Air Defense Artillery Branch

Air Defense Artillery Branch

Air defense branch of the U.S. Army

The Air Defense Artillery Branch is the air defense branch of the United States Army that specializes in the use of anti-aircraft weapons (such as surface-to-air missiles) to conduct anti-aircraft warfare operations. In the U.S. Army, these groups are composed of mainly air defense systems such as the Patriot Missile System, Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD), and the Avenger Air Defense system which fires the FIM-92 Stinger missile.

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The Air Defense Artillery branch descended from Anti-Aircraft Artillery (part of the U.S. Army Coast Artillery Corps until 1950, then part of the Artillery Branch) into a separate branch on 20 June 1968. On 1 December 1968, the ADA branch was authorized to wear modified Artillery insignia, crossed field guns with missile. The Branch Motto, "First To Fire", was adopted in 1986 by the attendees of the ADA Commanders' Conference at Fort Bliss. The motto refers to a speech given by General Jonathan Wainwright to veterans of the 200th Coast Artillery (Antiaircraft) stating they were the 'First to Fire' in World War II against the Empire of Japan.[3]


According to the Army's Field Manual 3-01, the mission of Air Defense Artillery is "to protect the force and selected geopolitical assets from aerial attack, missile attack, and surveillance."[4]


On 10 October 1917 an Antiaircraft Service in the American Expeditionary Force (AEF) was created at Arnouville-Les-Gonesse where an antiaircraft school was established. The antiaircraft units were organized as serially numbered battalions during the war, as follows:

  • 1st Antiaircraft Battalion through the 10th Antiaircraft Battalion (redesignated as numbered antiaircraft sectors in November 1918, all demobilized by January 1919)[5]
  • 1st AA Machine Gun Battalion through the 6th AA Machine Gun Battalion. These units were organized by Col. James A. Shipton[6] and were demobilized January–May 1919.[7]

Coast Artillery role

The National Defense Act of 1920 formally assigned the air defense mission to the Coast Artillery Corps, and 4 battalions were organized in 1921. In 1924, under a major reorganization of the Coast Artillery, the battalions were reorganized as regiments. There were also 42 Organized Reserve antiaircraft regiments in 8 brigades; however, many of the Reserve units only had a small number of personnel assigned, and many were demobilized without activation during World War II.[8][9][10][11]


In 1938 there were only six Regular Army and thirteen National Guard regiments, but by 1941 this had been expanded to 37 total regiments. In November 1942, 781 battalions were authorized. However, this number was pared down to 331 battalions by the end of the war. By late 1944 the regiments had been broken up into battalions and 144 "Antiaircraft Artillery Groups" had been activated; some of these existed only briefly.[13]

The serially-numbered battalions in late World War II included the following types:

  • Antiaircraft Artillery Battalion
  • Antiaircraft Artillery Automatic Weapons Battalion
  • Antiaircraft Artillery Gun Battalion
  • Antiaircraft Artillery Searchlight Battalion
  • Barrage Balloon Battalion

and in the 1950s:

  • Antiaircraft Artillery Missile Battalion.

On 9 March 1942 Antiaircraft Command was established in Washington D.C. and 1944 the AAA school was moved to Fort Bliss.

Army Air Defense Command

Army Air Defense Command ran from 1957 to 1974.

In 1991 the Patriot missile was heavily utilized during the Gulf War. After this short skirmish ended Air Defense has not been involved in any significant combat actions due to lack of enemy air assets and/or missile technology.

In 2010 the United States Army Air Defense Artillery School was moved from Fort Bliss to Fort Sill.

Air Defense Artillery Units

The following lists all units that make up the Army's Air Defense Artillery Branch.[14]

Army Air and Missile Defense Commands

Air Defense Artillery Brigades

A soldier assigned to the 35th Air Defense Artillery Brigade's 1st Battalion, 43rd Air Defense Artillery Regiment conducting maintenance on a Patriot missile launcher in 2006
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Army Battalions

A paratrooper with E Battery, 3–4th ADAR practices jumping from a 34-foot tower with the FIM-92 Stinger
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Army Batteries

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National Guard Battalions

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Shipton award

The Shipton Award is named for Brigadier General James A. Shipton, who is acknowledged as the Air Defense Artillery Branch's founding father.[20] Shipton felt that the mission of antiaircraft defense was not to down enemy aircraft, but instead to protect maneuver forces on the ground: "The purpose of anti-aviation defense is to protect our forces and establishments from hostile attack and observation from the air by keeping enemy airplanes [sic] at a distance." The Shipton Award recognizes an Air Defense Artillery professionals for outstanding performance individual thought, innovation, and contributions that result in significant contributions or enhances Air Defense Artillery's warfighting capabilities, morale, readiness, and maintenance.

See also


  1. US Department of Defense. DA PAM 670-1. 11 October 2017
  2. "TIOH Air Defense Artillery branch page". Archived from the original on 16 March 2012. Retrieved 28 December 2011.
  3. Hamilton, John. Blazing skies: Air Defense Artillery on Fort Bliss, 1940–2009. Washington D.C.: Government Printing Office. p. 279. ISBN 978-0-16-086949-5.
  4. Rinaldi, pp. 166–168
  5. Rinaldi, p. 123
  6. Berhow, pp. 437–442
  7. Bob MacDonald. "We Aim to Hit". California State Military Museum. California State Military Department. Retrieved 28 January 2012.
  8. Stanton, pp. 434–481
  9. "Air Defense Artillery" (PDF). Fort Sill. US Army Fires Center of Excellence. Archived from the original (PDF) on 15 December 2017. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  10. "94th Army Air & Missile Defense Command". Archived from the original on 5 August 2012. Retrieved 13 February 2012.
  11. Pfc. Yesenia, Cadavid (6 October 2022). "52nd Air Defense Artillery Brigade Activation Ceremony". US Army. Retrieved 8 October 2022.
  12. "US Army's newest air defense brigade headquarters activates in Germany". United States European Command. Retrieved 8 October 2022.
  13. "100th Ground-based Midcourse Defense Brigade". Colorado Army National Guard Official DoD Website. Colorado Army National Guard. Retrieved 3 August 2019.
  14. Negrete, CPT Leopoldo. "Divisional SHORAD: Using Historical Examples to Build a Future Formation" (PDF). Retrieved 13 April 2024.
  15. Stiller, Jesse H. (2010). "ADA Branch: A Proud Heritage" (PDF). Air Defense Artillery Online. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 July 2014.
  • Antiaircraft Artillery Battalions of the U.S. Army (Volumes 1,2) 1991 by James A. Sawicki ISBN 0-9602404-7-0
  • History of the 1st AA Battalion, Coast Artillery Corps in World War I
  • Berhow, Mark A., ed. (2004). American Seacoast Defenses, A Reference Guide (Second ed.). CDSG Press. ISBN 0-9748167-0-1.
  • Lieutenant Colonel Roy S. Barnard (The History of ARADCOM Volume I, The Gun Era:1950-1955)
  • LTC Barnard and Berle K. Hufford, ARADCOM Annual Reports from 1966-1973.
  • Morgan, Mark L.; Berhow, Mark A. (2010). Rings of Supersonic Steel: Air Defenses of the United States Army 1950–1979, 3rd Edition. Hole in the Head Press. ISBN 978-09761494-0-8.
  • Lieutenant Colonel Timothy Osato, Militia Missilemen: The Army National Guard in Air Defense - 1951 - 1967 (1968)
  • Rinaldi, Richard A. (2004). The U. S. Army in World War I: Orders of Battle. General Data LLC. ISBN 0-9720296-4-8.
  • Osato and Mrs. Sherryl Straup, ARADCOM's Florida Defenses in the Aftermath of the Cuban Missile Crisis: 1963-1968 (1968)
  • Stanton, Shelby L. (1991). World War II Order of Battle. Galahad Books. ISBN 0-88365-775-9.

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