Cancer is a major and still increasing cause of death in humans. Most cancer cells have a fundamentally different metabolic profile from that of normal tissue. This shift away from mitochondrial ATP synthesis via oxidative phosphorylation towards a high rate of glycolysis, termed Warburg effect, has long been recognized as a paradigmatic hallmark of cancer, supporting the increased biosynthetic demands of tumor cells. Here we show that deletion of apoptosis-inducing factor (AIF) in a KrasG12D-driven mouse lung cancer model resulted in a marked survival advantage, with delayed tumor onset and decreased malignant progression. Mechanistically, Aif deletion leads to oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) deficiency and a switch in cellular metabolism towards glycolysis in non-transformed pneumocytes and at early stages of tumor development. Paradoxically, although Aif-deficient cells exhibited a metabolic Warburg profile, this bioenergetic change resulted in a growth disadvantage of KrasG12D-driven as well as Kras wild-type lung cancer cells. Cell-autonomous re-expression of both wild-type and mutant AIF (displaying an intact mitochondrial, but abrogated apoptotic function) in Aif-knockout KrasG12D mice restored OXPHOS and reduced animal survival to the same level as AIF wild-type mice. In patients with non-small cell lung cancer, high AIF expression was associated with poor prognosis. These data show that AIF-regulated mitochondrial respiration and OXPHOS drive the progression of lung cancer.