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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Photo credit: Technical Sergeant Ben Bloker, United States Air Force
Air Power Demonstration

Steve Hinton flies "Glacier Girl," a Lockheed P-38 Lightning, during a heritage flight at a Langley Air Force Base air show.

Source: U.S. Air Force Photo

Article spotlight

United States Air Force Memorial was designed by James Ingo Freed under direction of the Air Force to honor the men and women who have served in the Air Force and its predecessors. The memorial consists of three 270 foot, stainless steel arcs reminiscent of the Thunderbirds "bomb burst" maneuver. The memorial also contains four statues by Zenos Frudakis depicting an Air Force Honor Guard formation. The memorial is located on Fort Myer, Virginia near The Pentagon.

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

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The AH-56 Cheyenne was a four-bladed, single-engine attack helicopter developed by Lockheed for the United States Army's Advanced Aerial Fire Support System (AAFSS) program to produce the Army's first, dedicated attack helicopter. Lockheed designed the AH-56 utilizing a rigid-rotor and configured the aircraft as a compound helicopter; with low-mounted wings and a tail-mounted thrusting propeller. It was armed with a 30 mm cannon in a belly turret and either a 7.62 mm minigun or a 40 mm grenade launcher in a nose turret, as well as six wing hardpoints capable of mounting 2.75 inch (70 mm) rocket launchers and TOW missiles. The compound helicopter design was intended to provide a 212-knot dash capability in order to serve as an armed escort to the Army's transport helicopters, such as the UH-1 Iroquois.

Biography spotlight

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Major General Billy Mitchell (1879-1936) was an early aviation pioneer who rose to become a chief of the U.S. Army Air Service. Mitchell was born in Nice, France and raised on his family estate near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He attended George Washington University before enlisting in the Army at age 18 during the Spanish-American War. Due to his family connection he quickly received a commission Signal Corps where he had the opportunity to witness a flight demonstration by the Wright Brothers in 1908. In 1916 he took private flight lessons and was transferred to the Aeronautical Division.

Mitchell deployed to France in 1917 when the United States entered World War I. While there he was promoted to brigadier general and placed in command American combat air units in France. After the war Mitchell was appointed the deputy director of the Air Service became a passionate advocate of air power. In 1921 he set up a demonstration to show the capability of airpower against naval vessels. During the course of the demonstrations aircraft successfully sank a captured German destroyer, the light cruiser Frankfurt, and the battleship Ostfriesland.

Mitchell regularly spared with his superiors over the role of airpower in the military. In 1925 he was reverted to his permanent rank of colonel and was transferred to San Antonio, Texas. Later than year, after a series of aviation accidents he accused Army and Navy leadership of incompetence and "almost treasonable administration of the national defense." In response he was court-martialed for insubordination, found guilty, and sentenced to a five-year suspension from active duty. Mitchell resigned on 1 February 1926 in lieu of serving the sentence. He continued to advocate airpower as a civilian until his death in 1936. In 1942 President Franklin Roosevelt posthumously promoted Mitchell to major general in recognition of his contributions to air power.

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.


The academy’s long-range mission will be to train generals, not second lieutenants.

-- LtGen Hubert R. Harmon, Superintendent, Air Force Academy (Newsweek, 6 June 1955)

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