The Spain ATCLO functions as a direct representative of the Directorate of USAFE Airspace and Air Traffic Control Management system to ensure the timely movement of DoD aircraft within or through Spanish airspace, changes in Spanish regulations, solving conflicts between US pilots and Spanish air traffic control facilities, coordination with Spanish civil and military air traffic control, coordination with Spanish Air Defense, and negotiating for airspace needed in mass air movements or US exercises.
USAFE Air Traffic Control Liaison Offices (ATCLOs) are established to assist USAFE in the discharge of its responsibilities. ATCLOs are located at the Spanish Air Force's Headquarters building in Madrid, Spain and at the Paris Air Control Center (ACC), France. Component commands are authorized to use the services of the assigned ATCLOs to resolve ASM, ATM and ANSP matters affecting their commands. ATCLOs interface directly with the European Central Altitude Reservation Facility (EUCARF) and host nation counterparts to facilitate the movement of DoD aircraft through host nation airspace.
The USAF opened the Madrid Area Control Center in Paracuellos, Spain and controlled all aircraft in the Madrid area in the mid 1950s. USAF air traffic controllers were responsible for training the Spanish controllers. As the number of qualified Spanish controllers increased, the number of USAF controllers decreased and the USAF assumed more of a liaison role, but still shared control responsibility with the Spanish until the early 1960s. By around 1964, the USAF controller staff was down to approximately 12 controllers without any control responsibility. USAF flight operations from Zaragoza AB, Spain and training over the Mediterranean Sea during the first half of the 1970s caused dangerous flight activities in the Barcelona ACC area of responsibility. USAFE opened a two person ATCLO position in the Barcelona ACC to correct this issue which remained active until the late 1980s. In the early 1980s, the Madrid ACC moved from Paracuellos, Spain to its present location, adjacent to Torrejon AB, Spain. Shortly after the move, the now 3 person ATCLO shop relocated onto Torrejon AB which still hosted US fighter squadrons. Around 1985, USAFE moved the ATCLO position, now only 1 person, to Moron AB, Spain. ATCLO contact and affectivity was compromised at Moron AB due to other base responsibilities.
On 17 Feb 2009, the one person ATLCO position was moved to Madrid, Spain in an effort to increase the position's responsibilities, and make the position the important asset it had always been in the past. In July 2010 USAFE assigned a second position to the ATCLO position in Madrid. The office is now staffed with two NCOs, at least one of which an E-7, who must apply for the 3-year assignment, have a working knowledge of the Spanish language, or who once selected, must attend the Spanish language school at the Defense Language Institute (DLI) in Monterey, CA