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 NATO 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.
The concept of a naval task force is as old as navies, and prior to that time the assembly of ships for naval operations was referred to as fleets, divisions, or on the smaller scale, squadrons, and flotillas.
Before World War II ships were collected into divisions derived from the Royal Navy's "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. (The names "Vice" (possibly from advanced) and "Rear" might 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 fleets.
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 U.S. Navy alone.
In the United States Navy, task forces are generally temporary organizations composed of particular ships, aircraft, submarines, military land forces, or shore service units, assigned to fulfill certain missions. The emphasis is placed on the individual commander of the unit, and references to “Commander, Task Force” ("CTF") are common.
In the U.S. Navy, task forces as part of numbered fleets have been assigned a two-digit number since March 1943, when Commander-in-Chief, United States Fleet, Admiral Ernest J. King instituted the system of numbering all fleets, assigning the even numbers to the Atlantic and the odd to the Pacific.
Naval Forces, Europe, became the Twelfth Fleet, South Atlantic Force the Fourth Fleet, and Naval Forces, Northwest African Waters, the Eighth Fleet. The Atlantic Fleet, itself, was designated the Second Fleet.
The United States Navy has used numbered task forces in the same way since 1945. The U.S. Department of Defense often forms a Joint Task Force if the force includes units from other services. Joint Task Force 1 was the atomic bomb test force during the post-World War II Operation Crossroads.
In naval terms, the multinational (Australia, United States, United Kingdom, Canada, and New Zealand) Combined Communications Electronics Board mandates through Allied Communications Publication 113 (ACP 113) the present system, which allocated numbers from 1 to 834. For example, the Royal Navy's Illustrious battle group in 2000 for Exercise Linked Seas, subsequently deployed to Operation Palliser, 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 the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle (R91). Task Force 142 is the U.S. Navy's Operational Test and Evaluation Force.
The first digit of a task force designation is that of its parent fleet while the second is sequential. Task groups within a force are numbered by an additional digit separated from the TF number by a decimal point. Task units within a group are indicated by an additional decimal. For example, "the third task unit of the fifth task group of the second task force of the Sixth Fleet would be numbered 62.5.3." This system extends further to task elements, individual ships in a task group. This arrangement was typically abbreviated, so references like TF 11 are commonly seen. There is no requirement for uniqueness over time. (e.g., The United States Seventh Fleet used TF 76 in World War II, and off Vietnam, and continued to use TF70-79 numberings throughout the rest of the twentieth century, and up to 2012.)
See Marine Air Ground Task Force (MAGTF) for a description of the three standard combined arms task force organizations employed by the USMC.
Lettered Task Forces
Originally stationed at Malta took part in the Battle of Calabria in 1940 it transferred Trincomalee and was a component of the (fast force) of the Eastern Fleet during the Indian Ocean raid April to May 1942.
Originally stationed at Malta, took part in the Battle of Calabria in 9 July 1940, took part in the Battle of Cape Spartivento, 27 November 1940, was involved in the First Battle of Sirte, 17 December 1941 it then moved to Trincomalee in March 1942 was a component (slow force) of the Eastern Fleet during the Indian Ocean raid April to May 1942.
Formed as part of a number of hunting task groups in 5 October 1939 as a prelude to Battle of the River Plate, 13 December 1939 and part of the South America Division after which it was stationed at, Gibraltar, took part in Operation Catapult, 3 July 1940, took part in Operation Rheinübung 19 May - 15 June 1941.
Part of a number of hunting task groups in 5 October 1939 as a prelude to Battle of the River Plate, 13 December 1939 based in Freetown it was then stationed at, Malta, took part in the Battle of the Tarigo Convoy, 16 April 1941, was involved in the First Battle of Sirte, 17 December 1941 then moved to Freetown in December 1941.
Numbered Task Forces
Formed to deal with the Tirpitz Sortie against convoys PQ 12 and QP8, 6–13 March 1942.
Which was the composition of the British Pacific Fleet 23 March 1945.
Post second world war
In Argentina Navy task force (Grupo de Tareas, Task Force) G.T.3.3.2 (Spanish link) ran task units that were responsible for thousands of instances of forced disappearance, torture and illegal execution of Argentine civilians, many of whom were incarcerated in the Higher School of Mechanics of the Navy detention center during the 1976–1983 military dictatorship.
In the U.S. 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 attached is called a company team. A similar unit at the brigade level is called a brigade combat team (BCT), and there is also a similar Regimental combat team (RCT).
The 1st Australian Task Force (1 ATF) was a brigade-sized formation which commanded Australian and New Zealand Army units deployed to South Vietnam between 1966 and 1972. More recently, Australian task forces have been designated to cover temporary support elements such the battalion-sized force which operated in Urozgan Province, Afghanistan from 2006 to 2013, and the Northern Territory Emergency Response Task Force.
In government or business a task force is a temporary organization created to solve a particular problem. It is considered to be a more formal ad hoc committee.
A taskforce, or more-commonly, task force, is a special committee, usually of experts, formed expressly for the purpose of studying a particular problem. The task force usually performs some sort of an audit to assess the current situation, then draws up a list of all the current problems present and evaluates which ones merit fixing and which ones are actually fixable. The task force would then formulate a set of solutions to the problems and pick the "best" solution to each problem, as determined by some set of standards. For example, a task force set up to eliminate excessive government spending might consider a "best" solution to be one that saves the most money. Normally, the task force then presents its findings and proposed solutions to the institution that called for its formation; it is then up to the institution itself to actually act upon the task force's recommendations.