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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

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Elephant walk

USAF F-16s at Kunsan Air Base taxi down a runway during at exercise.

photo source: US Government

Article spotlight


RAF Mildenhall is a Royal Air Force station currently utilized by the 100th Air Refueling Wing and the 352d Special Operations Group. The base was initially opened in 1934. Through World War II it hosted RAF bombers. With the ensuing Cold War RAF Mildenhall was used as a staging base for Strategic Air Command and hosted USAF bombers on a rotating basis. Beginning in the 1970s the bomber role was replaced by a reconnaissance as Mildenhall began hosting U-2 and SR-71 aircraft. As the Cold War ended so too did the reconnaissance mission at RAF Mildenhall. Beginning in the 1990s the base began primarily serving a mobility role with KC-135 Stratotankers.

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.

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Aerospace vehicle spotlight

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The P-80 Shooting Star was the first jet fighter used operationally by the United States Army Air Forces. It was introduced into active service in July 1945, during the closing weeks of World War II, however, the aircraft did not see combat during the war. The Army Air Forces, and later the Air Force, acquired more than 1,700 of the aircraft before the end of the production run in 1950. The aircraft saw extensive action during the opening phases of the Korean War. However, as the more nimble F-86 Sabre came into service the P-80s were primarily assigned to ground attack and photo reconnaissance roles.

The P-80 design was the basis of the T-33 Shooting Star trainer aircraft. The Shooting Star airframe became the primary jet trainer as the Air Force migrated to more advanced fighters.

Biography spotlight

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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...?

C-124C Globemaster II.jpg

... that during Operation Safe Haven aircraft from the Military Air Transport Service airlifted between 15,000 and 21,000 refugees fleeing the fighting from the failed Hungarian Revolution of 1956. In the process nearly 20,000 Hungarians found permanent homes in the United States.


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"If our air forces are never used, they have achieved their finest goal."

- General Nathan F. Twining, 31 March 1956

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