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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

Cargo Aircraft.jpg

Photo credit: USAF photo.
Airlift Generations

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

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


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...?

Chief Master Sergeant Tony Travis.jpg

...that Chief Master Sergeant Antonio D. Travis was named one of the top 100 most influential people of 2010 by TIME Magazine? Chief Travis led the combat control team that deployed to Haiti as part of Operation Unified Response. He and his team led the largest single-runway operation in history during the first two weeks after the 2010 earthquake overseeing more than 4,000 takeoffs and landings, an average of one every five minutes.


…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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