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Portal:United States Air Force

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The United States Air Force Portal

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

P-38 Lightning head-on.jpg
Photo credit: Technical Sergeant Ben Bloker, United States Air Force
Air Power Demonstration

Steve Hinton flies "Glacier Girl," a Lockheed P-38 Lightning, during a heritage flight at a Langley Air Force Base air show.

Source: U.S. Air Force Photo

Article spotlight

United States Air Force Memorial was designed by James Ingo Freed under direction of the Air Force to honor the men and women who have served in the Air Force and its predecessors. The memorial consists of three 270 foot, stainless steel arcs reminiscent of the Thunderbirds "bomb burst" maneuver. The memorial also contains four statues by Zenos Frudakis depicting an Air Force Honor Guard formation. The memorial is located on Fort Myer, Virginia near The Pentagon.

USAF news

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.

News Archive

Aerospace vehicle spotlight

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The Republic F-105 Thunderchief, commonly known as the "Thud" by its crews, was a single-seat supersonic fighter-bomber used by the United States Air Force. The Mach 2 capable F-105 bore the brunt of strike bombing over North Vietnam early during the Vietnam War. It was later used in the specialized SEAD role suppressing missile sites.

As a follow-on to Mach 1 class F-100 Super Sabre, the F-105 was also armed with missiles and a cannon. But its design was tailored to high-speed low-altitude penetration carrying a single nuclear bomb internally. First flown in 1955, the Thunderchief entered service in 1958. As the largest single-engined fighter ever employed by the USAF, the single-seat F-105 would be adapted to deliver a greater iron bomb load than the four-engined ten-man strategic bombers of World War II. The F-105 would be best remembered as the primary strike bomber over North Vietnam in the early stages of the Vietnam War. After flying over 20,000 missions, 382 F-105s were lost, of which 62 were operational casualties. Although not designed for air combat, F-105s were also credited with 27.5 enemy aircraft by the USAF.

During the war, the two-seat F-105F and F-105G Wild Weasel variants became the first dedicated Suppression of Enemy Air Defenses (SEAD) platforms fighting against the Soviet-built S-75 Dvina (SA-2 Guideline) surface-to-air missiles. Two Wild Weasel pilots earned the Medal of Honor attacking missile sites, with one shooting down two MiG-17s the same day. The dangerous missions often required them to be the "first in, last out" in order to suppress the threat of air defenses prior to strike aircraft arriving and keeping them suppressed until the strike aircraft left the area.

Although the F-105 weighed 50,000 pounds (22,680 kg), the aircraft could exceed the speed of sound at sea level and Mach 2 at high altitude. It could carry up to 14,000 pounds (6,700 kg) of bombs and missiles. The Thunderchief was later replaced as a strike aircraft over North Vietnam by both the F-4 Phantom II and the swing-wing F-111. However, the "Wild Weasel" variants remained in service until 1984, when they were replaced by a specialized F-4G "Wild Weasel V".

Biography spotlight

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Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force Paul W. Airey (1923-2009) was the first Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force. Airey grew up in Quincy, Massachusetts and enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1942, after just two years of high school. During World War II Airey served as a radio operator aboard B-24 Liberators. Airey was held as a prisoner of war from July 1944 to May 1945 after he was forced to bail out over Austria. Following the war Airey also served with distinction during the Korean War.

Airey spent most of the rest of his career as a first sergeant. In 1966 the Air Force followed the lead of the U.S. Army and created a senior enlisted position to advise the Secretary of the Air Force and Air Force Chief of Staff on enlisted matters. Airey was selected to fill the job on April 3, 1967. He made retention his top priority. He developed the Weighted Airman Promotion System in an effort to improve the Air Force's enlisted promotion system. He also started the work to establish the Air Force's Senior NCO Academy, though the school didn't open until after his retirement.

Airey retired from the Air Force on April 1, 1970. In retirement Airey continued to be active in Air Force related organizations such as the Air Force Sergeants Association and Air Force Association. He also regularly spoke at Air Force leadership schools. Airey died of heart failure at Panama City, Florida on March 11, 2009.

Did you know...?

Tops in Blue.jpg

...that Tops In Blue performed at Super Bowl XIX? The music group, composed of 35 Air Force personnel, was first formed in 1953 following an Air Force talent competition. Each year a new group is selected from applicants from across the Air Force. After a 45-day training period the group tours venues worldwide, building morale and acting as goodwill ambassadors.


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"Since the Nation's birth, it has been the constitutional duty of our military to ensure national survival, defend lives and property, and promote vital interests at home and abroad. The enduring responsibility of the United States Air Force is to provide strategic deterrence for the Nation and fly, fight and win as an integral part of the Joint Team. Together with our brothers and sisters in arms, we underwrite the national strategy of defending the Homeland and assuring allies, while dissuading, deterring and defeating enemies."

Air Force Chief of Staff General Norton A. Schwartz, 3 Sept 2008

Schwartz, General Norton A. (September 3, 2008). "Fly, Fight and Win!". CSAF's Vector. United States Air Force. Retrieved February 19, 2009. 

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