The Air Force Aeromedical Evacuation System is a unique and significant part of the nation's mobility resources. Its mission is to provide fixed-wing movement of patients requiring supervision by Aeromedical Evacuation personnel to locations offering appropriate levels of medical care. During contingencies, the AE system can operate as far forward as fixed-wing aircraft are able to conduct air/land operations.
The end of the Cold War and the associated military downsizing has resulted in a reduced forward medical presence. Consequently, theater commanders are more dependent on the AE system to link casualties to life-saving medical treatment.
The Department of Defense's patient movement system comprises of a number of interdependent entities with specific responsibilities that allows the entire system to accomplish the mission. The Air Force designated Air Mobility Command as the lead command for the air mobility mission including air refueling and airlift. Aeromedical evacuation is an element of the mobility mission and is one of AMC's core airlift missions. As the executive agent for AE, AMC oversees an integral system of command and control, training, communications, staging and patient care.
The AE system is decentralized with AMC responsible for in-flight care between the theaters and the continental United States. Pacific Air Forces and U.S. Air Forces Europe are responsible for patient movement within their respective theaters. The AE system uses AE capable-organic mobility airframes to transport patients.
The U.S. Air Force School of Aerospace Medicine (Air Force Material Command) and Air Education and Training Command provide standardized formal training for aircrew members and mission essential ground personnel supporting the AE mission.
To satisfy increased DoD airlift requirements during a national emergency, AE relies on the Civil Reserve Air Fleet to strategically evacuate casualties from the theaters to medical treatment facilities located in the United States. These aircraft may also be used to return medical supplies, personnel, and AE crew members to the theater of operations. Pre-positioned kits containing litter stanchions, litters, and other AE equipment are used to convert civilian passenger aircraft into air ambulances.
The Air Reserve Component comprises approximately 87 percent of the total AE force structure, with the remaining 12 percent residing among four active duty AE squadrons. Air National Guard and Air Force Reserve Command AE personnel play a critical role in the AE mission execution during both peace and conflict. Along with their active duty counterparts, the ARC provides AE crews, mission ground support, and infrastructure needed to establish and conduct AE mission operations.
The Air National Guard has ten AE squadrons and the Air Force Reserve Command has a total of 18 AE squadrons. There are four active duty AE squadrons: two in CONUS and one each in USAFE and PACAF.
Eighteenth Air Force's Tanker Airlift Control Center at Scott Air Force Base, Ill., is responsible for coordinating and executing inter-theater and CONUS AE missions. The PACAF and USAFE Air Mobility Operations Control Center are responsible for coordinating and executing intra-theater AE missions. The TACC/AMOCC determines feasibility and directs use of available aircraft, aircrews, and AE crews to meet validated AE requirements.