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

Photo credit: Staff Sergeant Jocelyn Rich, 3 August 2009. USAF photo.
Airmen in the field

A Tactical Air Control Party during an exercise in Germany.

photo source: USAF Public Affairs

Article spotlight

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The 1st Special Operations Wing was first established as the 16th Pursuit Group in 1923. The unit provided air defense for the Panama Canal Zone from 1932-1943 when it was transferred to India and participated in operations in the China-Burma-India Theater. During the Vietnam War the wing conducted unconventional warfare training for the South Vietnamese Air Force and conducted combat operations during the war. Since the end of the Vietnam War elements of the wing have participated in several combat operations including Operations Eagle Claw, Urgent Fury, Just Cause, Desert Shield/Storm, Deliberate Force/Joint Endeavor, Enduring Freedom, and Iraqi Freedom.


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

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The JN-4 "Jenny" is the series of biplanes built by the Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company. The aircraft was designed as an evolutionary improvement to the earlier JN-1 and JN-2 trainers. The aircraft had a service ceiling of 6,500 ft (2,000 m) and a maximum speed of 75 mph (121 km/h). A total of 6,813 JN-4s were produced.

The earlier JN-3 was employed as an observation aircraft during the Mexican Expedition. The next iteration of the Jenny saw service during World War I as the primary trainer aircraft for the United States. A few were outfitted with weapons for advanced training, but the JN-4 did not see combat. The JN-4s were sold off as more advanced aircraft replaced the Jennys. Many were used for stunt flying and conducting aerobatic displays.

Biography spotlight

Sergeant John Levitow (1945 - 2000) was an Air Force loadmaster who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War. Levitow was born in Hartford, Connecticut and initially enlisted into the Air Force as a civil engineer. He later cross-trained to become a loadmaster and was assigned to the 3d Special Operations Squadron.

While flying a patrol mission on 24 February 1969 Levitow's aircraft, an AC-47 Spooky, Long Binh came under attack and the aircraft responded. As the aircraft began to engage it was hit by an 82-millimeter mortar shell throwing shrapnel through the plane. The explosion also caused a burning Mark 24 magnesium flare to be thrown into the fuselage of the aircraft, near 19,000 rounds of ammunition. Despite being wounded by shrapnel Levitow picked up the flare, crawled to the open cargo door, and threw the flare out of the plane. His actions were credited for saving the aircraft and its eight-man crew.

Levitow died of cancer in 2000 and is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

Did you know...?

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...that the Order of the Sword was first awarded in May 1967? It is the highest honor the Air Force enlisted corps can bestow upon an individual. The Order of the Sword is typically presented to senior Air Force officers in recognition of their dedicated service.


…They know we own their country. We own their airspace…We dictate the way they live and talk.…

— General William R. Looney III, commenting 30 August 1999 about the bombing of Iraq in the late 1990s, which he directed.






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