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For the computer game, see Joint Task Force .

A task force (TF) is a unit or formation established to work on a single defined task or activity. Originally introduced by the United States Navy, the term has now caught on for general usage and is a standard part of NATOmarker terminology. Many non-military organizations now create "task forces" or task groups for temporary activities that might have once been performed by ad hoc committees.

Joint Task Force

In U.S. terminology, now widely adopted, including by NATO, the term Joint implies the combination of more than one military service (i.e. some combination of Army -, Naval - and/or Air forces). Therefore a Joint Task Force (JTF) is a TF which includes more than one service.

United States DoD

A joint task force (JTF) is a joint force that is constituted and so designated by a JTF establishing authority. A JTF establishing authority may be the Secretary of Defense or the commander of a combatant command, subordinate unified command, or existing JTF. In most situations, the JTF establishing authority will be a combatant commander.JTFs are established on a geographical area or functional basis when the mission has a specific limited objective and does not require overall centralized control of logistics.

Examples include Joint Task Force Bravo, Joint Task Force Guantanamo, Joint Task Force Lebanon, and Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations.


Joint Task Force 2 (JTF2) is the Canadian Forces' elite special forces unit, roughly equivalent to the American Delta Forcemarker or the British Special Air Servicemarker. However, it is not temporary but permanent, and does not fit with the US Combined Communication-Electronics Board system (TF 2 remains allocated to the United States). Thus while it is called a Joint Task Force and it does involve personnel from all three services (Army, Navy, Air Force, therefore "Joint") it is not temporary (therefore not a "Task Force" by the US definition). It is known to have fought in Afghanistan and was part of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti.

Combined Joint Task Force

In U.S. terminology, now widely adopted, including by NATO, the term combined implies more than one nation. At the start of World War II, the UK used "Combined" to denote forces composed of more than one service, which is how the Combined Operations term originated. However they soon adopted the U.S. usage, and organizations were named accordingly, for example, the Combined Chiefs of Staff. Today a Combined Task Force (CTF) is a task force which includes sub-elements of more than one nation.

A Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) is a task force which includes elements of more than one service and elements of more than one nation.


The concept of a naval task force is as old as navies, but the term came into extensive use originally by the United States Navy around the beginning of 1941, as a way to increase operational flexibility. Prior to that time the assembly of ships for naval operations was referred to as fleets, divisions, or on a smaller scale, squadrons, and flotillas.

Before the Second World War ships were collected in divisions derived from the Royal Navys "division" of the line of battle in which one squadron usually remained under the direct command of the Admiral of the Fleet, one squadron was commanded by a Vice Admiral and one by a Rear Admiral, each of the three squadrons flying different coloured flags, hence the terms flagship and flag officer. The flag of the Fleet Admiral's squadron was red, the Vice Admiral's was white and the Rear Admiral's blue. Although the names "Vice" (from advanced) and "Rear" may have derived from sailing positions within the line at the moment of engagement. In the late 19th century ships were collected in numbered squadrons, which were assigned to named (such as the Asiatic Fleet) and later numbered fleet.

A task force can be assembled using ships from different divisions and squadrons, without requiring a formal and permanent fleet reorganization, and can be easily dissolved following completion of the operational task. The task force concept worked very well, and by the end of World War II about 100 task forces had been created in the United States Navy alone.

United States Navy

These are temporary call signs designated to particular ship/ ships assigned to fulfil certain missions.

CTF can be read as Commander Task force while TF is Task Force.likewise the force is broken down as following:-Task force, Task Group, Task Unit and Task element.

In the United States Navy each task force was assigned a two-digit number, and this has become a common world-wide practice. The first digit was originally the number of the fleet, while the second historically differentiated between task forces from the same fleet. It was typically abbreviated, so references like TF 11 are commonly seen. In addition, a task force could be broken into several task groups, identified by decimal points, as in TG 11.2, and finally task units, as in TU 11.2.1. Individual ships are task elements, for example TE would be the second ship in TU 11.2.1.

Some US Navy task forces in World War II:

The US Navy still uses task forces, and the Department of Defense often forms a joint task force if the force includes units from other services. In naval terms, the multinational Australian/US/UK/Canadian/NZ Combined Communications Electronics Board mandates through Allied Communications Publication 113 (ACP 113) the present system, which allocated numbers from TF 1 to apparently TF 999. For example, the Royal Navy's Operation Palliser force was Task Group 342.1 the French Navy is allocated the series TF 470-474, and Task Force 473 has been used recently for an Enduring Freedom task force deployment built around FS Charles de Gaulle. Task Force 142 is the USN Operational Test and Evaluation Force.

Note that there is no requirement for uniqueness; for instance, there was a TF 76 in World War II, and a different one in the Vietnam War, as part of the Seventh Fleet.

Royal Navy

Earlier in the Second World War, the British Royal Navy had devised its own similar system of forces, which were assigned a letter rather than a number. For example, the force stationed at Gibraltarmarker was known as Force H, the force stationed at Maltamarker was known as Force K, and the force stationed at Singaporemarker in December 1941 was known as Force Z.


In the United States Army, a task force is a battalion-sized (usually, although there are variations in size) ad hoc unit formed by attaching smaller elements of other units. A company-sized unit with an armored or mechanized infantry unit cross-attached is called a company team. A similar unit at the brigade level is called a Brigade Combat Team (BCT).

In the British Army and armies of other Commonwealth countries, such units are known as battlegroups.


In government or business a task force is temporary organization created to solve a particular problem. It is considered to be a more formal ad-hoc committee.

See also

Sources and references

External links

  • - See Annex A, p 198-99, for current system

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