squadrons under their command, and for providing operationally ready air squadrons and aircraft carriers to the fleet.

COMNAVAIRFOR is a three-star headquarters, based at NAS North Island in Coronado, California. The current commander is VADM Kenneth R. Whitesell. The staff is made up of approximately 515 officer, enlisted, civilian and contractor personnel. The position is colloquially known throughout the Navy as "the Air Boss", mimicking the nickname given to the officer who commands the air department on an aircraft carrier.


"Man, train, and equip deployable, combat-ready naval Aviation forces that win in combat."[1]

Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE)

Commander, Naval Air Forces (CNAF), also known as the "Air Boss," is the senior command in the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE) and is responsible for all Naval Aviation programs, personnel and assets. CNAF is a dual-hatted position where the incumbent concurrently functions as Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet (COMNAVAIRPAC). CNAF is supported by Commander, Naval Air Force, U.S. Atlantic Fleet (COMNAVAIRLANT); Commander, Naval Air Force Reserve (COMNAVAIRES); the Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA); and the Commander, Naval Aviation Warfighting Development Center (NAWDC).

The NAE is composed of three organizations with CNAF as the senior command. The other two commands/organizations composing the NAE are the Commander, Naval Air Systems Command (COMNAVAIRSYSCOM), and the Director of Air Warfare in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, also known as OPNAV N98. Within the NAE there are approximately 3,800 sea-based and shore-based aircraft that perform strike/fighter, electronic attack, airborne early warning, maritime patrol and reconnaissance, anti-surface warfare, anti-submarine/sub-surface warfare, strategic communications relay, search and rescue (SAR), helicopter mine countermeasures, training, and logistical support missions. These assets include 11 aircraft carriers and approximately 100,000 active and reserve military personnel, as well as Department of the Navy civilians and contractors.


In October 1919, Air Detachment, Pacific Fleet came into existence, making naval aviation formally part of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.[2] The original organization was divided into Landplane, Shipplane and Seaplane divisions. Within a brief period, the three divisions evolved into Fighting, Spotting and Seaplane Patrol Squadrons, respectively. The purpose of air detachments was: "attack on enemy aircraft, spotting gunfire for surface craft torpedo attack by torpedo planes, demolition, toxic gas and incendiary bomb attack, smoke and gas screen laying, mine and countermining; flare dropping; scouting reconnaissance, patrol and convoy duty; photography, mapping, detection of enemy coastal defenses and mail passenger service."[3]

In June 1922 as part of a reorganization combining the Atlantic and Pacific Fleets into the U.S. Fleet, the detachment was renamed Aircraft Squadrons, Battle Fleet. In 1933, another reorganization established two principal commands: Commander Aircraft Battle Force and Commander Tender-based Aircraft.

Commander, Air Pacific was established during World War II as the requirements of supporting air combat units widely deployed in the Pacific Ocean area increased.

Finding much inefficiency in the various administrative commands within naval aviation, Admiral Chester W. Nimitz, Commander in Chief, United States Pacific Fleet directed a consolidation of various administrative functions for a more efficient command structure. This new command became Air Pacific Fleet, "to function as a Type Commander for fleet aircraft, to prepare general policy and doctrine for the operation of aviation units, to recommend the types, characteristics and numbers of aircraft required, and to carry out the strategic distribution of all air units in the Pacific area."[4]

On July 29, 1942, Admiral Ernest King approved the recommendation and thus established Commander U.S. Naval Air Forces, Pacific Fleet (COMNAVAIRPAC), effective September 1, 1942. Vice Admiral John Henry Towers became its commander soon afterwards.

In May 1949, the headquarters was moved from Pearl Harbor, Hawaii to Naval Air Station, North Island, California.

In October 2001, the Chief of Naval Operations redesignated Commander, Naval Air Force U.S. Atlantic Fleet (AIRPAC's East Coast counterpart) from a three star command into a two star command and placed it under AIRPAC's command in a "Lead-Follow" arrangement. Under this arrangement COMNAVAIRPAC became TYCOM for Air, and assumed the additional title of Commander, Naval Air Forces (COMNAVAIRFOR). The Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA) and the Commander, Naval Air Force Reserve (COMNAVAIRES) were also subsequently placed under the aegis of COMNAVAIRFOR.

Past commanders

Logo for Naval Air Force, Pacific Fleet.
  1. Vice Admiral John B. Nathman (August 2000 – August 2, 2002[5])
  2. Vice Admiral Michael D. Malone (August 2, 2002 – August 17, 2004[6])
  3. Vice Admiral James M. "Jim" Zortman (August 17, 2004 – June 22, 2007[7])
  4. Vice Admiral Thomas J. "Tom" Kilcline Jr. (June 22, 2007 – July 1, 2010[8])
  5. Vice Admiral Allen G. "Al" Myers IV (July 1, 2010 – October 4, 2012[9])
  6. Vice Admiral David H. Buss (October 4, 2012 – January 22, 2015[10])
  7. Vice Admiral Troy M. "Mike" Shoemaker (January 22, 2015 – January 11, 2018[11])
  8. Vice Admiral DeWolfe Miller III (January 11, 2018 – October 2, 2020[12])
  9. Vice Admiral Kenneth R. Whitesell (October 2, 2020 – Present)

Subordinate commands

Unit Nickname Aircraft Home base Notes
VAW-113 Black Eagles E-2 Hawkeye Naval Base Ventura County
VAW-115 Liberty Bells
VAW-116 Sun Kings
VAW-117 Wallbangers
VAW-120 Greyhawks E-2 Hawkeye
C-2 Greyhound
Naval Station Norfolk Chambers Field FRS
VAW-121 Bluetails E-2 Hawkeye
VAW-123 Screwtops
VAW-124 Bear Aces
VAW-125 Tigertails Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni
VAW-126 Seahawks Naval Station Norfolk Chambers Field
VRC-30 Providers C-2 Greyhound Naval Air Station North Island
VRC-40 Rawhides Naval Station Norfolk Chambers Field
Carrier Airborne Early
Warning Weapons School (CAEWS)
  • Commander, Strike Fighter Wing Pacific (COMSTRKFIGHTWINGPAC)
Unit Nickname Aircraft Home base Notes
VFA-2 Bounty Hunters
VFA-14 Top Hatters
VFA-22 Fighting Redcocks
VFA-25 Fist of the Fleet
VFA-27 Royal Maces (NAF Atsugi, Japan)
VFA-41 Black Aces
VFA-86 Sidewinders
VFA-94 Mighty Shrikes
VFA-97 Warhawks
VFA-102 Diamondbacks (NAF Atsugi, Japan)
VFA-113 Stingers
VFA-115 Eagles (NAF Atsugi, Japan)
VFA-122 Flying Eagles (FRS)
VFA-125 Rough Raiders (FRS)
VFA-136 Knighthawks
VFA-137 Kestrels
VFA-146 Blue Diamonds
VFA-147 Argonauts
VFA-151 Fighting Vigilantes
VFA-154 Black Knights
VFA-192 Golden Dragons
VFA-195 Dambusters (NAF Atsugi, Japan)
Strike Fighter Weapons School Pacific (SFWSPAC)

See also


  1. ^ "Pages - missionstatement". Archived from the original on 2013-12-06.
  2. ^ Archived from the original on 6 February 2010. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  3. ^ Archived from the original on 6 February 2010. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  4. ^ Archived from the original on 6 February 2010. {{cite web}}: Missing or empty |title= (help)
  5. ^ "Malone Relieves Nathman as COMNAVAIRPAC & Commander, Naval Air Forces" Journalist 2nd Class Christina O'Leary (Commander, Naval Air Force, Pacific Public Affairs). Retrieved February 22, 2013.
  6. ^ "Zortman Assumes Leadership of Naval Air Forces" Archived 2007-09-16 at the Wayback Machine Eric Beheim (Naval Media Center, Fleet Support Detachment). Retrieved February 22, 2013.
  7. ^ "Kilcline Takes Helm as Commander, Naval Air Forces" Naval Air Forces Public Affairs. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
  8. ^ "Commander, Naval Air Forces Holds Change of Command Ceremony" Commander, Naval Air Forces Public Affairs. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
  9. ^ "Commander, Naval Air Forces Holds Change of Command Ceremony" Commander, Naval Air Forces Public Affairs. Retrieved February 22, 2013.
  10. ^ "Navy aviation gets a new 'air boss'" Navy Times. Retrieved January 24, 2015.
  11. ^ "DeWolfe Appointed Commander Naval Air Forces". 26 October 2017. Retrieved 11 January 2018.
  12. ^ "Ninth 'Air Boss' Assumes Command of Naval Air Forces". U.S. Indo-Pacific Command. 5 October 2020. Retrieved 6 October 2020.

External links