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


Photo credit:Photo: USAAF/361st FG Association
The Bottisham Four

A four-ship of 375th Fighter Squadron P-51 Mustangs

Article spotlight

B-1 Bombers on Diego Garcia.jpg

Diego Garcia is an atoll located in the heart of the Indian Ocean, some 1,000 miles (1,600 km) south off India's southern coast. It is the largest atoll by land area of the Chagos Archipelago. It is part of the British Indian Ocean Territory (BIOT), a British Overseas Territory. Since the enforced depopulation of Diego Garcia in the years leading up to 1973, it has been used as a military base by the United States. Diego Garcia hosts one of three Ground-based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance (GEODSS) (others are on Kwajalein and Ascension Island) that assist the United States Space Surveillance Network.

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

T-37 021203-O-9999G-003.jpg

The T-37 Tweet is a two-seat trainer aircraft. It was designed by Cessna in the mid-1950s in response to the USAF request for a jet trainer. The Cessna design featured twin jet propulsion and side-by-side seating to facilitate flight instruction. Production began in 1955 with the first aircraft entering operations in 1957. The aircraft earned the nickname, "Tweet," because of a constant high-pitch whistle emitted by the aircraft in flight.

The USAF acquired a total of 996 of the aircraft between 1955 and 1973. The Tweet has served as the USAF's basic flight trainer since its first employment. The T-37 was phased out of the inventory in mid-2009 and replaced by the T-6 Texan II for basic flight training.

Cessna did produce a weaponized model of the T-37 for foreign sales. A total of 273 of these 'C' models were built through 1975.

Biography spotlight

William H. Pitsenbarger.jpg

Airman First Class William H. Pitsenbarger (1944 - 1966) was an Air Force pararescueman who was awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during the Vietnam War. Pitsenbarger was born in Piqua, Ohio. After graduating from high school he enlisted in the Air Force and trained to become a pararescueman. Pitsenbarger was sent to Vietnam upon completion of his pararescue training.

During his tour in Vietnam he participated in nearly 300 missions. On 11 April 1966 Airman Pitsenbarger was sent on a mission to Cam My to extract casualties. After six wounded men had been extracted the helicopters came under attack. Pitsenbarger choose to remain with the army personnel rather than return with the helicopters. During the ensuing battle Pitsenbarger continued to tend wounded soldiers and assist with the unit's defense. As the battle continued into the night Pitsenbarger himself was killed by a Viet Cong sniper.

Airman Pitsenbarger's efforts helped save the lives of nine men from Charlie Company, 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry, 1st Infantry Division. Pitsenbarger was initially awarded an Air Force Cross for his actions, but his decoration was upgraded to a Medal of Honor in 2000. He is buried at Miami Memorial Park Cemetery, Covington, Ohio.

Did you know...?

...that before the F-117 Nighthawk was given an official name, the engineers and test pilots referred to the ungainly aircraft, which went into hiding during daylight to avoid detection by Soviet satellites, as "Cockroach"?


William Tunner at desk.jpg

"I never doubted, not ever, that we would succeed."

— Combined Airlift Task Force Commander, Major General William H. Tunner referring to the Berlin Airlift

Grigorian, Gary C., "Major General William Tunner: A Study in Creative and Innovative Leadership During the Berlin Airlift", in McBride, Sharon, The Challenges of Leadership and Command, Air University, p. 57 

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