Portal:United States Air Force

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Seal of the US Air Force

The United States Air Force (USAF) is the aerial warfare branch of the armed forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. Initially part of the United States Army as the Army Air Corps, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military on September 18, 1947. It was the last branch of the US military to be formed.

The USAF is one of the largest and most technologically advanced air forces in the world, with about 5,573 manned aircraft in service (3,990 USAF; 1,213 Air National Guard; and 370 Air Force Reserve); approximately 180 Unmanned Combat Air Vehicles, 2130 Air-Launched Cruise Missiles, and 450 Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles; and has 330,159 personnel on active duty, 68,872 in the Selected and Individual Ready Reserves, and 94,753 in the Air National Guard. In addition, the Air Force employs 151,360 civilian personnel.

The Department of the Air Force is headed by the civilian Secretary of the Air Force who heads administrative affairs. The Department of the Air Force is a division of the Department of Defense, headed by the Secretary of Defense. The highest ranking military officer in the Department of the Air Force is the Chief of Staff of the Air Force.


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Picture spotlight

Cargo Aircraft.jpg

Photo credit: USAF photo.
Airlift Generations

Article spotlight

Established in 1954, the United States Air Force Academy (USAFA) is an institution for the undergraduate education of officers for the United States Air Force. Graduates of the four-year program receive a Bachelor of Science degree and most are commissioned as second lieutenants in the United States Air Force.

The program at the Academy is guided by its core values of "Integrity First, Service Before Self, and Excellence In All We Do," and based on four "pillars" of excellence: military training, academics, athletics and character development. In addition to a rigorous military training regimen, cadets also take a broad academic course load with an extensive core curriculum in engineering, humanities, social sciences, basic sciences, military studies and physical education. All cadets participate in either intercollegiate or intramural athletics, and a thorough character development and leadership curriculum provide cadets a basis for future officership. Each of the components of the program is intended to give cadets the skills and knowledge that they will need for success as officers.


Service considering retrofitting late-model C-130's with new engines

Summary: The U.S. Air Force is interested in procuring commercial off-the-shelf engines to replace antiquated propulsion systems on C-130 aircraft. At a technology summit in Arlington, Virginia, General Philip Breedlove told of the service's efforts to follow up on the successes of the C-130J upgrade with commercially available fuel efficient engines. Breedlove says the prioritization of use of C-130J's in inter-theater operations for cost savings has tied up logistics. The C-130 also suffers from performance and maintenance issues that have led to the cancellation of the FCS Manned Ground Vehicles program that was unable to fall within weight parameters while maintaining protection requirements. While enhancing the current generation of aircraft, the Air Force is also heading an initiative to develop fuel efficient technologies for the next generation of propulsion systems. the ADaptive Versatile ENgine Technology program seeks to develop an engine that is 30% more efficient than the F119 or F135 engines that power the F-35 Lightning II and F-22 Raptor fifth-generation stealth fighter aircraft. The Versatile, Affordable, Advanced Turbine Engines and Highly Efficient Embedded Turbine Engine programs are also being pursued to develop propulsion technologies for sub-sonic military aircraft.

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Aerospace vehicle spotlight

First MQ-9 Reaper at Creech AFB 2007.jpg

The MQ-9 Reaper is the first unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) designed specifically to fill a hunter-killer role. The Reaper design is primarily based on the earlier MQ-1 Predator. The aircraft has the capability to carry an array of ground attack munitions and external fuel tanks. Additionally, tests are currently underway to equip it with air-to-air weaponry. A Reaper carrying a full complement of weapons has a flight capability of 14 hours and a range of 3,200 nmi (5,926 km).

Reapers have seen combat in both Afghanistan and Iraq. The extended loiter times have provided real-time intelligence for theater commanders and the Reaper capabilities have offered commanders an instant strike option for targets of opportunity.

To date the Air Force has an inventory of 28 Reapers flying primarily with the 174th Fighter Wing and the 432d Air Expeditionary Wing.

Biography spotlight

Lieutenant Colonel Virgil Ivan "Gus" Grissom (1926–1967) was one of the Mercury Seven astronauts. Grissom was born and raised in Mitchell, Indiana. He enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1944 and served briefly as a clerk before being discharged at the end of World War II. Grissom used the G.I. Bill to attend college. After college Grissom re-entered the Air Force and attended pilot training. He went on to fly F-86 Sabres with the 334th Fighter Squadron in the Korean War before becoming a test pilot in 1957.

In 1959 Grissom was one of seven pilots selected into Project Mercury. He piloted the Mercury-Redstone 4 (or Liberty 7) mission becoming the second American to fly into suborbital space. Grissom next commanded the Gemini 3 mission, becoming the first American to fly into space twice. Grissom was transferred into the Apollo Program and given command of the Apollo 1 mission. Grissom, and the other two Apollo 1 astronauts, Ed White and Roger Chaffee, died when the command module caught fire during a training exercise on 27 January 1967.

Grissom was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross and two Air Medals for his service in the Korean War and two NASA Distinguished Service Medal and Congressional Space Medal of Honor for his time with the space program. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

Did you know...?


...that Major Oscar F. Perdomo downed five Japanese aircraft in a single day and thereby became the United States' last "Ace of a day" of World War II?


The most important thing is to have a flexible approach.... The truth is no one knows exactly what air fighting will be like in the future. We can't say anything will stay as it is, but we also can't be certain the future will conform to particular theories, which so often, between the wars, have proved wrong.

— Brigadier General Robin Olds, USAF






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