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Portal:United States Air Force

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The United States Air Force Portal

Logo of the US Air Force

The United States Air Force (USAF) is the aerial and space warfare branch of the United States Armed Forces and one of the seven uniformed services of the United States. It is primarily responsible for aerial warfare, space warfare and cyber warfare warfare. Initially part of the United States Army as the Army Air Forces, the USAF was formed as a separate branch of the military, equal to the Army and Navy, on September 18, 1947. It the youngest service branch in the U.S. Armed Forces.

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

Aerial Gunner.jpg

Photo credit: Staff Sergeant Shawn Weismiller, 26 June 2009. USAF photo.
On Patrol

Aerial gunner patrolling Afghanistan.

photo source: USAF Public Affairs

Article spotlight

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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.

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

F-4 Phantom in flight Apr 1982.jpg

The F-4 Phantom II is a two-seat supersonic long-range all-weather fighter-bomber originally developed for the U.S. Navy by McDonnell Douglas as the Navy's first modern fleet defense fighter, but by 1963, the aircraft had been adopted by the U.S. Air Force for the fighter-bomber role. The Phantom flew in numerous variants in US service from 1960 to 1996; it also served with the armed forces of 11 other nations. When production ended in 1981, 1,195 Phantom IIs had been built, making it the most numerous American supersonic military aircraft. As of 2001, more than 1,000 F-4s remained in service around the world.

Shortly after its introduction, the Phantom set 16 world records, including an absolute speed record of 1,606.342 miles per hour (2,585.086 km/h), and an absolute altitude record of 98,557 feet (30,040 m). Although set in 1959-1962, five of the speed records were not broken until 1975. Until the advent of the F-15 Eagle, the F-4 also held the record for the longest continuous production with a run of 24 straight years.

The F-4 Phantom II was also the only aircraft used by both of the USA’s flight demonstration teams. The U.S.A.F. USAF Thunderbirds (F-4E) and the USN Blue Angels (F-4J) both switched to the Phantom for the 1969 season; the Thunderbirds flew it for five seasons, the Blue Angels for six.

Biography spotlight

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Captain Eddie Rickenbacker (1890–1973) is the highest scoring American ace of World War I. He was born in Columbus, Ohio in 1890 and at an early age began undertaking high-risk activities. His formal schooling ended when his father died in 1902. However, Rickenbacker had an aptitude for engineering leading him into the automotive field. He became a race car driver and participated in four Indianapolis 500 races.

Rickenbacker was in England when the United States joined World War I. He enlisted in the army and fought to get into flight training. After training he was assigned to the 94th Aero Squadron. Rickenbacker claimed his first aerial victory on 29 April 1918. A month later, on 28 May he claimed his fifth, making him an ace. In all Rickenbacker achieved 26 aerial victories and was awarded a Medal of Honor, seven Distinguished Service Crosses, a French Legion of Honor, and a French Croix de Guerre.

After the war Rickenbacker briefly ran his own car company, ran the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Eastern Air Lines. During World War II he supported the war effort by touring military facilities in the United States and abroad and even traveled to the Soviet Union to help improve their aerial capabilities. Rickenbacker died in 1973 at the age of 82 in Zürich, Switzerland. He is buried at the Green Lawn Cemetery in his home town of Columbus.

Did you know...?

F-105D Thunderchiefs refuel.jpg

... that Operation Flaming Dart, was a series of 148 sorties flown on 7 and 11 February 1965? The missions were carried out by units flying F-105 Thunderchief aircraft deployed to Da Nang Air Base. The first wave of 49 sorties targeted a North Vietnamese Army base near Dong Hoi. Viet Cong forces responded by bombing a hotel housing U.S. personnel which in turn led to the second wave of 99 sorties. The second wave was directed at Viet Cong logistics and command and control structures near the Demilitarized Zone.


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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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