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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. It is primarally responsible for aerial warfare, space warfare and cyber warfare warfare. 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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Photo credit: Danny Myers, 28 May 2003. USAF photo.

United States Air Force Academy cadets celebrating graduation.

photo source: Air Force Link

Article spotlight

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Air Force One is the call sign for any USAF aircraft carrying the President of the United States (POTUS). The first aircraft dedicated to presidential airlift was a specially outfitted C-54 Skymaster nicknamed Sacred Cow served Franklin D. Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman. The name 'Air Force One' was first used in 1953 after an incident in which Dwight D. Eisenhower's aircraft shared a call sign with a commercial flight. A number of different airframes have been used for presidential transport, including a C-118 Liftmaster, C-121 Constellation, and a C-137 Stratoliner. Currently Air Force One is most commonly a modified Boeing 747-200B designated as VC-25 by the Air Force.

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


The JB-2 "Loon" was the US copy of the German V-1 flying bomb. American engineers at Wright Field reverse engineered a V-1 in June 1944 and then began building an American version of the missile with slight differences from the original German model and the first test launch was done at Eglin Army Air Field in October 1944. The initial production order was for 1,000 JB-2s with an additional 1,000 JB-2s per month. The envisioned end-state was an inventory of 75,000 rockets. Additionally, sea-based and air-based versions of the weapon were also being developed.

US planners had intended to use the JB-2 as part of Operation Downfall, however, the use of atomic weapons and the Japanese surrender rendered the use of JB-2 rockets unnecessary. A total of 1,391 JB-2s were produced. Testing with the rockets continued in the post-war years in air-, ground-, and sea-based capacities. The rocket was used for testing against ground targets as well as a potential anti-aircraft weapon. While the JB-2 was never operationally deployed it served as the foundation for future US ballistic missile systems including the MGM-1 Matador and the MGM-13 Mace.

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...?

Wild Weasels patch.jpg

... that the unofficial motto of Wild Weasel operators is "You Gotta Be Shittin' Me" (YGBSM)? The motto is said to have originated from Jack Donovan, an Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) upon learning the Wild Weasel mission.


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The Air Force comes in every morning and says, 'Bomb, bomb, bomb' … And then the State Department comes in and says, 'Not now, or not there, or too much, or not at all.'

- Lyndon Baines Johnson, 36th President of the United States

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