Commander, Naval Air Forces


Commander, Naval Air Forces (aka COMNAVAIRFOR, CNAF; and dual-hatted as Commander, Naval Air Force, Pacific or 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 material 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 Troy M. Shoemaker. 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 that commands the air department on an Aircraft Carrier.


"Man, train, equip and maintain a Naval air force that is immediately employable, forward deployed and engaged. We support the Fleet and Unified Commanders by delivering the right force with the right readiness at the right time at reduced and in the future."[1]

Commander, Naval Air Forces is the senior command in the Naval Aviation Enterprise (NAE) and is responsible for all Naval Aviation programs, personnel and assets. CNAF is also a dual-hatted position that concurrently functions as Commander, Naval Air Force, Pacific Fleet (COMNAVAIRPAC). CNAF is supported by Commander, Naval Air Force, Atlantic Fleet (COMNAVAIRLANT); Commander, Naval Air Force, Reserve (COMNAVAIRES); the Chief of Naval Operations (Air Warfare Requirements), also known as OPNAV N88; Commander, Naval Air Systems Command (COMNAVAIRSYSCOM); Commander, Naval Strike Air Warfare Center (NSAWC), and the Chief of Naval Air Training (CNATRA). Within the NAE there are approximately 3800 aircraft that perform strike/fighter missions, anti-surface warfare, sub-surface warfare, electronic warfare, reconnaissance, communications relay, Search and Rescue (SAR), training and logistical support missions. These assets include 12 aircraft carriers, approximately 25 Naval Air Stations and bases, and approximately 100,000 active and reserve military personnel, 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.

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

On 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

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 21, 2015 [10])
7. Vice Admiral Mike Shoemaker (January 21, 2015 – Present)

Provisional list of units (West Coast)

See also


  2. Archived 6 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  3. Archived 6 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. Archived 6 February 2010 at the Wayback Machine.
  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" 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.
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